Demystifying Metabolism – The Science behind the Weight Loss

By Rachel Wyman
Clinical Nutrition Educator

We’ve all heard the complaint “I have a slow metabolism” when someone feels frustrated with weight management. To break this feeling of powerlessness, it’s helpful to understand metabolism to influence it in a healthy way.

Weight management shines the spotlight on energy metabolism, which continuously shifts up and down like a playground seesaw, breaking down compounds to release energy and building up compounds to use energy. When you release more energy than you build, weight loss happens.

Resting energy expenditure (REE), energy expended at rest, contributes a great deal – 60 to 75 percent – to the total calories burned each day. Factors like age, gender, genetics, hormones, disease and medications can affect REE. However, research suggests you can influence REE.

Hydration – Drink More Water Daily

A 2007 study showed a 24 percent increase in REE during the 60-minute period after drinking 16 ounces of water, compared with drinking 4-8 ounces. A 2015 trial illustrated that individuals who drank 16 ounces of water before three main meals per day lost an average of 2.8 pounds more in a 12-week period.

Sleep – Get a Good Night’s Rest

A 2004 study showed individuals with 5.6 hours sleep per 24-hour cycle, after three weeks had an 8 percent decrease in REE. Another 2012 study showed a 5.2 percent drop in REE plus a 20 percent drop in post-meal energy expenditure during a 24-hour period of total sleep deprivation.

Stress – Take a Walk after a Meal

A 2015 study demonstrated a greater number of previous day stressors were associated with lower fat metabolism, decreased post-meal energy expenditure and higher insulin production. Specifically, the 6-hour post-meal energy expenditure was 104 calories less in individuals with one prior-day stressor compared with individuals with none.

Workout – Try Resistance Training

Two classic well executed research studies conducted in 1994, at Tufts University and at the University of Maryland, had participants engage in a strength training program three times per week. After 12-18 weeks, participants gained an average of 3-3.5 pounds of muscle, and showed a 6.8-7.7 percent increase in REE.


Rachel Wyman, RD, is Clinical Nutrition Educator at Mission Weight Management.

To learn more about Mission Weight Management and to sign up for a free information session, call (828) 213-4100 or visit missionweight.org [1].