Metabolism refers to the way your body burns calories, or converts calories into energy for your daily functioning. The rate at which you use energy has a direct bearing on how quickly you gain or lose weight.

Even when you are sleeping, your body burns up calories to maintain its basic bodily functions such as breathing, blood circulation and cell renewal. This is known as your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. Typically, this basic maintenance of life takes about 50 to 80 calories per hour, or a minimum of approximately 1,000 calories per day.

Your BMR accounts for approximately 60 - 70 per cent of the energy you use in a day. You burn more calories when you are active. For instance, you can burn as many as 400 calories per hour while exercising at the gym.

Beyond your level of activity, your metabolism is influenced by factors such as your sex, your age, and how much muscle mass you have. Stress, illnesses and medications also have an impact on your metabolic rate. Metabolism may be influenced by the health of your thyroid, a small gland at the base of the neck which regulates your metabolism. If you have been experiencing weight gain despite dieting and exercising, you may want to get your thyroid gland checked.

Weight ​loss is a matter of good maths: To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume.

The Department of Endocrinology and Lifestyle Improvement & Fitness Enhancement (LIFE) Centre, both from Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth​ group,​ shares 8 tips to boost your metabolism and better manage your weight.​​​

1. Build more muscle mass

Muscle burns more calories than fat. ​The more lean muscle mass you build up, the more calories you’ll burn​ daily. Add some weight-bearing exercise 2–3 times a week, such as weight-lifting, walking or any other form of resistance exercise. Even ​carrying your groceries instead of using a trolley can be considered a weight-bearing activity! Try lifting some hand weights while watching your favourite TV programme. This will help you build muscle mass and burn off some calories at the same time.

2. Avoid skipping meals

You may think that skipping meals will help you lose weight, but the converse is usually true. Significantly decreasing your caloric intake will slow your metabolic rate, as your body enters into “fasting” mode and reacts by hoarding fat and burning lean muscle for energy. Keep your metabolism active by eating at least three meals a day, amounting to not less than 1,000 calories.

3. Exercise regularly

An exercise regime involving activities such as cycling, walking or jogging will help increase your metabolic rate during the activity, and for several hours thereafter. Even simple aerobic activity such as taking the stairs and housecleaning can boost your metabolism.

4. Go for an evening walk

Although exercising at any time is good for you, light evening activity such as taking a walk around your home is particularly beneficial. The metabolism tends to slow down towards the end of the day. About 30 minutes of aerobic activity before dinner will increase your metabolic rate and keep it elevated for another 2–3 hours. Those dinner calories will have less chance of taking up permanent residence on your hips!

5. Get adequate sleep

Sleep loss affects the levels of appetite-regulating hormones and the body's capacity to metabolise carbohydrates. Without enough sleep, your metabolic rate nosedives as less fat is burned for energy. Your energy levels during the day may dip, and you may feel too tired to exercise, on top of a tendency to overeat and pick unhealthy foods.

6. Eat enough protein

Protein forms the building blocks for muscle. Without adequate protein, you may actually lose desirable lean muscle mass.

7. Consume less alcohol

Alcohol can slow down the fat-burning process because your body has to clear the alcohol calories before attacking the fat that you are trying to lose by exercising and cutting back on your food intake.

8. Get enough calcium

Apart from strengthening teeth and bones, getting enough calcium can also boost your metabolism. Add some low-fat yoghurt to your diet as a snack between your meals.

Did you know certain foods boost your metabolism? Find out what they are here.

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