October 14, 2020

What Is Metabolism?

Metabolism is defined as the bodily processes needed to maintain life. Through the process of metabolism, your body turns the food you eat into the energy it needs. Here, we’ll outline how metabolism affects your health and daily life.

What Does Metabolic Rate Mean?

Metabolic rate is the number of calories, or units of energy, that we burn just by being alive.

What Does Metabolism Do?

Put simply, metabolism is the internal process that converts the calories you consume into what you need to fuel your body. The process of metabolism has two main parts. Anabolism helps you grow new cells, store energy, and maintain your body tissues. Catabolism breaks down fat and carbohydrate molecules to release energy that fuels anabolism, keeps you warm, and allows your muscles to contract. 

How Does Metabolism Work?

Nutrition is the key to metabolism. The pathways of metabolism rely on nutrients that they break down to produce energy. This energy is needed by your body to synthesize new proteins and nucleic acids, like DNA and RNA.

What Controls Metabolism?

How you live your life and your habits affect your metabolism in five important ways: what you eat, how you exercise, your current weight, your former weight, and the deprivation of food and sleep.  

  • What you eat. Avoid fried foods and refined sugars because these energy sources are the most likely to store fat. Instead, choose whole grains, vegetables, lean proteins, and fruits that your body can use more readily for energy.
  • Exercise. You can’t do much to affect your resting metabolism, which burns most of the calories you consume in a day. But exercises that build muscle can help because muscle tissue uses more energy than fat does.
  • Your current weight. If you’re significantly overweight, there’s a high risk that your body will stop responding to insulin, the hormone that regulates the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood. As a result, sugar stays in your blood instead of being stored as energy.
  • Your former weight. Having been overweight can affect your metabolism even after you’ve lost the weight. For example, if someone who used to be overweight moves from a restricted diet to a normal diet, they run the risk of putting the weight back on. Researchers believe that this has to do with hormonal changes after weight loss that both slow your metabolism and make you feel hungrier. 
  • Food and sleep deprivation. No matter how much you weigh, not eating enough can slow the rate at which your body burns calories. For example, if you skip breakfast and lunch and only eat dinner, you signal your body that there’s a shortage of food, so your metabolic rate goes very low. And when you do eat, your body will try to store every calorie. It’s also important to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Sleep deprivation can cause your body to produce too much insulin, which can lead to increased fat storage.

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What’s High Metabolism?

If your metabolism is high, you’ll burn more calories at rest and during activity. A high metabolism means you’ll need to take in more calories to maintain your weight. That’s one reason why some people can eat more food than others without gaining weight.

What Speeds Up Metabolism?

While there isn’t much you can do raise your resting metabolic rate, there are things you can do to speed up your metabolism, including:

  • Getting more sleep
  • Exercising more
  • Eat more nutritious foods

What’s Slow Metabolism?

A person with a slow metabolism will burn fewer calories at rest and during activity and has to eat less to avoid becoming overweight. 

At What Age Does Metabolism Slow Down?

As you age, your metabolism tends to decrease by about 5% for every decade of life after age 40, which means that if your resting metabolic rate is 1,200 calories per day at age 40, it will be around 1,140 at age 50. That means you’ll have to eat 100 fewer calories per day to maintain your weight.

Speak with An Endocrinology Specialist

The good news is that you can help your metabolism and your odds of losing weight by changing the balance between what you consume and what you burn off. That means maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular physical activity. If you want to learn more about metabolism and your health, connect with a Baptist Health endocrinology provider.

Next Steps and Useful Resources

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