What Is Metabolism and Can We Really Change It?

What is fact and what is fiction about boosting your metabolism?

Metabolism is a complex process of converting calories from food into energy for our body’s needs. Many chemical reactions are involved in this process. They occur during digestion, physical activity, breathing and many other internal processes necessary to maintain our life.

The word “metabolism” is often used by dieters and fitness instructors in order to explain, why do we gain weight and how to avoid it. However, not everyone knows what metabolism actually is.

What is Metabolism

Metabolism is a process that takes place in any living being to sustain its life. Metabolism allows the cells to perform various functions, so our body can grow, heal itself and respond to the environment. We can divide all metabolic processes into two categories. Destructive processes are called catabolism, while constructive are called anabolism.

Nutrients that enter the body cannot be used immediately for its needs. For example, proteins from nuts and milk are completely different from proteins in our muscles and cannot replace each other. However, they consist of smaller building blocks, amino acids. Proteins of different kinds have a different sets of them.

Special enzymes in our body break down proteins contained in food into individual amino acids, so we can obtain blocks to build various cells. During this process energy is released, which can be measured in calories. Another example of catabolism is the breaking down of ordinary refined sugar into fructose and glucose.

However, it is not enough to break down proteins into amino acids. We need to create new proteins to build muscles and other cells. To construct new molecules from smaller components energy is required. This process of creating new molecules is called anabolism.

Where Does Fat Come From?

During nutrient breakdown, if more energy is produced than is required to create new cells in the body, an excess of energy occurs. When we are at rest, there is no need to break down and synthesize a lot of substances. But as soon as the body begins to move, all metabolic processes are accelerated and intensified. The need for energy and nutrients also increases.

But no matter how physically active a person is, an excess of calories can occur if we eat too much. A small part of it will be stored in muscles and liver as a spare energy source. The rest is accumulated in fat cells. Each 9 kcal of excess energy will be stored as 1 gram of fat in our body.

Here is a simple example: suppose you eat a sandwich and lie down on the couch. The body receives fats, proteins, carbohydrates and 140 kcal of energy. While lying down, the body uses about 50 kcal per hour to maintain its basic functions like breathing and blood circulation. The remaining 90 kcal will turn into10 gram of fat stored in your body. However, if you will go out on a walk instead of lying down, you will use all those calories in about an hour.

Metabolic Rate

We constantly need energy to breath, circulate blood and maintain chemical balance in the body. The number of calories we need to sustain those vital functions is called basal metabolic rate.

Our basal metabolic rate is fairly stable and can be calculated in several ways. The most reliable way is to get tested in a medical lab. You can calculate the value yourself using these formulas:

For man: (13.4 * weight/kg) + (4.8 * height/cm) – (5.7 * age) + 88.4

For women: (9.3 * weight/kg) + (3.1 * height/cm) – (4.3 * age) + 447.6

Total metabolic rate is a combination of fairly stable basal metabolic rate and other processes like physical activity that can change from day to day.

Why Is My Metabolism Slow?

Some people believe that they gain excess weight because their metabolism is slow. In fact, studies show that slow metabolism occurs only in a number of diseases, for example, a deficiency of the thyroid hormone. Most people with excess weight do not have such diseases, but an energy imbalance. That is, the body does not use all the energy produced from food, so it is stored in fat cells.

How Can I Change My Metabolism to Lose Weight?

It is obvious that physical movement of any kind, including daily activities like walking or cleaning, will increase your metabolic rate and help you burn calories. If you want to lose weight without significantly increasing physical activity, focus on a balanced diet.

There are lots of foods that will actually worsen your metabolism. First of all, you will have to give up white bread, fast-foods, sweet sodas and other products with a high glycemic index. Remember to drink enough water – it is necessary for digestion and other important metabolic processes.

Caffeine and various fat burners increase brain activity and accelerate metabolism indirectly. Note that taking such substances can cause negative side effects like increased blood pressure, excessive sweating and various sleep disorders.

Keep in mind these additional facts to understand metabolism:

  1. The higher the body weight, the more calories we need. However, muscles consume much more energy than fat cells. Therefore, a bodybuilder will spend more calories than his counterpart of the same weight with undeveloped muscles.
  2. Metabolism worsens with age because of hormonal imbalance and a sharp decrease in physical activity.
  3. In a men’s body, testosterone is actively involved in metabolism. This is a natural anabolic, which forces the body to spend energy on growing additional muscles. Since much energy is needed to support muscles, a men and a woman of the same height and weight spend an unequal amount of calories during same activities. Simply put, men spend more energy and can lose weight more quickly.