Metabolism By: Callum Molyneux
Each and every person has a different rate of metabolism, there are times during the day when our metabolic rate is high and times when it is low, but what in fact does this mean for us and our bodies? Metabolism is the word given to describe every chemical process that take place inside our bodies in order to sustain life. This ranges from the chemical processes that break down the food we eat during digestion to building new cells as amino acid molecules bind together to form new proteins. Whether it be from the food we eat or the breakdown of stored fat molecules our bodies need a constant supply of energy to keep vital processes working.
Having a better understanding of what our metabolism is and understanding what factors affect our metabolic rate can help to achieve and maintain healthy amounts of body fat.
Metabolism can be broken down into two categories:
Anabolism – The synthesis of new molecules, bonds being formed.
Catabolism – The breakdown of molecules, bonds being broken.
Combined these two processes form an organism’s metabolism.
This is the process by which energy is used to bind molecules together with bonds to form new structures in our bodies. For instance, when our body cells die it is through the process of anabolism that these cells are replaced with new healthy cells as protein and fat molecules are synthesized. It is also through this same process that energy is stored as fat when not used.
This is the process by which energy is released from the breakdown of larger molecules such as carbohydrates into smaller molecules like glucose. As bonds are broken energy is released. This energy is then used by the body to support the work of organ systems keeping us alive. Involuntary muscle contractions such as the pumping of the heart or the contraction of the diaphragm allowing us to breath all need energy to work. Therefore, we rely on the catabolism of molecules to keep us alive.
Alongside supplying the energy to support the function of vital organ systems, catabolism also provides us with the energy to allow the movement (contraction) of skeletal muscles. Therefore, the more we move, the greater our metabolic rate becomes (in the short term).
How is metabolism related to fat loss?
Our metabolic rates are proportional to the rate at which the calories we consume are used. When we have a fast metabolic rate this means that we are able to consume high amounts of calories without them being converted into body fat. Similarly, when our metabolic rate becomes slow we can only afford to consume a small number of calories without them being stored as fat. When our metabolic rate exceeds the amount of energy we are consuming through our diet, the body uses alternative energy storages, i.e. body fat. Similarly, when we consume more calories than our bodies require, anabolism takes place and the calories we consume are stored as fat.
Despite what many people think, we aren’t stuck with the metabolic rate which we are born with; there are ways which we can speed up our metabolic rate, both in the short term and long term.
Ways to increase your metabolism
Eat meals more frequently
Eat more protein
Take part in exercise (HIIT)
Move your body more (walk places)
Drink more water
Consume caffeine, spices
By consuming your meals at shorter intervals, you are ensuring that your body is undergoing catabolism (the breakdown of your food) more frequently. This is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF) which refers to the energy used to digest, absorb and process all the nutrients in our food. The longer that your digestive system spends in this state the faster your metabolism will be.
Ensuring that you consume high quantities of protein throughout the day has also been shown to increase your metabolic rate. Consuming a good basis of protein also aids the process of hypertrophy which also boosts your metabolic rate (anabolism).
By taking part in a bout of exercise our bodies use energy to allow muscle contractions to take place. This is why we burn calories when go on a run or take part in a fitness session. This is a very effective way to burn more calories on top of the calories our bodies naturally burn through our basal metabolic rate (BMR). Studies have shown that intense short bouts of exercise such as high intensity interval training (HIIT) are much more affective at increasing our metabolic rate compared with longer bouts of less intense exercise.
Studies have shown that consuming water also helps to boost our metabolism. In fact, by drinking cold water, it’s thought that this affect is enhanced as our bodies work harder to heat up the water to body temperature, energy will be used to make this happen.
Consuming caffeine in relatively high doses such as in a coffee has been shown to significantly increase people’s metabolism. Studies have shown Increases from 3-11% in some instances. This is also true when it comes to consuming spices. Pepper is known to contain a substance called capsaicin which is a metabolism boosting chemical. The only downside to using spices as a means to speed up your metabolism is that the doses are extremely high to have a significant affect. It is best to include spices along with other metabolism boosting methods in order to create an all-round improvement.
Alongside following the methods to boost your metabolic rate in the short term (on a daily basis) there are also ways which you can boost your basal metabolic rate, meaning you burn more calories naturally when at rest. One of the main ways to achieve this is by building muscle. Muscles are the most active tissue in our bodies, using the most amount of energy to create contractions and simply maintain their state. Therefor the larger the muscles we have, the greater this calorie burning affect will be.
Increasing our bodies muscle mass not only serves to increase our resting metabolic rate but also increases the number of calories we burn during exercise. Due to the dense weight of muscle tissue, when we add muscle we actually gain a lot of weight. The heavier we are the more our muscles work and the more calories we therefor burn.
For instance, if you take two fit lean mean who both go on the same 5 mile run but male 1 was thin in stature and male 2 was bulkier and carried significantly more muscle mass, male 2 would burn significantly more calories despite running the same distance.
We don’t have to be slaves to our natural metabolic rates there are many ways which we can in fact boost our metabolism both in the short term and long term. Using a combination of these techniques can help you to achieve your body goals by burning off those calories at a much speedier rate.