You may have read about metabolism in your high school biology class, but do you know how it functions? Well, maybe you do. You’ve also probably read about how metabolism affects your weight, but didn’t know what exactly that meant, right? Well, put those questions to rest because this article will explain what metabolism is all about and how it pertains to our bodies.
Simply put, metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories. In a typical case study, two people of the same age having similar physical characteristics and following the same diet may burn calories differently because their metabolism is different. Those with a good metabolic rate will burn calories faster so that excess fat is not stored in the body, and those who have an average to poor metabolic rate will see that all those extra calories get deposited as ugly fat.
Factors affecting metabolism
It’s important to note the different kinds of factors that affect metabolism. Some of these are out of your control and some can be controlled. The ones which cannot be controlled include:
Age – As a natural part of aging, metabolism tends to slow down, and this is something that you cannot possibly change. Studies have shown that metabolism decreases by 5% every ten years after the age of forty.
Sex – Men tend to have better metabolism than women and can burn calories faster despite being of the same age or even having the same weight. It’s usually attributed to the fact that they have more muscle and less body fat.
Body type – People with more lean muscle have speedier metabolism as opposed to those who don’t.
Heredity – Like they say, it’s all in the genes. If your parents and grandparents had a certain type of metabolism, it’s highly unlikely that yours will differ much from theirs.
Thyroid problems – Some people with thyroid disorders tend to have slower metabolism, although this isn’t always true for everyone with a thyroid problem.
There are factors which you can control, and these largely involve physical activity. If you are physically active by making sure that you exercise daily whether it is running, cycling or even walking, your body will burn more calories than if you live a less active life.
Basal Metabolic Rate
|English BMR Formula|
|Women: BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )|
Men: BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) – ( 6.8 x age in year )
|Metric BMR Formula|
|Women: BMR = 655 + ( 9.6 x weight in kilos ) + ( 1.8 x height in cm ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )|
Men: BMR = 66 + ( 13.7 x weight in kilos ) + ( 5 x height in cm ) – ( 6.8 x age in years )
Your Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR is the minimum amount of energy that you have to expend to basically do nothing. It is also referred to as Resting Metabolic Rate. To understand BMR or RMR better, we need to realize that it is responsible for at least 70% of the calories used by the body. BMR is actually the metabolic rate that is used for burning calories for the body’s internal processes. Even as we sit quietly, our bodies are burning calories as they perform basic functions such as respiration, pumping blood through the body, and maintaining the right body temperature.
BMR is also affected by factors such as age, sex, and weight. However, what you need to know is that BMR can get affected by what we do as well. If you went on a crash diet, your BMR could drastically reduce by 30 or even 20%, which is not a very healthy thing.
BMR can be determined through various equations such as the Harris Benedict Formula, which relies on total body weight and can tell you how many calories you need per day based on your body weight and activities.
For example, lets say your total energy requirement (calculation is equal to 2000 calories per day and you’ve ingested 2012 calories per day. This means you’ve ingested 12 calories more than you’ve expended. Regardless of what types of foods these extra 12 calories consist of, whether it be a liquid or solid, fat or protein, fruit or chocolate bar, salad or french fries, your body will turn these extra calories into fat. Your body will then store this fat until it is needed for energy.
Metabolism and weight gain
Most people tend to blame their metabolism for their being overweight. This is not always the case, because what really piles on the pounds as compared to just the metabolism is the amount and kind of food you eat. If you eat rich, fatty foods and find yourself getting flabbier, don’t blame your bad metabolism.
If you find yourself ingesting more calories than your daily total energy requirement, you need to either reduce the amount of calories, increase the amount of daily physical activity, or preferably both. Both are preferential because increasing your BMR through daily physical activity will effectually allow you to burn more calories in the long-term. If you consistently decrease your calorie intake (through dieting) without increasing your physical activity levels, you risk reducing your BMR levels, forcing your body to burn less calories, which may eventually lead to further long-term weight gain and make it more difficult to lose the weight you’ve gained. Unfortunately, this is the scenario that most dieters face as they continue their desperate attempts to lose weight through dieting without physical activity. As we age, those who solely depend on dieting as a method of weight loss become even more frustrated since BMR levels naturally decline as we get older.
So how do you avoid falling into this vicious cycle? If your between 20 – 55 years of age, your AMR should consist of at least 120-200 minutes of moderate or heavy physical activity weekly. To prevent injuries and enhance recovery, the older you are, the more you will have to stay in the lower end of this range. If you’re 55+, you should seek the guidance of an Exercise Specialist and your Physician for an appropriate guideline according to your health and fitness level.
Change your eating habits and start an exercise routine so that you burn more calories. Remember, those with sedentary lifestyles will find that they put on weight no matter what they eat. Activity is the key to get your metabolism going and those calories burning. Hit the gym and pump some iron because it will not only help you lose weight, but will also give you a well-toned body.
Muscle and metabolism
People who have more lean muscle as compared to body fat often have faster metabolism. Factually speaking, the body burns around 73 calories more per kg every day for someone who has a lot of muscle as opposed to someone who is pudgy and has more fat. In fact, if you have lean muscle, your body burns more calories even when you’re not active. Opt for strength training exercises and build up those muscles, because doing so even prevents muscle loss associated with aging.
Metabolism can be improved greatly if you eat smaller meals more frequently. By starving your body, you’re giving it the signal that it needs to store more calories as fat in your body. To keep that from happening, make sure you eat at least 5 to 6 small meals a day.
Drinking lots of water is also a good way to make your metabolism work better. This is because if you don’t drink much water, your liver tends to focus on retaining water in your body, and not on your metabolism.
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