What Is Metabolism Anyway?

We hear a lot about metabolism.  It’s a word that gets thrown around in relation to weight loss or gain, whether it’s fast or slow, or whether we got it from our mamas or our papas. So, what exactly is metabolism?  What makes it up and how do we get it to work in our favor? How do we determine our needs individually to get our metabolism to work for us and not against us? In this post, we’ll address what you need to know, without over-complicating it!

What Makes up Metabolism?  Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. During this complex biochemical process, calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function.  

The two types of metabolism:
Catabolism: The breakdown of molecules to obtain energy.
Anabolism: The synthesis of all compounds needed by the cells.

Nutrition is the key to metabolism. The pathways of metabolism rely upon nutrients that they breakdown in order to produce energy.

Carbs in metabolism: Carbs come in three forms: starch, sugar, and fiber. Starches and sugars form major and essential sources of energy for humans. Fibers contribute to bulk in diet.

Protein in metabolism: Proteins are the main tissue builders in the body.  Proteins help in cell structure, functions, hemoglobin formation to carry oxygen, enzymes to carry out vital reactions and a myriad of other functions in the body. Proteins are also vital in supplying nitrogen for DNA and RNA genetic material and energy production.

Fats in metabolism: Fats are concentrated sources of energy. They produce twice as much energy as either carbohydrates or protein on a weight basis. Functions of fat include helping to form the cellular structure; forming a protective cushion and insulation around vital organs; helping absorb fat soluble vitamins,providing a reserve storage for energy.

Some important factors in metabolism

Metabolic Rate: (or TDEE - Total Daily Energy Expenditure) This is the total number of calories burned daily by the body.  Here are three key components to the metabolic rate:

  1. Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) - RMR is the energy required by your body to perform the most basic functions when your body is at rest. These essential functions include things like breathing, circulating blood or basic brain functions.

  2. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) - The energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, undertaking agricultural tasks and fidgeting.

  3. Thermic Effect of Food on Metabolism (TEF) The energy required for digestion, absorption, and disposal of ingested nutrients. The thermic effect of food is increased by both aerobic training of sufficient duration & intensity and by anaerobic weight training. The primary determinants of daily TEF are the total caloric content and the macronutrient composition of the meals ingested.

How can you make your metabolism work in your favor?  

  1. You can increase your RMR through strength training and high intensity exercise.

  2. Increase your NEAT by moving more throughout the day.

  3. Consume enough of the right macronutrients to get the most out of your TEF (think, protein!)

- Lisa