If you have ever tried to lose weight, you are probably somewhat familiar with the process of metabolism. In a nutshell, it converts the calories we eat into the energy we need to function. However, there are a lot of factors that contribute to this process. To understand how it affects weight loss, you need to know how your metabolism works and what can impact it.
What is Metabolism and How Does it Work?
Metabolism is the bodily process in which the calories we consume from food is converted into the energy we need to move, breathe, think, and perform all other functions and activities. It is what keeps us alive. Energy is required even when the body is at rest, so the body is constantly metabolizing calories to provide necessary energy.
It is a complex biochemical process in which calories are combined with oxygen to release energy. The basal metabolic rate, which is what most people call metabolism, is responsible for circulating blood, breathing, growing cells, repairing cells, and regulating hormones. This is when most calories are burned. The other two way calories are burned are digestion/breaking down food and physical activity.
The major organs in the body (brain, liver, kidneys, heart) burn 50% of the total energy needed when the body is at rest. The other half is burned by the muscles, digestive system, and fat.
What Can Affect Your Metabolism?
There are some conditions that affect your metabolism and cause it to be slow. However, most things that affect metabolism have to do with dietary and lifestyle factors. The following may impact your basal metabolic rate:
- The food you eat: There is some misunderstanding about how what you eat affects metabolism. The actual speed of your metabolism remains fairly steady no matter what you eat. Certain foods do increase metabolism, but usually only in the short term because the body adjusts and metabolism is not impacted anymore. However, what you eat can have an effect on how your body metabolizes calories. Foods like vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains are more easily converted into energy than things like fried foods and sweets. So, avoid refined sugars and starches that are more likely to be stored as fat.
- Your current weight: Being overweight can affect your metabolism, due to the higher risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. If your body is not receptive to insulin, glucose (sugar) stays in the blood instead of being converted into energy. Losing weight with diet and exercise can improve or prevent diabetes and improve metabolism. But because losing weight is harder with insulin resistance and diabetes, extra effort may be required to get started. A medical weight loss program can help you with an effective plan.
- Being overweight in the past: While losing weight is a great way to improve metabolism, it cannot always bounce back completely after someone has been obese or overweight for a long time. This can make it hard to maintain weight loss. Again, physician-supervised weight loss is helpful because the doctor can help with things such as appetite suppression and dietary guidance.
- Exercise: It can be difficult to change your resting metabolism, but exercise can help. Building muscles can improve metabolism because muscle tissues use more energy than fat tissues, even when you’re not exercising. Along with muscle-building strength training, aerobic exercises (often referred to as cardio), is a good way to burn calories. Walking for half an hour a day can help, especially if you are just starting to exercise. Higher intensity exercises like running or aerobics classes are even more effective.
- How much you eat: In order for your metabolism to be efficient, you should not deprive yourself of food for long periods of time. This doesn’t mean you should fill up all day, but you should not skip meals or stop eating to try and lose weight. When your body goes a long time without food, it sends signals that there is not enough food and your metabolic rate decreases so it can get by with fewer calories. Then when you eat, the body will store as many calories as possible in case there is another shortage. A weight-loss specialist can give you more dietary guidance, but in general, you should aim to eat at least three small meals a day (if you eat more frequently, decrease portions) consisting of mainly vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
- How much you sleep: Getting too little sleep can affect your metabolism. Sleep deprivation causes hormonal disruptions, and too much insulin may be produced. This can lead to weight gain. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults age 26-64 should get 7-9 hours of sleep each day.
- Medical conditions: There are a small number of people who experience issues with metabolism due to underlying medical conditions. These include polycystic ovarian syndrome, hypothyroidism, pituitary gland disorders and Cushing’s disease.
Metabolism and Weight Loss
Because metabolism affects how calories are burned, it has a big impact on weight loss and management. A slower metabolism means that it is more difficult to burn the calories that you eat, so more of them are stored as fat. To understand the role your metabolism plays in weight loss, you need to know how many calories you burn each day. Without an understanding of how your metabolism works, you are more likely to gain back the weight that you lose.
New technology is available to do metabolic testing that is simple and non-invasive. Weight loss clinics often offer metabolic testing to tailor medical weight loss programs to individual patients based on their metabolism. Testing can provide information on the healthy daily caloric intake for someone and facilitate weight loss.
Make an Appointment
At our weight loss clinic in Cary, we use the latest advances in medical science to accurately measure your metabolism. Then our medical staff works with you to design a personalized program to ensure that you are eating the right foods and the right amount of foods for your body. Call (919) 436-3777 to make an appointment.