Mastering Your Metabolism

Mastering Your Metabolism

Metabolism is a very popular word when watching weight loss commercials on television. Many people don’t know what metabolism does though. Metabolism is the process the human body goes through to convert food and drink into energy. It’s a biochemical process the combines the calories in food and beverages with oxygen, and then it releases the energy formed from this into the body to keep the body functioning. Metabolism doesn’t just give the body the energy it needs to move, but it also aids functions that happen even while sitting, like breathing, blood circulation, and cell repair.

When people talk about their high metabolism, or low metabolism for that matter, they are really referring to the basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of calories the body uses to carry out its basic functions. Even sleeping can burn calories, although not as many as someone would burn on an hour jog. The basal metabolic rate itself burns around 60 to 75% of a person’s calories each day.

Not everyone burns the same amount of calories, or has the same basal metabolic rate. Some determining factors of this rate include:

  • Body Size

Larger people with more muscle burn more calories, even when they are resting.

  • Sex

Men tend to have more muscle, and less body fat, than do women. Because of their increased amount of muscle they burn more calories than women.

  • Age

Muscle density decreases as people get older, and fat begins to replace it. This process aids in slowing down the body’s ability to burn calories. According to WebMD, “Starting at about age 25, the average person’s metabolism declines between 5% and 10% per decade.”

Metabolism Myths

Many people blame their “slow metabolism” on weight gain, but that isn’t the case. While there are determining factors to how many calories the body burns, it’s more likely a lack of proper diet and a lack of physical fitness attributes to weight gain. For those that think that it’s their metabolism to blame for those extra pounds, take a look at these more likely culprits:

  • High Calorie Intake- Look at how many calories are being taken in as opposed to how many are being burned. 3,500 calories equals a pound. If a person takes in less than they burn they begin to lose weight.
  • Lack of Physical Fitness- The easiest way to burn calories is to get up and get moving.
  • Family Genes- Sometimes it’s hard to keep the weight off because of family genes that lead to obesity.
  • Bad Habits- Skipping sleep, not eating breakfast, and drinking alcohol can contribute to weight gain.
  • Medications- For those that take prescription meds, there are some that attribute to weight gain and the inability to lose excess weight.

What’s Messing with My Metabolism

Of the culprits mentioned in the myths of a slow metabolism, the following two items are the most likely candidates for an inability to lose weight:

  1. Food processing

The way the body “uses” food is called food processing, and it has a few steps. Food processing is also known as thermogenesis and consists of digesting, absorbing, transporting, and storing food. Thermogenesis actually accounts for about 10% of the calories people burn each day.

When it comes to food and weight loss it is also important to:

  • Drink more water- The body uses fluids to function. Drinking cold water helps burn more calories because the body has to use energy in order to warm up body temperature.
  • Get more vitamin D- Vitamin D can help lower hunger, because of its ability to lower the levels of the hormone ghrelin in the body. 15 minutes of sunshine each day is the best way to get the right amount of vitamin D. During months when there isn’t much sun, it helps to take a supplement.
  • Welcome back caffeine- Caffeine, in moderation, can actually slightly boost calorie burning.
  • Stop late night snacking- A regular, healthy diet is the key to keeping a fit metabolism. It helps to not eat a late night snack, which will mess up the break the body needs from food. This 12-hour or so break is normal.


  1. Physical activity

After food, the rest of the calories the body burns comes from the physical activity and exercise a person gets each day. The more a person is up and moving the more calories they will burn and the better their metabolism will work. Physical activity can be as simple as walking the dog or playing tag with the kids.

  • Don’t forget strength training- Many people put too much focus on their cardio exercise, which is the fasted way to burn calories. However, only doing cardio doesn’t help build the muscle that always helps the metabolism function properly. That is why it is important to include strength training in the workout plan.
  • De-stress- Exercise is an excellent way to fight off stress because it releases the happy hormones, endorphins, in the brain. Stress causes the body to produce more cortisols which causes the body to store more fat.

Don’t blame metabolism on that extra weight, instead, take the steps needed to watch the amount of calories coming in and going out!

Image courtesy of Ambro /