Heart Rate & Metabolism

doctor checking a patients pulse
An increase in your heart rate may increase your metabolism to promote weight loss. (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

If you have tried to lose weight and failed, you've probably searched for a cause to your problem. At one point, you may have considered the problem the fault of your metabolism. Metabolism may play a part in this difficulty, if your heart rate isn't elevated enough to increase your body's calorie needs. To alter your metabolism, you must increase your heart rate via exercise.

Significance

Metabolism is often blamed for the inability to lose weight or the cause of weight gain. Actually your metabolism does influence the amount of calories your body uses, but it is the food you consume and exercise you perform which causes weight change. Metabolism is defined as the "physical and chemical processes in the body that convert or use energy," according to the National Institutes of Health. This energy is used by every cell in the body for all functions including heart rate, lung function and digestion.

Function

At some point, you have probably heard someone complain about having a slow metabolism. In reality, metabolism is constantly changing to adapt to the circumstances your body is dealing with. For instance, during times of starvation the body slows down all natural bodily processes to conserve energy. During a marathon, your heart rate is high, your oxygen needs are increased and your metabolism is boosted to provide energy for these functions. Only conditions such as Cushing's syndrome and hypothyroidism can actually slow metabolism enough to cause weight gain.

Identification

Heart rate affects metabolism as a result of exercise. Exercise increases your heart rate, which increases calorie need. This increase in heart rate causes the metabolism to speed up to convert more calories into energy to keep your systems functioning properly. While any form of exercise is beneficial, aerobic exercise such as walking, biking and swimming is most likely to raise the heart rate enough to boost metabolism to promote weight loss.

Considerations

Heart rate can also be increased by medications that provide a stimulant effect within the body. Stimulants, such as amphetamines and over the counter herbal stimulants, raise heart rate and blood pressure. The result of this stimulation is decreased appetite, which can lead to weight reduction. Weight Watchers states that while these products are advertised as "fat burning," they often cause weight loss due to the increased heart rate and metabolism changes to meet the body's need. These stimulants have significant side effects such as insomnia, anxiety and even death.

Recommendations

To increase your metabolism you must eat a healthy, well balanced diet. Decreasing calories to a level below what your body needs will slow metabolism and trigger your metabolism to store fat. Increase your heart rate by maximizing your work out. Aim for a "conversation pace," says the American Heart Association. Being able to exercise and talk is a good indication that your heart rate is in the target zone for calorie burning from metabolism related calorie conversion.

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