We all love to eat, in fact, it’s essential for us to eat. However, most people don’t actually seem to care about the amount they are taking into their bodies until it’s affecting them in a way they a not fond of. For example, you may be asking yourself why is so and so not getting fat and I am yet we eat about the same, or maybe you say to yourself okay so I’m not trying to lose weight, and I find my weight decreasing. These statements and questions that are formed tend to lead people to say, “I need to diet!” or “I need to eat more!”, only resulting in them jumping into this new journey without really understanding the why’s of it all except for the initial fact that “I want to lose or maintain my weight.” Our bodies actually have its own process of why this is going on and how you can fix it. This process is called metabolism. Your metabolism is not fixed and can be altered, it differs from person to person for a variety of reasons, is a key factor to losing and maintaining weight, and even if you are not struggling with either losing or maintaining weight it is still very essential in preventing this dissatisfaction with your body.
[bookmark: _Hlk1480332] Metabolism is a chemical reaction that breaks down the food and nutrients we eat and converts it into energy, that we use to fuel our bodies. It’s a comparable concept as a car needing gas to operate, or even plants needing sunlight to grow. Metabolism as a whole is a combination of two things going on, Anabolism and catabolism. According to Steven Dowshen, a medical professional, “Catabolism or destructive metabolism, is the process that produces the energy required for all activity in the cells. In this process, cells break down large molecules (mostly carbohydrates and fats) to release energy. This energy release provides fuel for anabolism, heats the body, and enables the muscles to contract and the body to move (Dowshen, 2015).” This is the first process that takes place in metabolism. Catabolism is what happens when you digest food. Foods must be broken down into smaller and more simple molecules so that they are usable for anabolism to take place. “Anabolism or constructive metabolism is all about building and storing: It supports the growth of new cells, the maintenance of body tissues, and the storage of energy for use in the future… (Dowshen, 2015).” This is the part of your metabolism you need to rebuild your broken-down molecules. This is also where you will find growth in bone and muscle mass take place. Both processes work hand in hand with each other to make up the metabolism process. A main takeaway from learning about these two processes is that catabolism is losing fat as well as muscle, but then anabolism is building and maintaining muscle while at the same time converting the stored fat into energy.
As I briefly mentioned before, metabolism isn’t fixed, but instead can be altered. Why might a person want to alter their metabolism? Because everyone’s metabolism is regulated at different rates. Some people burn fat very quickly and others store fat longer and take longer to burn the fat off. The speed at which you burn fat, and what determines if you have a fast or slow metabolism, are all up to your Thyroid. Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped, endocrine gland that is located at the front of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple or you can compare it to the spot you would wear a bow tie. The thyroid gland’s main job is to regulate metabolism by producing hormones such as T3 and T4. Dr. Westin Child states, “Your thyroid gland, if working properly, produces around 80% T4 and about 20% T3(Childs 2018).” The amount of the hormone produced affects the rate your metabolism is regulated. Too much of the thyroid hormones produced (also known as hyperthyroidism) can cause your body to lose weight and speed up too much than perhaps needed. Too little of the thyroid’s hormones being produced (also known as hypothyroidism) can cause the body to be sluggish, gain weight, and slow down more than recommended.
If you are wanting to lose weight or maintain your weight there are many methods you can use to alter your metabolism rate, to speed up or slow down, in a healthy way. Two of these methods, being strength training and controlling insulin levels. Strength training is effective because this affects body mass which affects metabolism. According to Aleisha Fetters, a medical science major, “Every pound of muscle burns roughly six calories per day at rest…that’s about three times as many calories as a pound of fat (Fetters 2017).” This is true for most, however, people may vary in genetics, hormones, sleep, and diet. These are factors that can cause a person to have a harder time losing weight. Metabolic rate is tied to building muscle also because, Fetters says, “by having more muscle, you’ll also burn more calories…. That’s because you’ll be able to work harder and longer (Fetters 2017).” Therefore, we must keep muscle mass up to keep metabolism up. Another method to altering your metabolic rate is by controlling your insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone that is involved in regulating blood glucose and the storage of fat. The body uses insulin to take glucose out of the blood to use as energy. If the body is already sufficient in energy, glucose is still taken but stored in the liver as glycogen. When the liver has taken up as much glycogen as it can, the insulin then tells the fat cells to take some glucose and store it as triglycerides. Insulin can then signal the breakdown of fats. Some ways you can keep your insulin levels low are low carb diets, watching portion size, avoiding sugar, incorporating more exercise, taking in more cinnamon, intermittent fasting, drinking green tea, and many more. Get your insulin in check and that’s just another way your metabolic rate will be in check.
One thing about metabolism, that is not commonly adjusted, is BMR (basal metabolic rate). This is your metabolism rate while your body is at rest. The reason it cannot be adjusted easily is that this is a specific calculation that uses your height, weight, sex, and age. These are mostly genetic factors, something a person can’t control. The BMR calculation was made to tell us the number of calories our body is burning while we are doing absolutely nothing. If you are a woman, to find your BMR you would use BMR= 655+ (9.6x weight in Kg) + (1.8x height in Cm) – (4.7x age in years). For men you would use BMR = 66+ (13.7x weight in kg) + (5x height in cm) – (6.8x age in years). You might want to know why is this important to know before you do this complex math solution. Once you find your BMR you’ll know the number of calories you should be consuming in order to meet your goal of maintaining or losing weight. According to Scott Frothingham, author of the newsletter Healthline, if you want to maintain weight consume the same number of calories that you burn and If you want to lose weight consume fewer calories than you burn (Frothingham 2018). Now that you know your BMR and why it’s important, you need to consider how these numbers would differ during daily activity and not just at rest. To determine how active a person is they can look at a scale that starts at sedentary, then there is lightly active, moderately active, very active and highly active. Finding the category, you’re in will then give you the number you need to multiply to your BMR. Once that number is found you’ll see that the more active you are the more calories you need to intake because your body is burning fat at a faster rate than when you are less active.
Unfortunately, as you start to age your metabolism will slow down. Even after all your new lifestyle changes to keep your metabolism regulated, and to provide your body with a healthy lifestyle. Have you noticed that the older you get the more naps you take? This is because for most of us our bodies just aren’t fueled with the same energy because with aging comes fewer active levels. Stated by Ashley Brantley, writer of Well tuned, another thing that comes with aging is, “… our bodies don’t produce as much growth hormone, which is what’s largely responsible for building muscle mass and burning fat (Brantley 2019).” Older people experience a muscle loss called sarcopenia. Brantley says, “Physically inactive people can lose up to 3-8% of their muscle mass every decade after 30, which leads to decreased strength and mobility. That means a physically inactive person at age 60 may have 24% less muscle mass than they did at age 30, and often that lost muscle is replaced by fat (Brantley 2019).” The age at wich you see these aging factors take place in your metabolism doesn’t have a specific number, it just happens little by little varying from person to person according to their lifestyle leading up to aging. However, women can expect to see changes before men because of menopause. When a woman undergoes menopause her estrogen hormones decrease, causing the bodies regulatory system to accommodate for the loss of estrogen and paying less attention to your metabolic rate. Luckily just like when you were younger, you don’t have to sit back and watch your metabolism go downhill. You can improve your metabolism even with aging factors by, eating healthy fats and more protein diets, getting enough sleep to let your body regulate blood sugar from spiking and keeping your body hydrated.
So, you see to stay healthy it isn’t all about the numbers on the scale and how to magically make them change. To stay healthy, knowing how your metabolism plays a role is a key factor to a person’s healthy lifestyle and weight change journey. A person can’t just eat as much as they want to or not eat enough and expect their bodies to run its course in a positive way. Some people understand this process our bodies go through but still don’t get the result they want, and that’s when going to outside resources might be an option. Meeting with a certified health coach could be a helpful option because they can personally make diet plans that work specifically for you. This may be hard to do on your own because understanding nutrition is a whole different topic for a different day. Meeting with a certified personal trainer as well is helpful in learning the ropes of exercise. Above everything else it takes motivation. You have to have the willpower to want to see a metabolism change and stick with it all the way through. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your metabolism won’t change overnight.
- Brantley, Ashley. ‘How Does Your Metabolism Change As You Age?’ WellTuned by BCBST, 21 Feb. 2019, bcbstwelltuned.com/2019/02/12/how-does-your-metabolism-change-as-you-age/.
- Childs, Westin. ‘T3 and T4 Hormone Guide: What They Mean, Optimal Levels & More.’ Dr. Westin Childs | Thyroid & Health Supplements That Work, 13 Apr. 2018, www.restartmed.com/t3-and-t4/.
- Dowshen, Steven. ‘Metabolism (for Teens) – KidsHealth.’ KidsHealth – the Web’s Most Visited Site About Children’s Health, June 2015, kidshealth.org/en/teens/metabolism.html.
- Frothingham, Scott. ‘What Is Basal Metabolic Rate?’ Healthline, 12 Nov. 2018, www.healthline.com/health/what-is-basal-metabolic-rate. Accessed 24 Feb. 2019.
- K. Fetters, Aleisha. ‘How Much Does Strength Training Really Increase Metabolism?’ SELF, 21 Sept. 2017, www.self.com/story/how-much-does-strength-training-really-increase-metabolism.