Metabolism – What it is & How you can make it work for you Part 5

Welcome back –  last time we looked at the thermic effect of food – how the foods you eat can increase or slow down your metabolism. This time we’re looking at TEA – the Thermic Effect of Activity.

Factors Affecting TEA

It is easy to have an effect on your TEA  – move more, sit less, and exercise 6 days a week using HIIT & metabolic conditioning protocols (like those found in upcoming the Lose 20 in 30 Exercise program).

Weighted vest training is a great example of MetCon training!!

Take the stairs, park further away, spend some of each day at work standing up – just add more activity to your day on top of conscious, challenging exercise.

Long traditional cardio is NOT the best way to increase your TEA – you need to use an interval style approach to max out your TEA. The best way to recondition your metabolism is to use a mix of resistance training, interval training and a training style called Metabolic Conditioning. (MetCon)

Ensuring that you work out using strategies that elicit a high metabolic cost, uses high EPOC inducing exercises will increase your RMR and reset your metabolic set point over a short period of time (you’ll see changes in under 30 days!). Again – the use of high intensity intervals, metabolic conditioning, and resistance training are the best forms of exercise to achieve a faster metabolism and a leaner body. (see my other post on HIIT)

The more active we are, the harder we work our bodies & increase the demands on our muscles, the more energy we need for fuel and more importantly the more energy we need for recovery. Regular, challenging exercise increases lean muscle mass and ‘teaches’ the body to burn kilojoules at a faster rate, even when at rest. In this way we can alter what the body currently has as its homeostatic set point for a new one. Remember your body likes things to stay the same so if you add regular exercise this becomes the ‘norm’ and your body adjusts to cater for and adapt to this.

By improving / increasing your TEF & TEA you can in turn raise your RMR. As we have seen – this is important because your RMR accounts for the majority of your calorie / kilojoule burn & use. The higher it is, the more you burn and the leaner you become…

Exercise is the other metabolic affecting variable that we can manipulate, but it needs to be done strategically using the right exercise protocols & techniques.

Metabolic Energy Pathways

There are three different metabolic pathways that the body can use in order to tap into its energy stores.

Looks complicated but using this to your advantage isn’t!!

Without going in-depth to biochemistry, the three energy pathways are:

  1. ATP/PC – This is your quickest and most powerful energy source.  It is instantly available and requires no oxygen. ATP itself is the raw fuel for exercise as it is the chemical that drives muscular action. However our bodies only store enough for between 6 & 10 seconds – after that it has to start manufacturing more ATP.
  2. Anaerobic Glycolysis – This is the next quickest energy source and is the way your body creates ATP without oxygen.  It is also the process that creates the ‘burn’ in your muscles. This energy system is good for 2 -3 minutes of activity and enables you to continue a relatively high level of activity but it does create a high level of muscle fatigue. This makes it difficult to continue using this metabolic pathway beyond the initial couple of minutes.
  3. Aerobic– This last system is the slowest to act and is good for fuelling a moderate activity level. However it can sustain this level of activity virtually for as long as there is fuel available to use. The aerobic system is the process your body uses to produce ATP but with oxygen.

Following high intensity activity, the aerobic system is required for recovery and to re-establish balance within the body, removing the metabolic by-products, re-synthesising metabolic compounds such as creatine phosphate and providing energy for the repair of exercise induced tissue damage. (She’s definately got her TEF & TEA working for her!!)

In a simple way, our normal energy system is primarily the aerobic system, with the ATP-PC and Glycolitic systems acting as reserves.  They provide extra power when needed, but are a very limited resource in comparison.

When we talk about metabolic conditioning exercise we are talking about a strategic exercise protocol that works all three of these energy pathways. (See the Lose 20 in 30 Exercise manual coming soon!)

That’s it for this week – next time we’ll look at other factors that affect your resting metabolic rate – some will surprise you!!

Be well!!

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Metabolism – What it is & How you can make it work for you Part 4

Welcome back!!

Today – Factors affecting the Thermic Effect of Food

Harnessing the Power of TEF
TEF can be affected in four ways

  1. Overeating
  2. The composition up of the foods we eat
  3. When we eat
  4. The number of times that we eat
  5. Exercise


Your TEF can be raised by simply overeating as the body has to use more energy to digest a larger amount of food. This means that even if you ate 3500 calories (the number in a pound of fat) you still would not put on that pound as your body would use some of the calories as TEF. How strong the TEF effect on the 3500

calories would be depends upon what they made out of. If it was high GI, high processed carbs or fat your store more as fat than if it was made up of protein and low GI unprocessed carbs. Bottomline is that you would still put on fat, so overeating is not recommended.

NB There is no such thing as a ‘negative calorie’ food. Even celery requires less energy to burn that it contributes to your calorific intake.

The composition of the foods we eat:

As we have seen the different macronutrients all have a different thermic effect when we eat them. In order to maximise our fat burn and to increase our metabolism we should be eating protein with every meal, keeping fats generally low, avoid processed carbohydrates and eat un- / low processed, low GI, Low GI load carbs. The up coming Lose 20 in 30 Fuel manual explains all of this in greater detail.

It is important to note though that research has shown that that just upping your protein intake whilst severely reducing your overall calories does not produce enough of an increase in your TEF to offset the overall metabolic reduction such calorie restriction cause. Research has also shown that adding spices such as chilli and curry to your food increases your metabolism overall, but particularly your TEF.

When we eat:

Our TEF is higher (average 16%) in the morning than in the evening (average 11%) according to the American Journal of Nutrition. The variance is not huge but we should harness this to work for us. Every little bit helps when it comes to altering our metabolic set point.

You should also try to eat the majority of your carbs in the morning as your body is coming off the enforced ‘fast’ we call sleep. Carbs early gets your metabolism moving and research shows that carbs eaten earlier in the day are less likely to be stored as fat.

The number of times we eat:

Eating more often increases our TEF. But research has shown that the number of meals consumed has to be consistent from day to day for this to have maximum metabolic effect.

Research from Queens University has shown that eating in an irregular daily meal pattern (three meals one day, four the next, then two, then six then…) results in a significantly lower TEF than that found in folk who eating to a regular meal pattern. The TEF is even more enhanced in those who eat six meals per day. (Again don’t think of plates of food, but rather 3 main meals and three ‘snacks or top ups)

Food calories that are in excess of our body’s immediate needs tend to be shunted towards fat storage and are far less likely used for either energy, muscle growth / tissue repair or storage as glycogen. This is why eating 5 or 6 times a day not only increases your metabolism by the thermic effect of food but it also means that meal sizes are smaller and there is less chance of an ‘on the spot’ overload of calories.


Yep exercise. People who regularly perform exercise that is has a high metabolic cost actually have a higher TEF that that of sedentary people. This remains true even if you compare two groups of people that have similar fat free masses. Even more interesting this increase in TEF is not age dependent which means that the natural age related decrease in metabolism can be positively affected by challenging exercise.

Challenging exercise has also been shown to increase the TEF of carbs when they are ingested in the 45

minute post-exercise fuelling window. This means that not only is your insulin sensitivity heightened after exercise, but you burn more energy to digest the carbs and they are less likely to go into fat storage.

This means that you can give your TEF a ‘nudge’ every time you exercise and that you increase the efficiency of your post-workout fuelling.

So in summary we can affect the TEF in several ways:

  • Eat more protein and eat it at every meal
  • Eat hot spicy foods for example foods containing chilli, horseradish and mustard.
  • Eat more carbs in the AM than PM
  • Eat less fat
  • Eat a consistent number of meals each day – 5 or 6 is best
  • Exercise more

Maximising your TEF is important but it is only one part of the overall metabolic picture.

Take Away: Eat more in the AM than PM, eat often, and become familiar with the ‘burn’ rates of your food so you can maximise the TEF of your Fuel.

Metabolism – What it is & How you can make it work for you Part 3

Welcome Back!!

Today we look at the 4 components of metabolism and how you can manipulate them to drop fat…

The Four Components of Your Metabolism:

Human metabolism is basically made up of four parts which combine to become our metabolic rate.

In any 24-hour period, our bodies ‘burn’ a given number of calories – this is called TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) or TEE (Total Energy Expenditure) – and this calorie / kilojoule burn is a measure of our body’s metabolic rate.

Your body’s metabolic rate (or TDEE) can be divided into four components:

Broadly speaking this is our metabolism...

Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body burns while sleeping. Many factors can affect your BMR, including your age, health, stress level, and even the temperature of your environment. Your BMR, like all of your metabolic elements, decreases as you age. This means that it is harder for your body to burn calories and harder for you to lose fat the older you get. Increases in BMR are possible but this increase comes about through the actions of the next three components.

Your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is a measure of the amount of calories / kilojoules your body burns at rest just to maintain it. The RMR accounts for 50-80 per cent of the energy we use doing ‘nothing’ whilst being awake.

In reality even when lazing around or just chilling out watching DVDs our body’s metabolism is still active. The total lean mass of our body, especially muscle mass, is largely responsible for the RMR.

So, anything that reduces your lean mass will reduce your RMR. RMR is the largest part of our total metabolism and accounts for 50 – 80% of the calories burnt in a day. This is why it’s so important to preserve lean tissue mass when you are working at shedding fat – your RMR is your main metabolic ‘furnace’. This means that exercise that encourages the preservation or growth of muscle is a must if we are to get the RMR working for us.

Your RMR is also affected by the simple act of eating which leads us to…

The Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) – this is covered in depth in the Lose 20 in 30 Fuel Manual but essentially TEF is a measure of the energy that your body uses to eat, digest and metabolise food.

Really it is the second law of Thermodynamics at work – converting energy from one form to another is never 100% efficient. This means that to release the energy in food we need to expend energy to ‘fuel’ this process.

TEF accounts for about 5-10 per cent of our energy use. Our RMR rises after we eat because of the energy

Maximise your TEF by eating lean proteins with low GI, high fobre carbs...

we use to eat, digest and process the food we’ve just eaten. The rise occurs soon after we begin to eat and peaks two to three hours later. The RMR rise can range from between 2-3 per cent to up to 25-30 per cent, depending on the size of the meal and the types of foods eaten.

For example:

  • Fats – generally raise the RMR about 4 per cent
  • Carbohydrates – can raise RMR up to 6 per cent
  • Proteins –  usually raise RMR up to 30 per cent

Unfortunately, since our body can store excess dietary fat pretty much directly as body fat, there is no need to convert it, so eating fat generates virtually no thermic effect at all.

Another factor that affects your TEF is your body composition. Basically the leaner you are the higher your TEF is. Columbia University ran a trial with a group of lean individuals and a group of obese ones and then tested their TEF at rest, during exercise and after exercise.

Compared to the obese group the lean group TEF was:

  • 70% Higher at rest
  • 316% Higher during exercise
  • 175% Higher after exercising.

This is proof that shedding fat helps to recondition your metabolism which in turn helps keep you lean.

The Thermic Effect of Activity (TEA) – this is the amount of energy that we use during physical activity – and for in a ‘normally’ active person, this accounts for 15 – 40 per cent of our daily energy use depending upon the type of activity and its metabolic ‘cost.’ The range in effect is because of the variance in the amount of and type of activity we can indulge in.

This will up your TEA no end!!!

TEA includes all physical activity whether conscious exercise, climbing stairs, brushing your teeth, shivering in the cold or even fidgeting. At rest, by themselves, our muscles can account for about 20 per cent of our total energy expenditure. Not too shabby but during strenuous exercise, our rate of muscular energy expenditure can increase 50-fold or more. During heavy physical exertion, our muscles can burn through as much as 3,000kJ per hour. This is the only type of energy ‘burn’ that we can directly control – the energy used during conscious exercise.

After food intake, movement and conscious exercise are the final keys to fat loss and a reconditioned metabolism.

It is here where we can have the greatest immediate effect on our metabolism. The metabolic effects of food work hand in glove with conscious exercise, but nothing revs up your metabolism in the short term as much as vigorous exercise. The intensity, type, frequency and duration of any activity will have an effect on metabolism. We need to choose wisely and use those which have the highest metabolic cost and the create the strongest afterburn.

I can’t stress it enough – the effect of your TEA on your metabolism will vary depending on your individual activity level each day. The more you move the more you burn. The smarter you move the even more you burn.

A sedentary person will require fewer calories to maintain their current body composition than a busy worker on a construction site or someone who uses metabolic resistance training at least 3 times a week.

Of these 4 metabolic components we are most interested in and most able to directly positively affect the TEF & our TEA. Once get these 2 components working for us, our RMR & BMR will both rise, and our set points can be altered. More importantly our body composition can shift.

Okay so how do we use these components? That’s the subject of the next post…

Take Away: By raising your RMR we can become leaner and stay that way – the 2 ways we can do this most easily are by manipulating our TEA & the TEF.