Let’s talk about metabolism. The word “metabolism” is used a lot in the world of Health and Fitness, and there’s this thing called “Metabolic Training” that’s been gaining popularity. But how many people actually know what metabolism is? The average person usually knows that people with high metabolisms tend to be skinny and people with low metabolisms seem to carry more weight. In reality, it’s not as simple as that.
According to my very large and very expensive textbook that I had to buy for a biology class during my first semester of college, metabolism is all of the chemical reactions carried out in your body. According to the Medline Plus website, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Metabolism refers to all the physical and chemical processes in the body that convert or use energy.” Basically what I’ve read is that your metabolism takes in your calories and transforms them into energy, then takes that energy and does stuff with it to make your body work efficiently.
Although people like to blame their metabolisms for weight gain, the truth is that it’s usually not your metabolism’s fault. Your metabolism is how your body converts food and drink into energy. The real problem is when you take in more calories than you really need, or when you take in the wrong kinds of food. According to Mayo Clinic, “To lose weight… you need to create an energy deficit by eating fewer calories, increasing the number of calories you burn through physical activity, or both.”
Let me put it this way: metabolism is how your body converts calories into energy, but you only need so much energy. If you bring in more calories than your body actually needs, your metabolism has no need to convert your food into energy and it gets stored as fat instead. If you’re more active, you need more energy and thus your metabolism has need to convert the calories you consume into energy. An article on kidshealth.org puts it this way: “Just as a car stores gas in the gas tank until it is needed to fuel the engine, the body stores calories — primarily as fat. If you overfill a car's gas tank, it spills over onto the pavement. Likewise, if a person eats too many calories, they ‘spill over’ in the form of excess fat on the body.”
I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is that you can’t really change your metabolism; you get to keep the one you were born with. The good news is that you can do things to help your metabolism so that it seems “fast” or “high.” Any ideas what these things might be? I’ll tell you: exercise and eat right.
According to an article on the website for Mayo Clinic, “The more active you are, the more calories you burn. In fact, some people who are said to have a fast metabolism are probably just more active — and maybe more fidgety — than are others.” Exercising and being active don’t speed your metabolism; they just help it out by making it convert the calories you consume into the energy you need.
What you really need to be paying attention to is your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. This number measures how much calories your body uses energy (or burns calories). People with low BMR numbers don’t burn as many calories as people with high BMR numbers do. BMR is influenced by genetics (unfortunately). The good news is that BMR is also influenced by how active you are. Kidshealth.org says that, “BMR is also influenced by body composition — people with more muscle and less fat generally have higher BMRs.”
I mentioned eating right as another way to help your metabolism out. I’m not going to go into that right now because I’m going to write a separate post about that in the coming weeks. However, I will let you know of another way you can help your metabolism out. Although there is no miracle pill that can help you lose weight, taking vitamins and supplements can be of great benefit.
Chromium, cinnamon, and vitamin D are all said to be good for your metabolism. I take them every day and I know they help me. See, I have suffered from hypothyroidism ever since I was a little girl and so my metabolism really is lower than most peoples’ if I don’t take my pills. I have a prescription for my thyroid, but I’ve also noticed that vitamin D, chromium, and cinnamon all help me out. So take your pills!
Although metabolism is usually blamed for unwanted weight gain, it usually isn’t at fault. Your metabolism’s job is to convert food and drink into the energy your body requires, so if you take in more calories than your body needs, your metabolism has to store the leftovers as fat. If you want your metabolism to “speed up,” the key is to require more energy so that your metabolism converts more calories into that energy. And, unfortunately, the key to requiring more energy is to become more active. Eating right and taking vitamins and supplements can also aid in “speeding” your metabolism.
Here’s a tip: strength training is the best way to “amp up” your metabolism, with a little bit of cardio thrown in. I’ll discuss this more in a later post!
P.S. I said it before but I'll say it again: I have no background in health and fitness; all that I know I've gathered from research.