Metabolism is a huge focus for bodybuilders, athletes and health enthusiasts, but it’s often misunderstood. While it is commonly associated with weight loss, metabolism actually refers to a larger group of chemical reactions designed to maintain life. This includes helping you physically grow, repair tissue and respond to stimuli in your environment.
Types of Metabolic Reactions
The two main metabolic reactions are catabolism and anabolism. Catabolism is essentially the breakdown of larger complex molecules into their smaller component parts, resulting in the release of energy used to perform all your basic cellular and physical activities. Polysaccharides get broken down into monosaccharides. Proteins get converted into amino acids.
Catabolism is probably what you think of when someone talks about metabolism. When you eat, catabolism is the process that breaks down the organic nutrients in the food and turns it into energy stored in ATP (adenosine triphosphate) molecules.
Anabolism is that process in reverse. It involves taking simple enzymes and smaller building blocks to create a wide range of complex compounds. Anabolism plays a role in a variety of important functions, including the mineralization and development of bones and increasing muscle mass.
How Does Metabolism Work?
In relation to body weight, metabolism is the sum of catabolism and anabolism. It’s the amount of energy your body creates minus the amount that it actually uses. In common terms, most people refer to their metabolism as the amount calories they burn. Calories in your food and drinks combine with oxygen and turn into energy. Any energy that you don’t use is stored as either glycogen (your body’s main storage form of glucose) or fat. When your body has depleted its glucose stores, it turns to your fat cells, but if you are running low on fat, your body will begin to break down protein (meaning muscle mass) for energy.
The thing is, your body is undergoing metabolism even when you are not jogging or working out. Even at rest, your body needs to use energy for all the hidden, cellular functions in your body, like:
- Circulating blood throughout your system
- Balancing your body’s chemicals
- Repairing cells and creating new cells
Your basal metabolic rate describes the number of calories you burn when you are at rest and need to carry out these basic functions. Your basal metabolic rate burns about 70 percent of your daily calories. The rest of the calories you burn comes from any physical activity you perform, whether it’s walking to the store or lifting weights. Some factors that determine your basal metabolism include:
- Age – As you age, your fat tends to increase while your muscle mass goes down, slowing down your overall metabolic rate.
- Body size and composition – Larger individuals or people who simply have more muscle tend to burn more calories.
- Gender – Men generally have more muscle and less body fat than women, which often equates to a greater basal metabolic rate.
Your body has built-in mechanisms to control your metabolism and meet your personal needs, though certain medical problems, like Cushing’s syndrome and hypothyroidism, may potentially slow metabolism.
How to Increase Metabolic Rate
Thankfully, there are some simple, natural steps you can take to give your metabolic rate a boost.
- Eat breakfast. In the constant workaday life that has become increasingly normal, most people will skip breakfast entirely, making lunch their first meal of the day. While skipping a meal might seem like a good way to lose weight, it’s actually detrimental to your metabolism. Your body will actually assume that you are starving and conserve energy by slowing down your metabolism. Eating breakfast gives you energy and prevents snacking on unhealthier options later in the day. Make sure you eat a hearty breakfast that includes a mix of lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. This could comprise an omelet, oatmeal, and fresh fruit.
- Focus on protein. While your body still needs its carbohydrates, including protein in every meal will help you build and maintain new muscle tissue. Remember, muscle burns more calories than body fat, even when you are at rest. Diet needs differ from person to person, but you should aim for at least 30 grams of protein per meal, which is equivalent to a 4-ounce chicken breast or a cup of cottage cheese.
- Get your omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids offer a wide range of benefits, from helping your skin and hair to improving your mood. In terms of metabolism, omega-3 fatty acids can help to trigger signals that tell your brain that you are full.
- Drink caffeine (carefully). Studies suggest that caffeine in coffee and tea can help to boost your metabolism and increase your fat burning potential. However, too much caffeine comes with its drawbacks, including jitteriness, increased anxiety, digestion problems, sleeplessness and crashing. Worse yet, many people who take caffeine develop a tolerance to it over time, forcing them to intake more of it in order to get the same effects. Adults can safely ingest about 300 mg of caffeine every day. The average cup of coffee contains 80 to 135 mg of caffeine, so drink responsibly and don’t overdo it, like many people do.
- Maintain good physical activity. Your physical activity is the most variable factor that determines the number of calories you burn. Aerobic exercises are the best way to burn calories. You should generally aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise in your daily workouts to keep up your metabolism. From there, make sure you include strength training, which can offset the muscle loss that comes with aging, and muscle means more calories burned when you are at rest.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation can have a variety of profound negative effects on your health, including your metabolism. Studies suggest that sleep deprivation causes imbalances in leptin, ghrelin and other body chemicals that regulate your appetite and how your body uses energy. Aim for 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night.
- Consider thermogenics. Thermogenic supplements may help to increase your basal metabolic rate by increasing your core temperature. Spicy foods containing capsaicin are a common thermogenic.
Overall, weight gain tends to be more complex than just metabolism, involving everything from genetics and natural body chemistry to environment and diet composition. If you are considering taking a supplement to boost your metabolism, MYOKEM™ offers Pyroxamine™ a high-performance lipolytic solution and thermogenic agent designed to help you burn fat and improve your base metabolic rate.