Metabolism and
weight loss

It seems that everyday we hear more and more about variations in metabolism being responsible for weight gain or loss. Some people even view a sluggish metabolism as an insurmountable genetic predisposition making it nearly impossible for them to lose weight. The question that many of these people fail to ask is what exact role does metabolism actually play in gaining weight? Many of these people may be surprised when they hear the answer. To understand this answer, it is important to understand what metabolism is and how it works throughout your body. The team at New England Fat Loss Centers hopes you will use this article to give you those answers.

What is metabolism?

It’s amazing to think that the food we eat and drink provides all of the energy that we need to live, work, play, and enjoy time with our families. However, what may be even more intriguing is how that food gets transformed into the energy that we use. It’s easy to imagine how complicated this process can be and this article isn’t meant to give you a lesson in biochemistry. However, understanding the basics of this process can provide assistance in understanding how it relates to your weight.

Metabolism can be thought of as the regulator for our bodies’ energy needs. Since we require energy at all times, for example; to breathe, grow, pump blood, digest food, and heal, it is a system that never rests. When we consume foods or fluids our bodies combine these substances with various enzymes and chemicals to break them down at a rate that meets our energy demands. For instance, when exercising we will break food down faster or convert energy stores (such as fat) quicker to match our increased energy needs

What processes require metabolism to create energy?

As mentioned previously, metabolism plays a role in almost every single system in the body. The energy required to breathe, pump blood, heal and even sleep is often forgotten. Surprisingly, the energy spent to carry out these tasks is far more than the energy that we use to exercise or carry out other daily tasks. The number of calories burned each day for these processes doesn’t vary much and actually accounts for nearly 70% of our daily calorie expenditure. The burning of calories required for these “background systems” to run is referred to as your basal metabolic rate (BMR) or resting metabolic rate (RMR). While your basal metabolic rate doesn’t change much day-to-day, there are multiple things that cause it to be different from person-to-person.

Metabolism And Weight Loss

Your body's bulk and make up

You may not be surprised to learn that research has shown that people with larger frames and a higher percentage of muscle tend to burn more calories. This includes higher energy requirements just to breath, pump blood, etc.

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How old you are

Unfortunately, numerous studies have shown that as you age calories burn at a slower rate. This is largely the result of muscle being replaced with fat. Muscles tend to require more calories and energy to function than the fat that replaces them.

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Being male or female

Just as the amount of muscle influences how calories are burned as we age, it also appears to play a role in how males and females burn calories. Since men typically have a higher ratio of muscle-to-fat than woman, they tend to burn calories at a higher rate, even at rest.

With our BMR only accounting for approximately 70% of our daily calorie consumption, you are probably wondering where the rest of the energy goes. Typically, only two other general processes account for the rest of our energy needs; the breaking down/use of food and daily physical activity.

While food provides us with the vast majority of our energy needs, food also requires energy to be broken down. Food breakdown, also known as thermogenesis, has a substantial role in our bodies metabolic processes. In fact, it takes approximately 10-13% of the energy you get from food just to break it down, absorb it, move it throughout the body, and store it away for later use. Just as we saw with our BMR, there is little that changes the energy requirements for this process and it remains fairly constant day-to-day.

Finally the last process that burns a substantial amount of calories is one over which you do have control, physical activity. Whether you are walking, running, mowing the yard, or playing your favorite game, all of these activities account for the final 30-35% of your energy requirements. Since physical activity is the only one of the three discussed metabolic processes that contributes to calorie and energy consumption that changes each day, it is also the major factor that contributes to weight loss or gain.

Metabolism and Weight

Metabolism and Weight

As you read this article, it should become clearer and clearer that while your metabolism is responsible for processing calories into energy, it actually has a small effect on how much weight you gain or lose. You have also learned that approximately 70 -80% of our metabolic rate is fixed and there is little that we can do to change that. While it may be easy to blame weight gain on metabolism, what we eat and how much exercise we do daily are the major factors dictating weight.

So you may be wondering how what we eat and how much we exercise contributes to gaining or losing weight. To answer this question, metabolism can be viewed as a scale. It is a process that is constantly working to balance the amount of calories in versus the number of calories out. No matter what a persons metabolic rate may be, if they eat a substantially higher number of calories than what they burn each day, they will inevitably put on more pounds. The reason for this being that if the excess calories are not being utilized by the body, it will begin to store them for a later time when we may not be able to eat enough. In today’s society, it is rare that we don’t have an adequate amount of calories each day, so the stored ones are rarely burnt. To summarize this idea, the only ways to cut down on weight are to eat less or exercise more. Through this process, there will be fewer calories available for our BMR, food processing, and physical activity, forcing our body to begin burning its stores. The end result being an increase in weight loss or a a decrease in weight gain.

So what can I do to burn more calories and loss weight?

You may not want to hear this, but the major way that you can take control over your weight is through exercise. Increasing your amount of physical activity each day will have a major effect on how your metabolism balances the number of calories in versus the number of calories out. You will be happy to learn that this doesn’t have to involve running a marathon or having a gym membership. There are many different ways to increase calorie-burning and our New England Fat Loss Centers would like to show you some of those possibilities. It is important to understand that different forms of exercise have different effects on how we burn calories.

For example, aerobic exercises such as walking, running, cycling, or swimming have been shown to have the largest effect on calorie consumption.  All of these activities involve working a large group of muscles for extended amounts of time.  To reach your calorie burning goals, 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise, 3-4 times a week will have a large impact on your metabolism.  While some people enjoy exercising for an hour at a time, the same results can be achieved by breaking your daily exercise into 15 minute blocks. No matter what aerobic exercise you chose, it should always be something that you enjoy.

Another way to increase calorie burning and therefore weight loss is weight lifting or resistance training. These activities have multiple effects on how our body processes calories. During and even after weight lifting, our body experiences increased energy demands to build and repair muscle tissue. In addition, the muscle that we build often replaces fat that is present.

As discussed earlier, muscle tissue burns calories more efficiently. Therefore, not only are you contributing to weight loss while you exercise, you are also having a long-lasting effect on how your body burns calories.

Finally, an easy way to increase calories burned is to make small changes in your usual daily activities. This may mean skipping an elevator ride to take the stairs, folding laundry while you watch television, or spending a little extra time playing with your kids. Finding ways to increase your activity levels is up to you, but you should remember that the more you move in a day directly impacts how much weight you gain or lose.

By now you must realize that there is no quick fix to your weight concerns. You should understand however, that making small changes throughout your day can have a large impact over time. Everyone has heard of the fad diets that tend to cycle each year or companies claiming to having a magic solution or supplement that will help you lose weight while doing nothing more then popping a pill. The reality is that these will do relatively nothing for you, cost a lot of money, and can often have severe side effects. For example, when people try to lose large amounts of weight by cutting massive amounts of calories, their bodies respond by slowing their metabolism to conserve the calories they do take in. The result is someone who is still hungry with a slowed metabolism. In the end, it is best to take an active role in your diet and health rather than trying to find a quick fix.