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.
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.