The Relationship between Metabolism and Exercise

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We all know that working out burns calories, but the overall effect of exercise on metabolic rate is more complex.

Our caveman ancestors were nomads who migrated on foot each season, making them much more active than we are throughout all their life phases. Hard physical activity was a part of their everyday lives.

They probably didn’t have the opportunity to become as aware as we are of how greatly our metabolic rate slows when we choose to be inactive, and how easily it is to gain weight when sedentary. But blaming weight gain on a slow metabolism may betray a misunderstanding of how the process of burning calories works.

Regardless of how active or inactive you are, in every 24-hour period a certain amount of calories will be burned. This is called your Total Daily Energy Expenditure or TDEE.

The TDEE is actually made up of different types of energy expenditure. For example, resting expenditure (RMR) makes up 60% to 75% of your TDEE. There is also an energy expenditure of almost 10% when you eat and during digestion. The rest of your daily activities, including physical exercise, make up the remaining 15% to 30%.

Exercise will increase your need for calories. However, those calories are used at the time they are consumed not when the exercise occurs.

The majority of research has shown that there is an increase in your metabolic rate within 24 hours of exercising. Research also shows aerobic exercise immediately enhances the metabolic rate after exercise.

However, there appears to be a difference in the rate of change in metabolism and exercise depending on gender. There does not seem to be as much difference in RMR between women that exercise and those that do not. Current research shows that women burn fewer calories in response to exercise and rest.

To date, research has concluded the following:

  • Physical exercise can significantly increase metabolic rate, especially in men, between 6 to 36 hours after exercise ends.
  • When you do endurance exercise regularly, it will boost normal activity levels throughout the rest of the participant’s day.
  • There may be a threshold effect that is valid for both duration and intensity that depends on the type of exercise you do.
  • Gender plays a key role in the effect that exercise has on metabolic rate. Exercise affects the metabolic rate of women less.
  • During resistance exercises, that help to increase muscle mass, the overall calorie burn increases. Because muscle tissues are easier to burn than fatty tissues, when you increase the muscle to fat ratio you will have a higher resting metabolic rate.
  • Resistance exercise boosts the metabolic rate of those who are aging and who therefore have a slowing metabolic rate.

The research clearly shows that getting busy exercising regularly will increase your metabolic rate. That translates to fat loss and a leaner body, so why not get active like our caveman ancestors and boost that TDEE.

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LEX is the scientist. He is obsessed with understanding why and how the world around him works the way it does.

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