Metabolism and Calories- What's the connection?
What is Metabolism?
This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days. You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight. But what exactly does this all mean?
Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body. It's how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do. Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive. And without this amazing biochemistry, you would not be possible.
Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:
- Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).
Allow activities you can't control (e.g. heart beat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).
Allow storage of excess energy for later.
So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right. Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”.
Metabolic rate: This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!). The calories you eat can go to one of three places:
Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).
Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).
Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).
As you can imagine the more calories you burn
What affects your metabolic rate?
In a nutshell: a lot! The first thing you may think of is your thyroid. This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism. Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you'll burn. But that's not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.
How big you
The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate! Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food. This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF). You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently. Fats, for example, increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%. By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.
Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow. By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off. And don't forget the mind-body connection. There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.