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Metabolism – The Engine That Keeps You Running

Metabolism always comes up when talking about weight loss. It is not surprising as weight loss is all about burning calories and metabolism is the process that makes it possible.

A lot is being said and written about metabolism and its role in managing weight. The Internet is flooded with pills, miracle teas, and powders claiming to speed up your metabolism and help you lose weight quick and effortlessly. Whether they work or not is an entirely different topic of debate.

But what exactly is metabolism and how does it affect our weight?

What is metabolism?

Metabolism is a set of biochemical reactions that convert the food we eat into energy as well as utilizes the energy produced to synthesize compounds needed by the cells to function efficiently.

Food is our fuel and metabolism is the engine (like in your cars) that burns the fuel to keep it running. Unlike an engine, we can’t switch on or off metabolism at our will. It is an ever-running process taking place in every cell of the body whether we are active or at rest.

Metabolism is responsible for pretty much everything we do like getting dressed in the morning, lifting a spoon to eat or a pen to write, healing a wound or simply breathe.

What is metabolic rate?

The metabolic rate is the rate at which the body utilizes the energy being produced. Higher the metabolic rate more calories you burn. (Calorie is the unit of energy and often used interchangeably)

The body uses energy in three different ways-

  1. To maintain basic metabolic functions of the body like breathing, circulation, temperature regulation, etc. and is known as the Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR).
  2. To Digestion the food we eat. Some foods require more energy for digestion than others. This is known as the thermic effect of food.
  3. To fuel the physical activities like running, different types of exercises, sports, etc.

What determines your metabolic rate? 

The metabolic rate differs from person to person and is dependent on several factors-

  1. Genetic: We all have that friend who, regardless of what he/she eats, never gains weight. Some people, on the other hand, tend to put on weight despite being careful. Well, that’s genetics at work and some people are just lucky.
  2. Body size and composition: Bulky people have a higher metabolic rate. It is the percentage of muscle mass as opposed to the fat stores that affects the metabolic rate.
  3. Gender: Men tend to have a higher metabolic rate compared to women. This may be because men have higher muscle mass than women
  4. Age: It is believed that the metabolic rate decrease by 10 % every decade as we age.

 How does Metabolism affect your weight?

We come back to the most sought after question, does metabolism affect weight loss?

Yes, it does.

Metabolism controls how energy is used in the body and that has a direct effect on your weight.

Regardless of whether you have a slow metabolism or fast, the body is programmed to store the unused energy as fat. The increase in fat stores and surplus energy lowers the metabolic rate and promotes weight gain.

Similarly, in the case of starvation or lack of food, the body cuts down the energy expenditure and starts saving instead. This again lowers the metabolic rate, adding unto the weight.

The basic metabolic rate (BMR) is the minimum energy we require to live and fairly remains constant. But the energy we spend on physical activity and digestion can be increased to our advantage.

The following few changes can help you rev up your engines to burn more calories and accelerate weight loss.

  1. Balance your plate: A well- balanced diet ensures that you get all the essential nutrients- carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Our body has a unique set of reactions to metabolize each nutrient. We need all the nutrients to function efficiently. Deficiencies of one or more nutrients can bring the process of metabolism to a halt, reducing the total energy expenditure.
  2. Push Up On Proteins: Foods high in protein help increase metabolism in three ways. Firstly, Proteins require a great amount of energy for digestion. Secondly, proteins help increase muscle mass and lastly, they promote satiety which helps to reduce the calories consumed.
  3. Fill up with fiber: Fiber increases the metabolic rate, stabilizes blood sugar levels and promotes satiety. A perfect combination for a healthy weight loss.
  4. Shush out the sugar: Sugar and other refined simple carbohydrates provide empty calories .i.e calories without any useful nutrients. Sugar is a big ‘No’ if you want a healthy metabolism.
  5. Exert with exercise: Exercising regularly increases overall energy expenditure in the body. It burns stored fat and builds muscle mass, both know to accelerate metabolism.
  6. Don’t fall for the fads: The fad diets harm your metabolism since they restrict one or more food groups leading to several deficiencies.

Bottom line  

Metabolism is not an organ or a muscle that can be flexed or manipulated. A lot more research is needed to fully understand and control metabolism.

Several products in the market claim to boost metabolism and promote quick weight loss. But let’s face the truth; there are no short cuts to weight loss; No magic pill or formula that will simplify it for you.

Losing weight and staying healthy requires you to eat good food and lead a physically active life, everything else will take care of itself.

Author avatar
Dt. Fatema Arsiwala
Founder, SnackAart

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