The Cold Penguin

expanding the box

Wellness Wednesday: Metabolism Explained

on October 9, 2013

Welcome to Wednesday – the middle of the week!  I decided the focus of Wednesday should be on overall wellness.  Wellness as a whole, not just exercise – but diet, mental health, emotional health and understanding and taking care of our bodies as a whole.

One thing I believe is a must for people to understand when they are working towards wellness is their metabolism.  Metabolism has become a word to throw around for how easily or not you lose weight.  If you say my metabolism is fast, it means I lose weight easily; if my metabolism is low then I am not losing weight or maybe even gaining weight.

Metabolism is the process of chemical reactions in your body that allow our bodies to function.

In the simplest terms, metabolism begins with eating food and digestion.  Digestion is the breaking down of food into smaller substances the body can use to create energy or store for further energy usage.

After digestion, these substances are broken down into even smaller substances.  The breaking down of the food substances creates the by-product of energy.  This energy is used for our body to function both internally and externally.  So it’s not just that run that you need to feed your body for, but also so you have energy for your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, and yes, even for your digestive system to work.  You are using food to create energy to digest more food!

So how does this relate to gaining or losing weight?

It all goes back to how much energy your body uses during the day.  We all have an individualized but standard energy requirement for internal body functions to occur.  This is called our basal metabolic rate and it is the minimum amount of energy we need for our body systems to function properly.  This number is generally based on your body mass, gender and age (higher mass = higher energy needs and vice versa, males need is generally higher than females, and the need lowers as you age)

Everything we do externally, any movement, is an additional energy need over the basal metabolic rate.  So you could need very little extra energy if you are just getting up from the couch every few hours to go to the kitchen or bathroom; or you could need a lot of extra energy if you are running a marathon.  Generally we are all somewhere in between.

If your body does not have enough substances to break down into energy via your diet, then you will lose weight.*  If your body has just the right amount of food to break down into energy through your diet, your weight will stay the same.  And if your body has more food than is needed for energy, then you guessed it, you will gain weight.  Your body will store the extra food.

So really, the speed of your metabolism is not the issue with weight gain.  (There are a few people who do have metabolism disorders that have been diagnosed by a physician, but for the general public this is not the case.)  The process of metabolism is a natural body function, just like breathing, and it will either have extra food, not enough food, or just the right amount of food, and balance your body out accordingly.

So next time you blame your slow metabolism for the number on the scale, maybe you need to take a look at your energy needs versus energy intake (activity versus food) instead.

Next Wellness Wednesday, I will discuss in more detail how you can measure your energy needs to better maintain your health.

Links of Interest:

Need a more in-depth look at metabolism?  View this video:

Want to shop and support a great cause?  Take a look at these 40 products that support Breast Cancer Awareness.  (I love the New Balance top!)

And a little Wednesday Dog Humor:

dog humor

*It is important to note that when trying to lose weight you always need to consume enough calories for your basal metabolic needs to be met and to not cause harm to your internal bodily functions.  The general rule is to consume at least 1200 calories a healthy and safe weight loss.



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