How to nutritionally support your clients’ metabolic health
Metabolic health is a complex topic that will look different for everyone. However, there are some ways for you to support your client’s metabolism. From increased fiber to adequate protein intake, here’s what science has to say about staying metabolically healthy.
Have you ever had clients ask about weight loss, tips to decrease body fat, or how to get a fast metabolism? As a nutrition professional, you can help your clients achieve a healthier lifestyle through diet and wellness choices. However, since everyone’s nutritional needs are different, it can be challenging to know where to start. In this article, we’re exploring what science has to say about metabolic health and how you can nutritionally support your client’s metabolism.
But before we dive into some nutrition suggestions, let’s first understand what metabolism is.
Metabolism is a term used to describe all the chemical reactions in your body required to keep you alive. This can also be referred to as basal metabolic rate (BMR).
Simply put, the faster your metabolism is, the more energy your body uses to power through your daily activities. Consequently, the more calories you burn at rest. However, when this process becomes disrupted, your body can become more vulnerable to metabolic imbalances.
What impacts metabolism?
Many things impact metabolism, but some risk factors include:
- Age. As people age, their body becomes less efficient, which causes their metabolism to decrease. There are also shifts in hormones, especially in postmenopausal women, that can slow calorie usage and consumption.
- Sex. Hormones and differences in body composition play a large role in basal metabolic rate. This is the primary reason men tend to have a faster metabolism than women.
- Body composition. Muscles require more energy to build, repair, and maintain tissue than fat tissue. Therefore, those with more lean muscle mass tend to have faster metabolisms.
- Health conditions. Certain health conditions can have negative impacts on metabolism. For instance, endocrine conditions such as Cushing’s syndrome and hypothyroidism can slow metabolism and decrease energy consumption.
- Metabolic diseases. Metabolic diseases impact the body’s ability to process certain nutrients. These conditions are genetic and include Tay-Sachs disease, Gaucher Disease, Maple Syrup Urine Disease, and Wilson disease.
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Tips to support metabolic health
While some genetic factors cannot be changed, improving metabolic health isn’t a lost cause. Here are some ways you can support your client’s metabolism through curated nutritional support.
Drink enough water
Water is a necessary component of regular body function and overall health.
The human body is 60% water, and since many processes within the body utilize water, it’s important to stay hydrated. Recent studies have also indicated that water consumption triggers thermogenesis which improves metabolism and increases energy expenditure.
While the increase in energy expenditure may be minimal, these small changes can have a big impact. For most people, the benefits of increasing water consumption will go beyond improving metabolic health.
Tip: download this useful guide to learn more about water intake recommendations for clients.
Ensure adequate daily protein intake
Protein helps in muscle growth, weight management, and athletic recovery, but what about metabolic health?
Research suggests that those who consume more dietary protein have higher diet-induced thermogenesis which increases total energy expenditure. This is due to the increased energy needs of protein synthesis, the high energy cost of urea production, and gluconeogenesis. Protein is also required for lean muscle building and maintenance, which is why lean muscle mass is directly correlated to a higher metabolic rate.
While protein is important for everyone, every client will have different needs based on their goals and activity level. One way to ensure adequate intake is to include protein with each meal. If you are working with an athlete, get to know our recommendations and suggestions about protein.
The Dietary Reference Intake for protein is as follows:
- 0.8 g of protein/kg of body weight per day for an average sedentary person.
- 1.2 to 2.0 g of protein/kg of body weight per day depending on how active your client is.
To help your clients get enough protein in their diets, you can add high-quality sources to their curated meal plans. Some examples include eggs, dairy products, lean protein, protein powders, beans, lentils, nutritional yeast, and fortified foods.
Focus on fiber
Fresh fruits and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber that work to support a healthy gut. Fiber has a plethora of health benefits, and there is emerging evidence that it also increases metabolism.
Since fiber is completely indigestible, it’s hard for the body to break it down, which burns calories in the process. Research shows that people who consumed 40 grams of fiber each day had a faster metabolism compared to those who ate a low-fiber diet. Moreover, other studies found that those who replaced refined grains with whole grains had increased resting metabolic rates.
The American Heart Association recommends a total dietary fiber intake of 25 to 30 g/day. While this is doable, it’s more challenging than it seems. Recent studies show that 95% of Americans don’t eat enough fiber. The average American adult consumes 16 grams per day.
You can help your client eat more fiber by including more whole foods in their meal plans. Here are some foods that are rich in fiber:
- Whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, barley, and popcorn)
- Legumes (black beans, lentils, and chickpeas)
- Nuts (almonds, cashews, and walnuts)
- Fruits (apples, avocados, bananas, pears, and berries)
- Vegetables (kale, spinach, green peas, sweet potatoes, and carrots)
Adequate calorie intake
It’s important to make sure that your clients are getting enough calories and eating frequently. Fad diets are notorious for under-estimating caloric needs, and many people are accustomed to the mentality that “less is more.” However, severe calorie deficits and skipping meals can wreak havoc on metabolism.
Studies have shown that a severely calorie-restricted diet can decrease your metabolism by as much as 23%. This can continue to slow your metabolism even after the diet is stopped. Moreover, calorie-restricted diets that are low in protein can further slow your metabolism.
To help prevent this, you can estimate your client’s BMR to determine their caloric needs. Check out this article to learn more about how to use the Henry Equations.
Encourage physical activity
Studies show that regular physical activity can boost metabolism and improve overall health. While aerobic activities have positive impacts on cardiovascular health, strength training is beneficial for increasing metabolism. Since more energy is required to build and repair muscles, strength training exercises can have a powerful impact on metabolic health.
For improved health and wellness, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends the following:
- at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity/day
- 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity/week
- 75 minutes of vigorous exercise/week.
Metabolic health is a complex topic and will be different for everyone. However, there are some ways you can nutritionally support your client’s metabolism. Things like fiber consumption, physical activity levels, and caloric intake can play a positive role in your client’s metabolic health and overall well-being.
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