Things You Didn’t Know About Your Metabolism

tortoise__hare_1I feel like I have always known the conventional definition of metabolism, even when I was a kid. I was kind of a chubby kid, at least for some of my youth, and “slow metabolism” was a term I heard thrown around. Easier to say “I have a slow metabolism” than “I eat too much” or “I have an extremely inactive lifestyle.”  Slow metabolism means you gain weight easily, and it’s not totally your fault, right?

But what is metabolism, really? In science, metabolism is defined as the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life. What are the processes that maintain life in your body? Too numerous to list, but building things (anabolism) and taking things apart to obtain energy (catabolism) are the general categories.  Metabolism has a lot to do with weight, since the efficiency of your body’s ability to turn food into energy is a key factor in how your body uses or stores the foods you eat. Metabolism also has a lot, really everything, to do with everything else your body does; moving, growing, sensing, resting, reproducing, healing, etc.

Here are some facts about metabolism:

Whether you are a tortoise or a hare can change: It is true that if a person has two overweight parents they are more likely to be overweight or obese. However, genetic predisposition is not destiny. The main determining factor in how many calories you “burn” is not your genetics, it’s your Basal Metabolic Rate, BMR.  Basal Metabolic Rate is the amount of calories that a person needs to keep the body functioning over 24-hours at rest. BMR accounts for 60-75% of the calories you burn each day. A key way to increase your BMR is to lift weights. Muscle uses more calories at rest than fat. Lifting weights once or twice a week can drastically change your BMR over time. Also, age related muscle loss is one of the main reasons it gets harder to lose weight as we get older.

A good night’s sleep makes a difference. When you are sleep deprived your metabolism actually slows down. Lack of sleep causes a rise is Cortisol hormone, and among the effects of Cortisol is elevated blood sugar levels and increased storage of fat cells around the organs. Poor sleep, even one night, will also alter levels of the hormones Leptin and Ghrelin. If you short yourself on sleep Ghrelin goes up, stimulating your appetite, while Leptin goes down, leading you to feel less satisfied when you eat. You can learn more about what happens when you go without sleep by clicking here.

Your “slow metabolism” might really be inflammation. Inflammation in the body can be caused by a poor diet that includes pro-inflammatory foods, environmental toxicity, dehydration and even emotional stress.  Detoxification can help your BMR by lessening the body’s burden of waste. The body has numerous responses to toxicity. Fluid retention is just one example.  The waste products from the energy factories in your cells collect in the spaces between the cells like trash waiting for curb-side pickup.  This is the real “junk in the trunk!” If you are overly toxic, or under-hydrated, the body will retain the water it has around the cells to dilute that toxicity. Another way that inflammation looks like a slow metabolism is seen in food sensitivities. That is why detoxification programs can help boost your metabolism, they help to ease your body’s burden and operate more efficiently. Click here for an opportunity to learn more.

To learn more about metabolism and healthy living join Chef Sharon Tutko and me for Clean Eating 101: Get Your Metabolism Cooking! at Whole Foods Town and Country.

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