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Published on March 24th, 2014 | by Joe Starks


Athletic Science: Metabolism

We often hear the word metabolism uttered as an excuse. Some overweight people believe that the reason they are heavy is because they have a low metabolism by nature. But if you ask the same people what metabolism is, chances are they won’t be able to answer correctly.

This comes as no surprise, since our metabolism is a very complex matter and not all people use the word meaning the same thing. In this article we’ll discuss about the true nature of our metabolism, how we can alter it and why some people differ when it comes to their metabolic functions.

What is a metabolism?

Usually, the word metabolism is used to describe all the ways and speed with which our body burns energy and how it stores this energy when we eat too much. Our metabolism can be fast, average or slow.

Thankfully, most people have an average metabolism for their weight and age. There aren’t many diseases that change your metabolism dramatically and those few diseases are quite rare.

It is natural for our metabolisms to slow down with age. After the age of forty our metabolism slows by 5% per decade. This is not a fixed number for everyone, just an average estimate.

Men have faster metabolisms than women, because our metabolisms depend a lot on our hormone levels and lean muscle. Male hormones spur the metabolism to go faster than female hormones do. Also, men do have more lean muscle mass by nature.

Our metabolism speed can be hereditary. If we have ancestors with slightly slower than average metabolisms then we might get a slow metabolism too. This is usually only a small difference in comparison to the average metabolism.

Can you change your metabolism?

The answer, thankfully, is yes!

We can, to a point, change our metabolism if we work on it. Our metabolism actually changes a lot on itself on an average day. Here is a list of things that naturally change our metabolism:

  • Exercise. Exercise can help speed up our metabolism in two ways. First, it can increase our muscle mass, which increases the metabolic rate. Second, exercise by itself forces the body to empty its energy stores, which wakes up the metabolism, since that is its job after all.
  • Diet. What we eat can change our metabolism dramatically. It is not so much the kind of food, but how much we eat of it. If you have a calorie deficit, then your metabolism will naturally slow down. If you eat a lot, your metabolism will speed up a bit. Diets rich in protein seem to be very good at keeping our metabolism working fast.
  • Sleep. When we sleep our metabolism drops very low. It is part of normal rest and it is important for your health.
  • Heart Rate. If you have a high heart rate your metabolism rises. This usually comes hand in hand with exercise.

There are also unnatural ways to increase your metabolism. This is usually done by ingesting dangerous medicines. Nobody should ever attempt this, as these substances are often deadly and there have been victims in the past.

Why should I care about my metabolism?

You actually don’t need to give too much attention to your metabolism. It is something you simply live with. It is very hard to calculate your metabolism on your own, so it isn’t really a good measure to see how fit you are.

Our metabolism is more interesting for scientists and fitness experts.

What we should all know and be weary of is what happens when our metabolism is out of control. If you suspect that you truly gain more weight than you should or that you lose too much weight, then you should go to your GP and make sure you don’t have any illness.

Usually people just miscalculate how much they are truly eating while their metabolisms are just fine. So, don’t worry about it too much and write down exactly how much food you consume. You will probably realize that you simply forgot how much or how little you eat in a day.

The most important point we should remember is this: Very few people are too thin or too heavy because of their metabolism. The more probable culprits are usually our diet and our exercise levels. So, don’t use your metabolism as an excuse. Chances are it is doing its job just fine and that it is YOU who needs to watch your habits.


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