Mitochondria and Metabolic Rate

In order to lose weight quickly, it is important to raise the metabolism in order to burn more calories. Fit people tend to have a raised metabolism for two reasons, a higher level of lean mass and a greater number of mitochondria within the cells. If one has difficulty in raising the amount of lean mass it may be important to work on raising the metabolism by increasing the number of mitochondria.

Definition Mitochondria and Their Importance to the Metabolic Rate

Mitochondria are little organelles present within all cells of the human body. Mitochondria are often referred to as the “powerhouse of the cell” because they are responsible for producing most energy from food elements. They also contain all of the enzymes associated with aerobic energy production. These organelles are an important part of the metabolism because they control fat burning that occurs at low levels of exertion. The aerobic oxidation forms a large part of our basal metabolic rate so any increase in mitochondrial mass will help raise the metabolism.

How to Raise the Number of Mitochondria

Cells with high energy needs contain more mitochondria therefore, exercise will help raise the numbers however, the correct exercise will be the key to raising the metabolism efficiently enough to lose weight quickly. It has been shown that there is an increase in the number and size of the mitochondrial mass when exercise is performed at around 80% of maximum heart rate for at least 15 minutes.

This type of exercise regime repeated 3 times per week on alternate days has also been shown to raise the concentrations of energy burning enzymes further boosting energy expenditure by up to 20%. Time is needed in-between sessions for recovery. The recovery phase is important as it enables the mitochondria to increase in both size and numbers. A gentle walk or some type of low intensity activity completed between sessions may be conducive to the recovery process.

Best exercise for raising mitochondria and metabolism

Probably the best activities to help raise the heart rate to 80% of maximum are swimming and rowing. Both these exercises require the use of the major muscle groups and call for the movement of all limbs. The more muscles involved in the activity the more mitochondria involved in the adaptation process.

It is also vital that in the beginning stage the heart rate is raised gradually over the course of 2 weeks or more. No one should be exercising at 80% of maximum heart rate within the first 6 workouts, it will only reduce the ability for cells to develop at later stages. Instead, start off at around 40% of maximum then as fitness levels rise increase it by 10% at each workout.

Its important to monitor the heart rate when exercising. We have found a great website that sells basic heart rate monitors at reasonable prices:

Please be aware that you should not exercise at 80% of the maximum heart rate for 15 minutes unless you are fit enough to do so.

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