Everyone has heard of it but what is metabolism and how does it affect your weight? In the simplest of terms, metabolism is the process by which food is converted into energy by the body. You may have heard other phrases used that basically refer to the same process like metabolic rate, or metabolic process.
What Is Metabolism - In More Detail
Don't worry, this is not going to be a complex description of the metabolic process. It is important, however, to have a good understanding of what we are talking about in order to fully understand how the metabolic rate can be increased in order to help lose weight. So, with that in mind we will have a brief look at the biological processes involved with metabolism.
As mentioned above, metabolism is the process of converting food into energy for your body to use. It is probably fairly obvious but everything you do requires energy. Sleep, eating, reading... requires energy.
You may have heard someone say that they have "no metabolism". Rest assured that this is completely impossible. If you had no metabolic process you wouldn't even be able to consider the notion that you had no metabolism! That is, you HAVE to have a metabolism if you are alive.
The next common thing you will hear people say is that they have a "slow metabolism". A lot of people will say that they have a slow metabolism when they have gained unwanted weight. Or that their metabolism has slowed down with age. Often this is used as an excuse or simply said out of confusion.
It is TRUE that as you age your metabolic process may decrease, but you still have a lot of control over other factors in your life like diet and overall lifestyle. Working on factors that you can control will enable you to boost your metabolism and shed the extra weight.
Two Disparate Functions: Anabolism and Catabolism
Another interesting point is that although most of us talk about the metabolic process as a single function, it's actually a conglomeration of functions that are taking place simultaneously inside your body. Every second of every day of your life - even while you sleep - the metabolic process is driving a myriad of chemical conversions that allow you to stay alive.
One way to look at the metabolic process is to see it as a "harmonizer" that brings together two critical bodily functions that would otherwise be at odds with each other. They are: anabolism and catabolism.
Anabolism is the function by which "creation" happens. New cells and tissues are created continuously, as our bodies replaced dysfunctional or dead cells and tissues.
One example of this can be seen if you cut your finger. Assuming proper function, your body immediately goes to work to create skin cells that will clot the blood and start the healing process of the cut. Anabolism is a process of your metabolism, and it creates new tissue.
Simultaneously, the exact opposite activity is also taking place in other parts of your body. Rather than building and repairing, your body is breaking down energy so that it has the resources it needs to perform - that's right - anabolism elsewhere.
One of the ways you can see catabolism in action is if you exercise. As you exercise, your body continually provides you with the energy you need to support this increased activity. Your temperature goes up, your heart rate increases, and you burn energy, burn calories.
As you exercise, you need more oxygen; in response, you increase your breathing rate and therefore take in more oxygen. All of this requires more energy.
If you couldn't adjust to this extra requirement for oxygen and energy, you would simply collapse.
Instead, assuming you're healthy, your body will "step up to the plate" and begin to convert calories into energy, calories you've taken in through food (or, calories stored as fat). This metabolic process, as you might guess, is called catabolism.
As you can see, metabolism is a process that continually masters two functions simultaneously - catabolism and its opposite function, anabolism. Catabolism breaks down cells to create energy, and anabolism uses energy to create new cells.
This is where we can see metabolism as a "harmonizer" of two disparate functions. These two seemingly conflicting functions can operate simultaneously, optimally and together so that the body seamlessly breaks down cells as needed, and creates new cells from that breakdown of cells into energy.