METABOLISM AND WEIGHT LOSS
There are things that you and I have heard mentioned from time to
time. They usually are common words or phrases, which we
tie to a particular subject, and we often think we understand
what they mean. Sometimes, however, we don't "really" know
what that word or phrase means and how it actually relates to the
subject you have come to associate it with.
"Metabolism" is one of these words.
Standing in the checkout line at the supermarket, you can see magazines
which have headlines like "This Food Can Boost Your
Metabolism". Maybe your doctor gives you an exam and says, "Your
metabolism has slowed down over the last few years". You might even hear there's a new weight loss craze called "Ultrametabolism".
From these, and innumerable other situations, you have probably figured
out that metabolism has something to do with weight loss, and maybe
even weight gain, but do you really know what the relationship is, how
one affects the other, and what you can do about it...if anything?
Those are three questions we will try to answer, briefly, but with
enough information for you to use what you have learned to improve your
weight loss program.
FIRST, WHAT THE HECK IS METABOLISM?
Metabolism, whether the word or process, can be defined in two simple statements.
First, it is the chemical process occurring within your body for the
maintenance of life, yielding energy and forming substances necessary
to life, such as blood, bone, muscle, fat, and so on. Second,
it is the processing of specific substances, such as fat metabolism,
iodine metabolism, and many others.
While both of these views relate to what we are talking about, the
first statement is the important one for you at this moment.
YOUR METABOLISM is how YOUR BODY goes about extracting energy from
food, building and repairing tissue and organs, and how efficiently
it performs this process. That last part about
efficiency is a key point in weight loss and weight gain.
METABOLISM RELATED TO WEIGHT LOSS...AND EVEN WEIGHT GAIN?
At various times in your life, your metabolism will work in different
ways. Many of us can certainly remember the days when we
could eat anything we wanted and never gain a pound...a large pizza,
three sodas with sugar, and some cinnamon sticks, and absolutely no
In the younger years of life, your metabolism is in the higher gears,
probably the highest gears it will ever be in. For most of us
in these years, weight gain and weight loss are not really issues of
major concern. Some people, however, do have slower metabolic
rates than others at any age, and may have genetic tendencies or
clinical conditions which cause them to have more of a weight gain than
others of their age group.
No matter which group you find yourself in, changing your metabolic
rate, revving up your metabolism, if you will, will increase the speed
and efficiency with which your body turns food into energy and body
"parts and pieces".
Unfortunately, as you may have long suspected, as you age, your
metabolism slows down.
Part of this, the slowing down of metabolism, is simply
something the body does with age. Part of it, also somewhat
related to age, at least indirectly, is the affect of changes which
take place in your way of life as you age. Fortunately, both
are somewhat reversible, essentially through the same
process. More on this in the last section. The part
where your body just slows down has to do with "resting metabolism",
and the other part...well, let's just call that "rusting metabolism".
When you are doing something that doesn't seem to demand much energy,
your body still needs to tend to some basic housekeeping
activities. Your diaphragm will continue to expand and
contract and your heart will pump blood, even during the periods during
which you rest most completely, for example. Tissues are also
repaired and waste products are carried off.
While you're sitting there in a semi-vegetative state watching reruns,
your body is hard at work.
As you age, this resting metabolic rate decreases.
In fact, at least one estimate puts the decrease at approximately 10%
between childhood and retirement, and another 10% after that.
Odds are that while this is happening, you still like the pizza, and
soda, and cinnamon sticks, but your body doesn't change as much into
energy as it used to. Your internal maintenance doesn't get
done as efficiently as it used to either, so there tends to be some
more "stuff" left over after the meal that disappeared into thin air
when you were a teenager.
Nobody's picking on you, this decrease happens to just about everybody.
So, if you didn't have a weight problem in high school, you
may still become aware of fat accumulating on your body as you
age. If, on the other hand, you DID have a weight problem in
your younger years, it will probably just get worse.
In addition to those natural changes that come with age, you have made
some changes in your lifestyle as you aged as well.
For example, in my own younger years, I rode a bicycle to and from
school, two miles each way, five days a week. For some of
that time, I had a paper route and rode my bicycle over a two mile
stretch every day, pedaling a bike with a heavy load of papers for
about a mile to get to the route, and throwing papers right and left
(and, yes, I did get my papers on the porch). For fun on the
weekends and during the summer, you guessed it, I rode my bike all over
Later, as an adult, whose metabolism was beginning to slow down, I
would walk out to my car, drive to work, walk to my desk, walk back to
the car and drive home...possibly picking up a pizza and some cinnamon
sticks for supper on the way.
Physical activity, such as my bicycle riding needs energy, and revs up
the metabolic rate, that is, the speed with which the energy is
formed...and used up. This burns calories, and those calories
that are burned in the process cannot hang around to become fat, which
just...well, you know, hangs around...and around...and around...
AND USING YOUR METABOLISM AS PART OF YOUR WEIGHT LOSS PROGRAM
Having learned about resting and rusting metabolism, it might at first
seem apparent that one answer is to simply eat less.
Truthfully, for small, short term weight loss, just knocking a few
calories out of the diet might be sufficient for many people.
However, those lost pounds will eventually find their way home, and
possibly bring some friends with them, and dieting has additional
pitfalls that can't be covered here. One pitfall you DO need
to know about is that if your diet takes your calorie intake below a
certain point for a while, your body will adjust its metabolic rate to
a new, lower, and permanent level, and will not only learn how
to maintain your weight on fewer calories, but may actually begin
increasing your weight again.
If you go off that calorie-restricted diet, your body will keep on
chugging along on fewer calories and your weight will go back up,
possibly even higher than it was before. Since your
metabolism is now at a lower rate, it will be even harder to lose
weight the next time.
Although a diet might not be the answer, if you are a typical human of
the 21st century, you are probably consuming some things you could do
without or in quantities in excess of what you need. Sugar,
for example. Or let's look at that ice cream box.
The last one I saw said there were 16 servings in there. A
few years ago, one of those boxes lasted through four servings for
me. Take a look around, there ARE some changes you can make.
Increased activity (okay, I'll say the bad word..."exercise") can take
care of the rusting metabolism rate. I walked 45 minutes on
my walker yesterday and burned over 250 calories. Although
many factors such as nutritional supplements can have small effects on
resting metabolism, the two major factors are age and
activity. You and I probably agree that we cannot do a d***
thing about age.
However, what we do have control over is our activity.
Increasing your exercise or activity level has two basic effects in
terms of metabolism. Exercise burns calories and raises the
resting metabolic rate.
When you use your remote control to change channels on the TV, you
barely change your resting rate. If you stand up and walk
across the room to change the channel and walk back to your chair, you
have just....oh my God!...exercised. Not only that, you have
burned a few more calories simply by getting up off your...
Sorry, I meant...out of the chair.
Go for a walk, swim, garden, ride a bike, take the dog for a walk. If
exercising in public embarrasses you, blame it on the dog!
"Yeah, the vet said he needed to get out more. HE'S putting
on a few pounds." Go ahead, try it. Nobody will
think you're walking yourself...right? Whatever it is, do it
every day or at least several times a week, and you will burn off some
of those extra calories and pounds of fat.
RAISES YOUR RESTING METABOLIC RATE
There are some exercise activities, usually of an aerobic nature, that,
when done over time. tend to shift the body to a higher metabolic
rate. If you go out for a long walk today, you will burn some
extra calories while walking. If you take that long walk
every day for several weeks, your resting metabolic rate will
actually go up, and you will burn more calories when you are in front
of the TV.
Not only that, your metabolic rate will remain increased for a while
after you finish your exercise activity, so instead of simply burning
excess calories during the exercise, you will continue to burn excess
calories for a short period following this burst of physical activity.
Other exercise activities, such as resistance activities, for example,
training with weights, build lean muscle mass.
Muscle tissue burns more calories than other types of tissue, such as
fat tissue, so building lean muscle mass not only burns calories during
the period of exercise itself, but the lean muscle mass you add to your
body will continue to burn calories later, during the period between
exercise sessions, helping to increase your resting metabolic rate.
Daily activity will burn excess calories and increase your
metabolism. Simply, changing some of your eating habits, such
as cutting out unnecessary fats and carbs (yes, some fats are
necessary) and watching portion sizes, will cut down excess calories
that your body has to deal with. This double barreled
approach will give you the most effective permanent weight loss
Donovan Baldwin is a 70-year-old amateur
bodybuilder, freelance writer, certified optician, and Internet
marketer currently living in the Atlanta, Gerogia area. A University Of
West Florida alumnus (1973) with a BA in accounting, he has been a
member of Mensa and has held several managerial and supervisory
positions throughout his career. After retiring from the U. S. Army in
1995, with 21 years of service, he became interested in Internet
marketing and developed various online businesses. He has been writing
poetry, articles, and essays for over 40 years, and now frequently
publishes original articles on his own websites and for use by other
He has an online store of various health supplements which can be found at http://nodiet4me.com/health_products/.
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P. S. If you want to learn about why don't diets work, please click here.
If you want to learn how to burn fat, a great book to read is Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle by Tom Venuto