Most of us misunderstand metabolism.
Here are nine facts to help you understand metabolism and 10 Tips to help you re-think about weight gain and weight loss.
1) Your metabolism is in every cell in your body
A lot of people talk about their metabolism like it’s a muscle or organ that they can flex or somehow control.
But in reality, your metabolism refers to a series of chemical processes in each cell that turn the calories you eat into fuel to keep you alive, according to research studies on obesity and metabolism at the Mayo Clinic. Your “basal” metabolic rate measures how many calories you burn while you’re doing nothing. It’s the culmination of different tissues with different needs and how many calories it takes to keep them functioning.
The body’s major organs — the brain, liver, kidneys, and heart — account for about half of the energy burned at rest, while fat, the digestive system, and especially the body’s muscles account for the rest.
2) Most of the energy you burn is from your resting metabolism
There are three main ways your body burns energy each day: 1) the basal metabolism — the energy used for your body’s basic functioning while at rest; 2) the energy used to break down food (also known as the thermic effect of food); and 3) the energy used in physical activity.
As we explored, one very underappreciated fact about the body is that your resting metabolism accounts for a huge amount of the total calories you burn each day. Physical activity, on the other hand, accounts for a tiny part of your total energy expenditure — about 10 to 30 percent (unless you’re a professional athlete or have a highly physically demanding job). Digesting food accounts for about 10 percent.
It’s generally accepted that for most people, the basal metabolic rate accounts for 60 to 80 percent of total energy expenditure, versus food intake, which accounts for 100 percent of the energy intake of the body.
Hence when you start to think of FOOD AS ENERGY, not calories and how it will fuel your engine, you will think of it differently. Start being a Ferrari, Bugatti or Maserati! You would never put crap low octane fuel in it nor skip a maintenance inspection! — Becca Tebon FIT
3) Metabolism can vary a lot between people, and researchers don’t understand why
It’s true that two people of the same size and body composition can have different metabolic rates. One can consume a huge meal and gain no weight, while the other has to carefully count calories to not gain weight.
But why this remains a “black box,” said Will Wong, a researcher, and professor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Metabolism and Obesity Research. “We don’t understand the mechanism that controls a person’s metabolism.”
Researchers have found some predictors of how fast a person’s metabolism will be. These include the amount of lean muscle and fat tissue in the body, age, and genetics (though researchers don’t know why some families have higher or lower metabolic rates).
Sex also matters since women with any given body composition and age burn fewer calories than comparable men. For women there’s a bit of an effect of the menstrual cycle: Some women have a higher metabolic rate during the last half of the menstrual cycle (during the luteal phase) when the resting metabolic rate in some women is up to 10 percent higher.
You can’t easily measure your resting metabolic rate in a precise way, but you can get a rough estimate of your resting metabolic rate by plugging some basic variables into online calculators. It’ll tell you how many calories you’re expected to burn each day, and if you eat that many and your weight stays the same, it’s probably correct.
4) Another thing that slows down the metabolism: getting older
The effect happens gradually, even if you have the same amount of fat and muscle tissue. So when you’re 60, you burn fewer calories at rest than when you’re 20.
Jensen said this continual decline starts as young as age 18 — and why this happens is also another metabolism question researchers haven’t answered. “Why do your energy needs go down as you age even if you keep everything else pretty much the same — that’s one of the bigger mysteries we have.”
5) You can’t really speed your metabolism up for weight loss
There’s a lot of hype around “speeding up your metabolism” and losing weight by exercising more to build muscle, eating different foods, or taking supplements. But it’s a metabolism myth.
Certain foods — like coffee, chili, and other spices — may speed the basal metabolic rate up and can have an mpact on your waistline, while building more muscles, however, can be marginally more helpful. Here’s why: One of the variables that affect your resting metabolic rate is the amount of lean muscle you have. At any given weight, the more muscle on your body, and the less fat, the higher your metabolic rate. That’s because muscle uses a lot more energy than fat while at rest (see the graphic in section one).
So the logic is if you can build up your muscle, and reduce your body fat, you’ll have a higher resting metabolism and more quickly burn the fuel in your body.
More muscle burns fuel more rapidly. But that’s only half the question. You must find a workout system that is sustainable
Overall, he said, “There’s not any part of the resting metabolism that you have a huge amount of control over. The control tends to be relatively modest, and unfortunately, it also tends to be on the downside.”
6) Dieting can slow down your metabolism
While it’s extremely hard to speed the metabolic rate up, researchers have found there are things people do that can slow it down — like drastic weight loss programs. According to research, Crash diets are probably the biggest effect we have on resting metabolism.
For years, researchers have been documenting a phenomenon called “metabolic adaptation” or “adaptive thermogenesis”: As people lose weight, their basal metabolic rate — the energy used for basic functioning when the body is at rest — actually slows down to a greater degree than would be expected from the weight loss.
To be clear: It makes sense that losing weight will slow down the metabolism a bit since slimming down generally involves muscle loss, and the body is then smaller and doesn’t have to work as hard every minute to keep running. But the slowdown after weight loss, researchers have found, often appears to be substantially greater than makes sense for a person’s new body size. THIS IS WHY BUILDING MUSCLE DURING WEIGHT LOSS CONTRIBUTES TO INCREASED FAT LOSS AND SIZE REDUCTION, while the scale may not move as fast because you are building muscle, your health, strength, and overall well-being will improve 17-fold using the www.powherbands.com system
In the newest scientific study to document this phenomenon, published in the journal Obesity, researchers at NIH followed up with contestants from season eight of the reality TV show The Biggest Loser. By the end of the show, all of the participants had lost dozens of pounds, so they were the perfect study subjects to find out what happens when you lose a dramatic amount of weight in a short period of time.
The researchers took a number of measurements — body weight, fat, metabolism, hormones — at both the end of the 30-week competition in 2009 and again, six years later, in 2015.
Though all the contestants lost weight through diet and exercise at the end of the show, six years later, their waistlines had largely rebounded. Thirteen of the 14 contestants in the study put a significant amount of weight back on, and four contestants are even heavier today compared with before they went on the show.
However, the participants’ metabolisms had vastly slowed down throughout the study period. Their bodies were essentially burning about 500 calories fewer (about a meal’s worth) on average each day than would be expected given their weight. This effect lasted six years later, despite the fact that most participants were slowly regaining the weight they lost.
Sandra Aamodt, a neuroscientist, and author of Why Diets Make Us Fat, explained this may be the body’s way of vigorously defending a certain weight range, called the SET POINT, which explained that once you gain weight and keep that weight on for a period of time, the body can get used to its new, larger size. When that weight drops, a bunch of subtle changes kick in — to the hormone levels, and the brain — slowing the resting metabolism and having the effect of increasing hunger and decreasing satiety from food, all in a seeming conspiracy to get the body back up to that set point weight.
In the Biggest Loser study, for example, the researchers found each participant experienced significant reductions in the hormone leptin in their bloodstreams. Leptin is one of the key hormones that regulate hunger in the body. By the end of the Biggest Loser competition, the contestants had almost entirely drained their leptin levels, leaving them hungry all the time. At the six-year mark, their leptin levels rebounded — but only to about 60 percent of their original levels before going on the show.
7) Researchers don’t fully understand why this metabolic slowdown happens
There are some interesting hypotheses, however. One of the most persistent is an evolutionary explanation. “Over hundreds of millennia, we evolved in an environment where we had to confront frequent periods of undernutrition,” Columbia’s Rosenbaum said. “So you would predict that the human DNA would be full of genes that favor the storage of extra calories as fat. That ability would to some extent increase our ability to survive during periods of undernutrition, and increase our ability to reproduce — genetic survival.”
Today, the thinking goes, this inability to keep off weight that’s been gained is our body defending against periods of undernutrition, even though those are much rarer now. I believe, as I have studied the hibernating bear, it is much like the process of storing fat to feed the body so its basic metabolic functions can be maintained during times of famine.
Researchers are also trying to better understand metabolic syndrome — the name given to a set of conditions including increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, a large waistline, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. When people have several of these health issues, they’re at an increased risk of chronic health issues, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Again, how this works and why it affects some people more than others remains unclear.
8) A slower metabolism doesn’t mean keeping weight off is futile
Fifteen percent of people, on average, manage to lose 10 percent of their weight or more and keep it off. So weight loss is possible.
For any would-be weight loser, the key is finding lifestyle changes you can stick to over a long period of time, and viewing those as changes needed to keep a disease — obesity — under control. Once we look at the QUALITY OF OUR LIVES, whether now or in 10 or 20 years, we are more apt to focus on the journey towards achieving a stronger, healthier, and happier relationship with ourselves and our food.
The National Weight Control Registry, a study that has parsed the traits, habits, and behaviors of adults who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for a minimum of one year — as an example of how they do that. The registry currently has more than 10,000 members enrolled in the study, and these folks respond to annual questionnaires about how they’ve managed to keep their weight down.
My clients, particularly, POWHERgirls who have had success in losing weight have 10 things in common:
- They don’t look at the changes as sacrifices, they are focused on success.
- They don’t worry about the scale, rather they are looking at the notches in their belt shrink.
- They exercise regularly at varying degrees of intensity, with the most common exercise is walking and muscle activation.
- They eat nutrient-dense foods.
- They increase fiber.
- They don’t count calories or weigh their food, they learn to feel satiated and understand portion sizes.
- They drink AT LEAST half of their body weight in water.
- They cut out processed sugar.
- They eliminate refined and artificial colors and preservatives.
- They use the MY DAILY STICKY NOTE system to provide daily AAA (Awareness, Action, and Award) for their goal.