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May 17, 2023

How your metabolism works

…plus ways you can boost it

Adult Health Metabolism

Content sponsored by IBC-Native-051723-Metabolism

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If you’ve ever wished you had a faster metabolism so you could worry less about putting on weight, you’re not alone.

The truth is, you actually can increase the rate at which your body burns calories while you’re at rest. But the steps you’d have to take would enable you to better manage your weight anyway. Here’s why.

Metabolism, catabolism, and anabolism

Your metabolism is the collection of processes by which your body uses the things you eat and drink to keep you alive and healthy. Through this process, your body converts calories into the energy your body need to:

• Breathe and digest food
• Regulate your temperature and manage your hormone levels
• Repair and create cells

Metabolism consists largely of catabolism and anabolism.

 Catabolism is the set of processes through which your body breaks down large, complex molecules into smaller, simpler ones and produces energy. This mainly occurs through digestion.

 Anabolism is the opposite of catabolism. In it, your body uses energy to build small, simple molecules into larger, more complex ones to do such things as heal wounds and build up muscles when you exercise.

The difference between the amount of energy produced by catabolism and the amount of energy consumed by anabolism determines what happens to your weight:

 Producing more energy through catabolism than you burn through anabolism causes you to gain weight.

 Consuming more energy through anabolism than you produce through catabolism causes you to lose weight.

Basal metabolic rate

Given that, you may wonder why anyone is concerned with the speed of their metabolism. It’s likely because, knowingly or not, they’re using the word “metabolism” as a shorthand for their basal metabolic rate (BMR).

At all times, regardless of how active you are, your body continues performing the basic functions necessary to keep you alive, such as breathing and pumping blood. Your BMR determines how many calories your body needs to perform those functions while you are resting. The amount varies from person to person, but it generally amounts to about 60 to 70 percent of the energy you use.

What determines your BMR?

You might think thin people would have a higher BMR than overweight or obese people, but the opposite is true. Performing the basic functions required to keep someone alive takes more energy in larger people than it does in small ones, so larger people often have higher BMRs.

So if you try to lose weight by dramatically cutting your caloric intake, you may hit a wall after dropping 10 to 20 pounds. At your new weight, your BMR no longer needs to be as high to keep your body functioning as it did previously, so it drops, slowing or stopping your weight loss.

Just as your body’s size plays a role in determining your BMA, so does its composition. Building and maintaining muscle takes more energy than building and maintaining fat. As a result, people with more muscle mass tend to have higher BMRs.

That’s why your BMR tends to slow as you age. You lose muscle as you grow older, so your muscle mass and BMR decrease. That makes losing weight more difficult as you age.

What to do

You can increase your BMR by losing some fat and gaining some muscle mass. But that can be tricky.

As noted earlier, after a point, losing weight can slow your BMR. That means trying to lose some fat by drastically cutting calories isn’t a good strategy.

Burning calories through such cardiovascular activities as running or biking is good but overdoing it can also present problems. For one thing, long runs or bike rides can eat away at muscle mass, which can slow your BMR. For another, cardiovascular activity boosts your appetite, which, with a slower BMR, can make losing fat difficult.

What you need to do, therefore, is make sure your exercise routine includes strength training to build up your muscle mass along with cardiovascular activity to burn fat.

Additionally, watch what you eat. Don’t starve yourself or overeat. Try to eat whole, natural foods rather than processed ones. And eat healthy, complex carbohydrates rather than cutting out carbs entirely.

Boosting your metabolism takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but the results will be well worth the effort.

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