6 Factors That Can Have a Surprisingly Big Impact on Your Metabolism

David Geithner
4 min readApr 28, 2023

The metabolic system provides the body with energy, fueling all of its essential functions. Derived from the Greek word metabole, meaning “change,” metabolism is a balance between catabolism, or breaking down energy into usable units, and anabolism, which is the process of using those units to fuel physiological processes such as cellular renewal and bone growth.

Put simply, metabolism is the process through which fats, proteins, and carbohydrates are transformed into energy, enabling your body to function optimally. Your basal metabolic rate or BMR is the amount of energy your body requires simply to exist. In this article, we explore six factors that could have a big impact on your metabolism.

1. Age

During development, children have high metabolic rates that align with their periods of growth. However, as we get older, our metabolic rate usually slows. This is primarily due to changes to neurological and hormonal processes combined with a loss of muscle tissue.

Research suggests that after the age of 20, our metabolism slows by around 10 percent per decade, meaning that by the age of 50, there had been a 30 percent drop. This slowed metabolism can result in weight gain even in individuals who maintain a diet, caloric intake, and exercise habits that are similar to their younger years. This means that habits and best practices we developed in our youth may no longer be as effective, requiring we adapt our expectations and understanding appropriately.

2. Muscle

Age-related metabolic slowdown is largely associated with a natural loss of muscle mass over the years. Additionally, people with a history of cyclic dieting tend to have lower muscle mass than those without such a history. Losing muscle mass, or sarcopenia, increases your risk of falls and broken bones as well as making daily tasks more difficult. It therefore follows that building or maintaining muscle mass can keep your basal metabolic rate higher as you age.

Taking action to combat muscle loss as we age means focusing on strength training, improving lean mass, and preserving range of motion. Research suggests that consuming a protein-rich diet combined with strength training correlates with greater muscle mass in older adults. In addition, it also helps to reduce the risk of falls and symptoms of inflammation-based diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, coronary artery disease, Type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.

3. Genetics

A study published by the Wellcome Sanger Institute suggests that more than 145 separate genetic regions may be involved in the human metabolic system. It was perhaps the most comprehensive exploration of the link between genetic variation and human metabolism to date. The team gained unprecedented insights into how genetic variants affect metabolic pathways.

Led by Dr. Nicole Soranzo, the team found 90 new genetic associations, tripling the number of known genetic associations with metabolic molecules known as metabolites. Genetics affect how quickly your body converts food into energy. Although it is impossible to change our genes, we can work with them, supporting our metabolism with regular exercise and a diet appropriate to our age and physical condition.

4. Hydration

According to registered dietitian Jenn Fillenworth, dehydration can lead to many metabolic disasters. Water is essential to keeping the metabolic system running smoothly and preventing overeating. Fillenworth indicates that not drinking enough can make the body think it is hungry when what it really needs is hydration.

According to a review published by John Hopkins University, drinking water stimulates the metabolism, stimulating heat production or thermogenesis, particularly when the water is chilled. One study suggests that drinking two cups of 71-degree-Fahrenheit water could trigger a 30 percent average increase in metabolic rate in healthy adults.

5. Protein

Digesting food burns calories, and of the three main food groups — namely carbohydrates, fat, and protein — digesting protein burns the most. Research suggests that increasing protein intake could temporarily boost metabolism by as much as 30 percent. In addition, a protein-rich diet also helps increase lean muscle mass, increasing your basal metabolic rate. Healthy protein sources include fish, chicken, dairy, wholegrains, nuts, lentils, and beans. For best results, distribute protein intake throughout the day to help maintain energy levels.

6. Probiotics

Our microbiomes affect our metabolisms throughout our lives. While certain gut bacteria, such as Akkermansia, are protective, that protection wanes with age. Probiotics are usually associated with treatment or supportive care for individuals with specific, diagnosed intestinal conditions. However, these nutrients can help populate our microbiomes with healthy bacteria that in turn positively influence metabolism.

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David Geithner

David Geithner is a senior finance executive who draws upon nearly three decades of experience to serve as EVP and COO, IMG Events and On Location.