Ever wonder why everyone is talking about metabolism? Is it really that important?
A high metabolic rate does more than just keep you lean. It’s crucial to your mental and physical well-being.
Your metabolism runs 24/7 to help your body burn calories and use energy. Even the slightest imbalance can affect your health, leading to weight gain, hormonal fluctuations, thyroid problems, and much more.
But how exactly does the metabolism work? Most importantly, what’s the best way to keep it functioning optimally? Here are some surprising truths about your metabolism and its role in overall health.
Metabolism at a Glance
Any chemical process that occurs within or between your cells is part of your metabolism. This includes digestion, breathing, protein and glucose breakdown, enzyme production, and so on. Furthermore, research shows that metabolism plays a key role in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis as well as in brain function and immunity.
Metabolism encompasses two categories: anabolism – which refers to the formation of new cells and tissues – and catabolism – which involves the breaking down of molecules into smaller components. Muscle growth, for example, is an anabolic process. When you’re dieting or overtraining, you lose muscle – in this case, we’re talking about catabolism.
This set of chemical reactions utilizes energy for fuel. Your metabolic rate, or the speed of your metabolism, determines how much energy will be required for these processes to occur.
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A sluggish metabolism, for instance, can affect your ability to maintain a healthy weight. Your body is less efficient at breaking down and using dietary nutrients. A high metabolic rate, by comparison, ensures optimal nutrient absorption and makes it easier to stay lean and have the energy needed to function properly.
The Role of Your Metabolism
By now, you should have a good understanding of how your metabolism works. At the most basic level, it enables your body to convert nutrients into energy to run cellular processes. Its role goes beyond weight maintenance.
“allows your body to properly absorb and use the nutrients in food”
Metabolism is responsible for all of the chemical reactions that occur in living cells. It breaks down protein, carbs, fats, and nucleic acids to provide energy for these processes, from breathing and sleeping to heart and immune function. Studies have linked metabolism disruptions to various neurological disorders hormonal imbalances, and inflammatory diseases.
A high metabolic rate helps your body properly absorb and use the nutrients in food. Stress, for example, raises cortisol levels, which in turn, slows down your metabolism. This may lead to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance. Studies also indicate that stress may affect food choices and preferences.
When you’re stressed, your metabolic rate drops and your body becomes less efficient at using dietary nutrients. You’ll not only gain weight but also feel tired and sluggish. In the long run, you may lose muscle and bone mass, experience mental fatigue, and develop digestive problems. That’s why it’s important to keep your metabolism up and functioning at its peak.
Factors That Influence Your Metabolism
Contrary to what you may have heard, diet isn’t the only factor affecting your metabolism. In fact, metabolic rate depends largely on genetics. Your age matters too. As time goes by, your metabolism becomes slower and less efficient. Other factors that influence your internal engine include your body size and composition, age, hormone levels, lifestyle habits, and overall health.
For example, people living in warmer climates tend to have a slower metabolism than those residing in colder areas because it takes more energy to keep the body warm. Additionally, certain health conditions, such as hypothyroidism, reduce thyroxin (T4) levels, causing your metabolic rate to drop. Research also shows that age, gender, and fat free mass account for over 80 percent of the variance in resting metabolic rate. The more body fat you carry, the lower your metabolism.
Your lifestyle plays a key role too. Crash diets, sleep deprivation, bad eating, and lack of exercise are just a few of the factors that may slow your metabolism. High-protein foods, for instance, have been shown to increase metabolic rate due to their thermogenic properties. Compared to fats and carbs, protein requires more energy to digest and break down, causing your body to burn more calories.
Exercise has a direct impact on your metabolism and energy expenditure. High-intensity workouts, such as HIIT, tabata, plyometric training, and full body circuits, increase your maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max). This causes your body to consume more oxygen and burn more calories to sustain itself and recover from training.
Another way to rev up your engine is to start lifting weights. Compound movements like the squat and deadlift promote muscle growth and torch fat while raising testosterone and growth hormone levels. These factors lead to a higher metabolic rate. More muscle equals a faster metabolism and more calories burned throughout the day.
Some foods, especially spices like ginger and chilies, can naturally rev up your metabolism. Others may help balance your hormone levels, which in turn, can boost your metabolic rate. Simple lifestyle changes, such as drinking more water and increasing your calcium intake, come in handy too.
Remember, a fast metabolism can improve your health on every level. You’ll not only get leaner but also have more energy, enjoy better digestion, and even look younger. Make small changes to your diet and lifestyle habits; sometimes, that’s all it takes to rev up your metabolic rate!