Well-Being Guide

M is for Metabolism – But What is it Exactly?

M is for Metabolism – But What is it Exactly?

If you’ve ever had trouble loosing weight, you might have ordered the latest wonder-bar or shake on the basis that it will help ‘boost your metabolism’. It probably didn’t work.

Messages and offers, promising to help you loose weight by increasing your metabolism, have created many misconceptions around metabolism. But what it is exactly and what part does it play in weight loss?

Metabolism is in fact, the biochemical process required to maintain life. It occurs in all living things allowing us to grow, repair, reproduce and respond to our environment. At any given moment two reactions occur: anabolic reactions, associated with growth and catabolic reactions, associated with the release of energy and energy production – collectively these reactions are called metabolism. In simpler terms, metabolism is the process our bodies use to convert food into energy.

The bad news is, age does affect our basal metabolic rate (the amount of energy – calories from food – that our body requires to function) because as we age, we gradually lose muscle mass and the less muscle we have, the fewer calories our bodies will burn at rest. The good news is through nutrition and regular exercise we can not only improve our metabolism but our energy levels, skin tone and mood too!

Protein is the major building block of the body but because it isn’t stored, it needs to be replenished regularly. Protein can be either complete i.e. containing essential amino acids as found in meat (chicken breast, lean beef), fish and eggs or incomplete, lacking essential amino acids, vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts), fruit and nuts (almonds, peanuts). Other sources include Greek yoghurt, milk and cottage cheese. If you’re used to eating meals with small amounts of protein and large amounts of carbs– like a big plate of pasta with a tiny amount of meat sauce – switch the percentages around.

Building strength with weight training is possible at any age; for best results opt for a structured exercise programme that balances cardio and general fitness activities with safe weight training that focuses on the big multi-joint moves i.e. those that require more than one muscle group and involve more than one joint such as the bench press, shoulder press, squat. If you walk and run a lot, consider adding weights to your programme at least twice a week. To build muscle, the exercises must be challenging but they shouldn’t be stressful.

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