When it comes to metabolism, you probably have a rough idea of what it is, but what do you really know about the role it plays in your overall health and well-being?
Can the metabolism be fast or slow? Does your metabolism change with age? Is the metabolism the same for everyone? Are there ways to improve your metabolism?
If you’ve ever asked yourself these kinds of questions, you won’t be disappointed by reading this article.
What is the metabolism?
Metabolism is all the chemical and biological transformations that take place in the body. In simpler terms, it is the process by which our body converts what we eat and drink into energy over a period of time. During this process, calories from food and drink are combined with oxygen to release the energy our bodies need to function.
Even when we are at rest, our body needs energy for its most basic functions, such as breathing, blood circulation, adjusting hormone levels, and cell growth and repair.
How does the metabolism work?
We are constantly burning energy:
– When we exercise ( thermal effect of exercise (TEE) ),
– When we digest food ( thermic effect of food (TEF) ),
– When we perform our daily tasks ( non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) ) (climbing stairs, carrying groceries, etc.).
– When we sleep or are at rest ( basal metabolic rate (BMR) ),
There are two chemical processes that take place for metabolism to occur, catabolism and anabolism.
Catabolism is the process by which foods and drinks are broken down into simpler forms, resulting in the release of energy.
Anabolism is the process by which energy is used for bodily functions, including growing and repairing cells in your body.
If more calories are consumed in a day than necessary, the excess calories are mainly stored as fat.
Factors influencing metabolism
Your body size and composition
The taller, stronger and more muscular a person is, the more calories burned at rest.
Men generally have less body fat and more muscle than women of the same age and weight, which means men burn more calories.
As we age, muscle mass tends to decrease and fat makes up a greater portion of our weight, which slows down the burning of calories.
The level of physical activity
The more we move, the more calories our body burns. Ultimately, this has an impact on the metabolism.
Certain hormonal imbalances can affect the metabolism and therefore increase the risk of weight gain.
Metabolism and weight
Gaining weight is still a complicated process. It is a combination of genetic makeup, hormonal controls, diet, and the impact of the environment on your lifestyle, sleep, physical activity, and stress.
All of these factors cause an imbalance in the energy equation.
It can be tempting to blame your metabolism for the weight gain, but it is only in rare cases that you get excessive weight gain due to a medical problem slowing down your metabolism, such as Cushing’s syndrome or underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism).
Physical activity remains by far the most variable factor determining the number of calories you burn each day. This is why I insist on maintaining a daily sports routine.
How to speed up your metabolism?
There is little scientific evidence to suggest that foods, drinks, pills, or supplements can boost your metabolism.
The energy used during physical activity is the only energy expenditure over which you have control.
That is why I recommend that all my clients eat a healthy diet combined with daily physical activity. This is the best way you have to influence the energy expended by your body.
While it is true that some people seem to be able to lose weight faster and easier than others, everyone loses weight by burning more calories than they eat. To lose weight, you need to create an energy deficit by eating fewer calories or increasing the number of calories you burn through physical activity, or both.
Don’t look for food supplements to burn calories or lose weight. I do not recommend products that claim to accelerate your metabolism, some of which can cause unwanted side effects, even dangerous.