Questions About Metabolism

The Connection between metabolism, fat cells, calories and exercising.Since I started writing about metabolic rates and personal metabolism, I’ve been fielding quite a few questions from my readers.

As such I’ve decided to take a break from some of my other publishing dates and write a few articles to help you understand your metabolism better and how to work with it to change your overall health.

Metabolism is the word used to describe the process your body goes through to transform food into fuel. What it does with that fuel is a direct result of how you look today.

If you are carrying a few extra pounds this might cause you to shake your fist at your metabolism, especially so if you once had a healthy or fast metabolism in your youth but now find that it has defied you and slowed down. Before you wage war with it please understand that if you had no metabolism you wouldn’t be able to move, read this article, or click a mouse button.

In fact, nearly everything your body does on auto-pilot such as circulating blood, transforming oxygen into carbon dioxide, expelling lethal toxins through your kidneys depend on your metabolism. Given all that you have no choice but to love and appreciate it, but what of the extra pounds?

First of all stop thinking of it as some single-function fuel or fat burner. Your metabolism is at work in your body every second of every minute of every day of your life making numerous chemical conversions (also referred to as ‘metabolic functions’).

Your metabolism is a constant process that works in two seemingly opposite ways: anabolism uses energy to create cells, and catabolism breaks down cells to create energy.

Anabolism and Catabolism

Your body is continually creating new cells to replace dead or dysfunctional cells. As an example, should you cut your finger, your body instantly begins the process of creating new skin cells to clot the blood and start healing the wound. This creation process is a metabolic response. You will hear myself and others discuss it as ‘anabolism’.

Since there is always an opposite action for every bodily action or function, we have ‘catabolism’. Instead of building new cells and tissue this function breaks down energy. An example of this would be while you’re walking or exercising, your body temperature rises and your heart beat increases. Due to the increase your body will need more oxygen and so your breathing will increase naturally. If your body couldn’t adjust to this increased requirement of oxygen, you would collapse. These increases require additional resources which is carried out as converting your fuel into energy. That is the metabolic process named catabolism.

Metabolism is actually a harmonizer. Bringing together two seemingly opposite functions (anabolism and catabolism) in the best way for your body to create cells as needed, and break them down again when required.

Make sense?

Good. Let’s talk then about how your metabolism affects weight gain or loss…

Metabolism and Weight Loss

Everyone knows about calories. Counting calories going into our bodies and, if you have a pedometer that measures it, counting calories burned for steps throughout the day. Calories are simply units of measure, nothing more. They are a measure of energy.

Your body creates energy from the food you eat. It creates energy from fruits and vegetables using the same process that it uses to create energy from chocolate bars and candy.

While you know it’s better for your body to get energy from fruit and vegetables, your body doesn’t stop to evaluate the food. It will simply create energy from whatever you eat.

Although it may sound strange at first, your body really doesn’t care what you feed it in the sense of creating energy. To the body, energy is just energy. It will take whatever you feed it. It doesn’t know that some foods are healthier than others. It is rather like a garbage disposal in this manner: it will take what you put into it, whether it should or not.

So here’s what happens…When your body receives a calorie it must do something with that energy. As an example, if a broccoli spear delivers 100 calories, the body has to accept those 100 calories. The same goes for 600 calories from a chocolate bar or energy drink.

Then, your body will do one of two things to the energy. It will either metabolizes it via anabolism, or metabolize it via catabolism. That is, it will either convert the energy (calories) into cells/tissue, or it will use that energy (calories) to break down cells.

When there is an excess of energy, and the body can’t use this energy to deal with any needs at the time, it will be forced to create cells with the extra energy. It has to do something with the energy after all, especially if you aren’t putting it to use.

And those extra cells? Yup, you guessed it: added weight.

In a nutshell, the whole calorie/metabolism/weight gain thing is really just about excess energy. When there are too many calories in the body, they are transformed into fat.

Here’s the clincher though, and this is very important to understand, especially if you are walking, exercising or burning excess calories in some way. Sometimes the extra calories get transformed into muscle. And…since muscles require calories to simply maintain their mass, people with strong muscle tone burn calories without actually, physically, doing anything. The metabolism burns it for them.

That is why you want to get, build, tone, create as much lean muscle on your body as possible and in the shortest, healthiest, amount of time. Muscle ‘ownership’ boosts your metabolism. The more lean muscle you have, the lower the risk of excess calories being transformed into fat.

Now that you understand the basics of metabolism, muscles, energy and fuel, we can discuss how to use your specific metabolic rate – at any age – to help rid you of those extra pounds. Before you go however I have one more point to share. You may have heard that fat cells are permanent. I wish I could tell you that it isn’t true! Most health and diet experts agree that once fat cells have been created, they’re permanent. But don’t let this stop you on your trek back to health and fitness. Even though experts believe that fat cells are permanent, they also agree that fat cells can be shrunk. Therefore, even if the number of fat cells in your body remains the same, their size, appearance and percentage of your overall weight, can be reduced.

Creating New Habits Around Exercise

Walk While You Shop - Take A Stroll Any WhereThere isn’t one person in my circle of friends who doesn’t ache to lose a few pounds at least once or twice per year. Even the skinny ones among us talk about their dieting and exercise woes. Men, women, teens, seniors, everyone wants to lose weight but we’re either too busy, too tired at the end of the day or too lacking in motivation.

If you fit in any of those categories you’ll need to know that losing weight, changing your food habits and getting more exercise is all a ‘head game’. Sure it’s hard – you need both will power and some sweat equity to decrease your mass – but with time, dedication and effort you get to live in a body you love.

The mental prowess you’ll need to keep yourself motivated is a huge part of the process. If you can use determination, the fun factor, jealousy, or any other emotion to your advantage you’ll be able to tackle the bulge and put the excuses to rest.

Remember we’re not talking about running a marathon every weekend here. You begin with small steps – a little more than your body is currently used to – and as the pounds slip away you’ll take your new love of exercise and your new strengths to tackle more challenges on your path to better health.

This is just as simple as strapping on a pedometer, gauging the amount of steps you take in an average day, and increasing that number as your first fitness goal. Walking really can help you lose the weight that you’re ready to be rid of.

Over the next few days I’ll be adding a “Walk It Off” online course for all our readers. We’ll also be investigating ways for you to keep track of your steps and your fitness goals through Pedometers.org. More about that later, for now please understand that walking will burn a sufficient amount of calories, which ensures that stored fat on your body will be used for energy.

All that is required to start is a simple pedometer and thirty minutes of energetic walking everyday. If you are very heavy right now you might like to talk to your doctor first or go a little slower for the first few weeks until you gain some strength and stamina.

Let’s get back for a moment to the mind games we play with ourselves and the excuses. Here’s the one I hear the most often. It’s boring! Yes, it can be hard to find joy, fun or entertainment in a 30 minute walk but you’ve got to find a way to do it nonetheless. Take an MP3 pedometer for a walk with you and listen to some music or recorded seminars that you’ve been dying to listen to.

You can also change where you walk. Head off to the mall and some do some walking. You can window shop on the way. Or walk with a friend or neighbor. How about heading to the park, beach boardwalk, or bike path?

Here are a few other suggestions:

A friend of mine was going to Italy in two months. He wanted to be fit when he flew over because he was tired of carrying around an extra 25 pounds so he started walking. You know what else he did? Learned some great conversational Italian on his MP3 pedometer.

If you’re lonely on your walks make a pact with a friend to walk at lunch or every night after dinner together. You can even wager a free meal or task (“…if either of us cancel our walk three times we have to clean the other friend’s house.”) Better still…your dog will never cancel out on a walk with you, so take Fido along.

Stay tuned to Pedometers.org for more information and our upcoming course on Walk It Off.

Add Some Steps to Your Day!

I know, I know. 10,000 steps a day to maintain your physical condition or 15,000 steps a day to lose weight and firm up sounds like a lot at first, but strap on a pedometer and go about your day and you’d be surprised how many steps you actually take even when you’re not trying.

Once you’ve counted and measured the steps you already take with a pedometer, here are some ways to add more steps to your day…Strap on a pedometer and get moving. How to add steps to your day.

  • Hand deliver office memos or walk down the hall to a co-worker’s office.
  • Take a lover’s walk, in the park, even if it’s raining.
  • Take the stairs – even if this means you need to get off the elevator a few floors early.
  • Walk up the escalator in malls and subways.
  • Park farther from the office, the grocery store, or the shopping mall.
  • Walk the kids to school instead of driving them.
  • Take the dog for a walk instead of just letting him outside the back door.
  • Take your designated breaks at work and walk around the building or city block as many times as time allows.
  • Do your grocery shopping in the order you have items listed, instead of going aisle-by-aisle.
  • Take the kids to the park and either run around with them or walk laps around the play area while they play on the swings and slides.

By adding steps to your day you are essentially increasing your level of fitness and burning more calories. Every little bit moves you closer to your goal whether it be a fitness goal or a weight loss goal.

The American Medical Association states that by increasing activity, you will also:

  1. Increase stamina.
  2. Stimulate weight loss.
  3. Lower blood cholesterol.
  4. Lower blood pressure.
  5. Improve self image.
  6. Improve mood.
  7. Enhance quality of life.

And it that’s not enough to get you moving more with your pedometer, the AMA also says you will:

  1. Sleep better.
  2. Strengthen your heart and lungs.
  3. Decrease stress levels and the effects of stress.
  4. Increase your energy.
  5. Maintain appropriate weight.
  6. Lower triglycerides.
  7. Control blood sugar levels (and risks of diabetes).
  8. Feel better.
  9. Reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.
  10. Improve productivity in all areas of your life.
  11. Build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints.
  12. Increase muscle tone.
  13. Reduce risk of dying prematurely.

Really? It’s a win/win situation. A pedometer strapped onto your waist inspiring you to move around more often and in no time you’ll be looking better, feeling better, plus all the benefits above.

Your new life begins today! A healthier, longer, and no doubt happier, life!