What Affects Metabolism? 8 Factors

Clinically reviewed by our Board of Advisors

Sporty young man unning on a lonely mountain road

Like our fingerprints, our metabolisms are uniquely our own—some people may have slower metabolisms and show signs of fatigue, and others may have metabolisms that work at the speed of light to provide enough energy for a three-hour strength training session. 

While your metabolic health can be largely influenced by your genes, like your fingerprints, your muscle mass, hormones, diet, age, sleep, stress levels, and environment may also affect your metabolic functions. 

In this article, we’ll deep dive into what affects metabolism and explore what you can do to improve your metabolic health. 

#1 Genes

From largely determining our heights to governing the foods we prefer, genetics play a large role in our lives. It only makes sense that genes greatly impact our metabolisms, as well.

When it comes to metabolism, melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R) is one gene that especially stands out.1

In recent years, scientists have discovered that people who have a rare type of MC4R are less likely to be overweight with body fat than people who lack this version. This correlation indicates that MC4R may help determine our metabolic rates.

Kinase suppressor of Ras 2 (KSR2) is another gene that, when altered, may affect metabolism.2

Studies suggest that KSR2 mutations may predispose people to the following:

  • An increased risk of obesity
  • An increased insulin resistance
  • A cellular inability to properly process glucose

Genetics also play a role in hormones and muscle mass, two factors that, as we’ll see, help determine a person’s metabolic health.

#2 Muscle Mass

Muscle mass refers to the amount of muscle in a person’s body. While some people have more muscle mass, others have less. Your muscle mass greatly contributes to your resting metabolism.

To better understand how muscle mass affects metabolism, let’s unpack a key term: resting metabolic rate (RMR).

In short, your RMR is the rate at which your body burns calories while you’re at rest. Because muscle expends more energy than fat, people with higher muscle mass compositions have a higher RMR. In other words, it takes more energy to maintain muscle than it does fat.

Although your muscle mass is initially determined by genetics, adding resistance and strength  training to your workouts can greatly increase your muscle mass. This training consists of:

  • Weightlifting, especially full-body workouts
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
  • Basic calisthenics 

Whichever workout you prefer, adding more resistance and strength training can tone your physique and improve your metabolic health. If you’re interested in vitamins for muscle health, consider taking B12.

You can also explore our wide range of recovery supplements for athletes to keep you in peak performance!

#3 Hormones

Hormones are chemicals the body uses to send messages to different organs. While hormones impact many bodily functions, they play an especially important role in the metabolic system.

Let’s take a look at a few hormones that affect metabolism:

  • Thyroxine (T4) – As the most important hormone in terms of metabolic functioning, T4 helps circulate protein throughout the bloodstream. The hormone also helps regulate bone growth. While T4 is necessary for metabolic functioning, too much T4 can lead to hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism often disrupts the metabolism, leading to body weight loss and weight gain, as well as other serious health issues.
  • Testosterone – The male sex hormone, testosterone, plays a vital metabolic role in the processing of carbohydrates and proteins. Too much testosterone can lead to behavioral changes, liver disease, and heart complications. On the other hand, too little testosterone can lead to a reduction in both muscle mass and insulin sensitivity.
  • Estrogen The female sex hormone, estrogen, is essential to several bodily processes, including reproduction, mood, and tissue health. It’s also central to metabolism, regulating glucose and lipids. In addition to making you feel lethargic, low estrogen levels can result in body weight gain.
  • Insulin Insulin is an important hormone that governs cellular glucose absorption. In addition, insulin is central to protein metabolization. An overproduction of insulin can lead to a slow metabolism.

  • While hormones are largely genetic, hormone supplements—especially those containing selenium—can help stabilize your thyroid, leading to improved metabolic functioning.

    #4 Diet

    If you are trying to figure out how to improve metabolic health, it is important to know that what you eat plays a crucial role in your metabolism. To this extent, studies suggest that some nutrients and supplements are better for your metabolism than others. Below, we’ve broken down a few nutrients that affect metabolism.

    Protein

    Diets rich in protein can improve metabolic functioning.3 This is because the body burns and absorbs protein slower than fats and carbohydrates. As a result, more energy is needed to process protein.

    When eating for your metabolic health, consider the following sources of protein:

  • Whey protein – One of the best sources of protein, whey protein consists of nine important amino acids. Unlike other protein sources, whey is easily absorbed by the body, making it a favorite of weightlifters and those looking to improve their metabolic health.
  • Beef – Although too much red meat can indeed have negative health consequences, beef, when eaten in moderation, can do wonders for your metabolism. That’s because beef—especially grass-fed beef—packs protein and heart-healthy omega-3s.
  • Seafood – High in protein and omega-3s, seafood is perfect for your metabolism. Consider incorporating salmon, cod, oysters, and fish oil into your diet.
  • Greek yogurt High in protein, calcium, and antibiotics, Greek yogurt may just be what your metabolism needs. In addition to boosting your metabolism, Greek yogurt can help improve bone and gut health.

  • Carbohydrates and Alcohol

    While protein-rich diets can help improve metabolic functioning, diets dominated by carbohydrates may negatively affect your metabolism. 

    In addition to requiring less energy to process, carbohydrates increase insulin production, which results in more stored fat.

    Studies have also shown that alcohol impairs metabolic functioning. While drinking in moderation is OK, too much alcohol can lead to a slower metabolism. Instead, replace alcohol with water, coffee, and/or green tea.

    #5 Age

    While it’s possible to control our diet and exercise, we cannot control one of the most important factors that influence our metabolism: our age.4

    As we grow older, the signs of slow metabolism start to show when we tend to lose lean muscle mass and gain body fat. As a result, our basal metabolic rate (BMR) decreases. 

    That said, there are ways to improve your metabolism even as you age. These include eating a proper diet, building and maintaining muscle mass, and sleeping well. Learn more about how to increase metabolism after 40.

    #6 Sleep

    Sleeping enough is one of the best things you can do for your metabolic health. This is because sleep is essential for the regulation of two of the most important metabolic hormones: leptin and ghrelin. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Leptin – The hormone responsible for feelings of fullness, leptin is produced by fat cells and plays a prominent role in several metabolic processes. Adequate sleep helps balance leptin levels. However, sleep deprivation decreases leptin levels, which can lead to an increased appetite.
  • Ghrelin – Similar to leptin, ghrelin is a hormone that’s responsible for feelings of hunger and fullness. However, whereas leptin tells your brain that you’ve consumed enough food, ghrelin stimulates your appetite. Sleep deprivation raises ghrelin levels, leading to increased feelings of hunger.
  • In addition to impacting hormone regulation, not sleeping enough can affect metabolism in other ways. For example, when you’re sleep-deprived, you’re less likely to engage in physical activity. This lack of physical activity can result in decreased muscle mass.

    #7 Stress

    If you’ve ever been in a stressful situation, you know the impact stress can have on your mental state. Stress is often accompanied by feelings of anxiety, restlessness, and anger.

    But did you know that stress can also affect your metabolism? That’s right—stress induces our nervous system to produce two hormones related to metabolic functioning:

  • Epinephrine – Also known as adrenaline, epinephrine is produced as part of your body’s “fight or flight response.” Increases in epinephrine result in increases in your metabolic rate.

  • Cortisol – Like epinephrine, cortisol is released during periods of stress, resulting in a metabolic boost. However, cortisol can also stimulate hunger. This is the primary reason why some people overeat during stressful situations.

  • Fortunately, even the most stressful situations eventually subside. That said, there are things you can do to minimize stress and improve your metabolic health. These include:

  • Meditation – You don’t have to be a Zen Buddhist to reap the benefits of meditation. Even a daily ten-minute meditation session can reduce the stress in your life, leading to feelings of peace and metabolic balance.

  • Exercise – Daily exercise can do wonders for your stress levels. When feeling stressed, go for a jog around the neighborhood. Or, do a strenuous workout. Not only will you see your stress fade, but you’ll also build muscle mass.

  • #8 Temperature

    Studies have shown that temperature affects metabolism.5 When we are exposed to prolonged cold temperatures, our bodies respond by producing hormones that cause us to store fat mass. As a result, our BMR slows down.

    However, brief exposure to cold temperatures causes our body to expend more energy to keep us warm. This leads to a rise in BMR.


    Similarly, when our bodies heat up due to exercise, fever, or stress, our BMR increases.

    Improve Your Metabolism With Cymbiotika

    Understanding the uniqueness of your metabolic functions may help to improve your overall health and well-being. But you must first understand the factors that affect your metabolism, such as your genes, hormones, and stress levels, as well as your diet and exercise habits.

    To help improve your metabolism and promote healthy aging, add Cymbiotika NMN + Trans-Resveratrol supplements to your daily routine. 

    Packed with metabolism-boosting ingredients such as nicotinamide mononucleotide, green tea extract, and green coffee bean, Cymbiotika's NMN + Trans-Resveratrol is designed to help increase your energy and keep you feeling your best. Another great option is our Apple Cider Vinegar capsules. Made from 100% organic apples, our capsules are an ideal alternative to avoid tooth enamel erosion from liquid apple cider vinegar. 

    Jumpstart your health with Cymbiotika. 


    Sources:

    1. NIH. The melanocortin-4 receptor: physiology, pharmacology, and pathophysiology. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20190196/
    2. NCBI. KSR2 Mutations Are Associated with Obesity, Insulin Resistance, and Impaired Cellular Fuel Oxidation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3898740/ 
    3. Harvard Health Publishing. The truth about metabolism. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-metabolism
    4. NIH. Aging, basal metabolic rate, and nutrition. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
    5. NIH. Cool Temperature Alters Human Fat and Metabolism. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/cool-temperature-alters-human-fat-metabolism




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