Saturday, July 17, 2010

Let's talk about your metabolism.

Whenever we see an incredibly skinny or fit individual, we tend to think that they A) don't eat, or B) have a fast metabolism. The former is worthy of an entirely different blog post, so I'd like to focus on the latter today. What exactly is this metabolism we speak of, and how is it affected by sweat sessions? Let's start at the beginning with a quick consult of the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Pronunciation: \mə-ˈta-bə-ˌli-zəm\
Function: noun
1 a : the sum of the processes in the buildup and destruction of protoplasm; specifically : the chemical changes in living cells by which energy is provided for vital processes and activities and new material is assimilated b : the sum of the processes by which a particular substance is handled in the living body c : the sum of the metabolic activities taking place in a particular environment

In terms of the living human body, the metabolism is a series of hormones that regulate the way the body burns calories to fuel movement. (And by movement, I do refer to both the internal and external types.) In other words, our metabolism takes the food we eat and converts it to the energy that pumps our heart, moves our muscles, and so on and so forth. This ultimately means that what we eat plays a very important role—quality in, quality out!

How we eat our food plays a role, too. If you don't eat enough, your body goes into starvation mode and holds on to everything for dear life. So yes, you guessed it—not eating drastically slows your metabolism because it thinks it has to be conservative. That's why so many people employ the breakfast/snack/lunch/snack/dinner routine. Eating smaller, healthier meals throughout the day prevents the body from entering starvation mode. It's not about being hungry, but about giving your body the fuel it needs to function.

Diet and nutrition, however, are not my areas of expertise so I shall continue this discussion with a piece of advice that I know is worth listening to—hit the gym! A healthy metabolism is yet another awesome side effect of working out. While aerobic exercise (think cardio) burns calories quickly, strength training builds your muscles—and muscles, in the long run, burn more calories than fat could ever dream of. That means your metabolism doesn't have to crank as hard to keep things in check. It runs smoothly, so to speak. And without physical fitness, muscle mass decreases and your chances of gaining weight increase. Believe it or not, this cranks the metabolism—but not in a good way. It essentially means that the body has to work harder to move itself because it needs so much more fuel to simply exist. (I actually learned that last tidbit just now after doing some supplemental research on WebMD. I always thought it was the opposite!)

Essentially, there's a happy place for every metabolism. Not too slow, not crankin'...just right. To help you find that happy place, I'll make this conclusion—eat healthy, well-balanced meals that complement an active, physically fit lifestyle. Your body will thank you for it.

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