Metabolism: The Director of Life

Metabolism is the many chemical processes that occur within an organism to maintain life for all creatures. From cats and dogs to hummingbirds, each creature has their own metabolic rate, which can be fast or slow depending on size, energy use, consumption, and age. If our metabolic rate is high, say for humming birds that are in near-constant movement, then the amount of energy i.e. food consumed needs to be very high. The opposite of this example are sloths, which have an extremely low metabolic rate which is in part why they’re so slow, a few leaves of food could take them days if not longer to digest. Many people nowadays take part in the lethargic work life throughout the majority of the day; which results in a low metabolic rate, meaning the amount of calories used by the body is low. The only way to really combat a low metabolic rate is by consuming nutritious food along with an active and healthy lifestyle. There is still a large misconception on how the calories in versus calories out theory affect the human body because our metabolism is affected in many other ways than just eating food. Understanding these differences can aid us in a healthy lifestyle and our weight loss (fat loss) goals.

Our basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of energy used while at rest; which comes in the functions of the heart pumping blood, breathing air, regulating our body temperature, brain activity, excreting bodily and cellular waste, and cellular upkeep all consume energy to do. Even when we eat, the act of chewing, breaking down and absorbing (digesting) food all consume energy as well. All of the actions listed above determine a basic starting point of how much fuel the body needs to operate. However each individual can have a conscious contribution, coming in the form of physical and mental activity. Exercising and doing a lot of mentally demanding activities (writing, art, math, puzzles, etc) will all use up energy depending on the intensity, a lot of it.

Many people see that eating 6 small meals as ideal conditions for increasing your metabolic rate, and to a degree it does the function of keeping our metabolic rate active; but that’s only during digesting the food that was eaten. However this doesn’t mean you’re increasing your metabolic rate enough to really have any affect when you’re not eating, all it can provide you with is longer bouts of energy. The real key is to stay active throughout the day. After an hour-two of work or so, stretch out and walk around. After eating, try to take a walk, which not only aids in digestion but continues your physical exertion, thus increasing your metabolic rate. Before bed, try doing a yoga routine or some stretching and/or balancing exercises. Doing some type of physical activity after you eat or in-between meals will ensure your body maintains a high metabolic rate. Though we can increase our metabolic rate, there are many people who unknowingly decrease it; which makes losing fat and getting a toned physique difficult.

One of the biggest mistakes comes in the form of eating 2- 3 large meals a day and that’s it. These big meals may burn calories while you’re digesting them, but once digestion has been achieved you go right back to a low metabolic rate. This occurs because your body goes into energy-saving mode, even more so if you are lethargic and don’t move much throughout the day. A huge contributor to a low metabolic rate is skipping breakfast, which many Americans do on a daily basis. Not only does this hinder our production and energy levels throughout the day, it also keeps our body in a low energy state, because we haven’t fueled our bodies after waking up from sleep. Sleeping uses energy, think about our body’s BMR, it’s a low energy state. When we deny ourselves from breakfast, we don’t give our bodies the necessary fuel to get out of that low state of energy, which in turn puts stress on our bodies; mainly our heart and cardiovascular system. Now eating breakfast doesn’t necessarily kick-start our metabolism, but it does result in low energy levels throughout the day, which lead to lack of working out or ‘not feeling up for it’ and often leaves us to overeat during our other meals. Another result and possibly the most damaging towards our efforts of fat loss are the cravings of sugar to wake up, or that so-called energy boost; which overall promote an unhealthy lifestyle and eliminate any effect of exercise.

The sugary foods will really hurt you and the body’s metabolism because they cause the metabolic rate to jump all over the place, often spiking then crashing, aka sugar rush and crash.  Another comes in the form of reducing calories to a staggering low amount, like the 1200 calorie diets for example. This usually results in gaining the weight back almost immediately after ending the diet- which happens to most people. This is due to what happens to our fat cells when we drastically cut our calories consumed and mess with our metabolic rates in a shocking way. Our body reacts like we are being starved, so it will use the fat within each cell for energy, but not eliminate our fat cell count as they are vital for storing energy. This means our fat cells just get smaller, but they don’t go away entirely. When we get back on a regular diet, our body restores all the fat to the cells that shrunk and in some cases make more due to eating more food than usual. Those methods of eating a lot of meals, eating few meals, and limiting how much food are counterproductive and damaging on our body in the long run. The only way to guarantee in having an ‘in shape’ body comes through living a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious foods and exercise; it’s the only guaranteed way towards achieving your bodily goals.

Eating healthy foods, remaining active to moderately active, avoiding over eating, abstaining from sugary foods, and limiting our sedentary states are the methods that will bring us closer towards a healthy state of well-being. Everyone can create their own routine that fits them, but it all starts with staying consistent and disciplined in whatever it is you’re doing. We often ride a roller coaster when attempting to change our bodies and lifestyles and cause more problems than solutions towards our goals, whether it’s from injury, low energy levels, getting sick or drastic weight fluctuations- all of these can be eliminated through consistent effort and discipline. Below I have my own routine briefly described in order to paint a better picture on how being consistent can help towards your goals.

My own routine begins with drink around 300mL (~1 glass) of water when I wake up at 5am; this helps me wake up and rehydrates my body; I have it ready and leave it on my night stand before I go to bed. Next is getting washed up if a few minutes followed by my meditation routine which is a little under an hour. After, I exercise for 40-50 minutes; which mainly consist of weight lifting done in an aerobic manner. I drink my hemp protein shake with about 300mL of water mixed in, which is also pre-made right before I go to bed. I’ve noticed better results in weight lifted along with my physique when working out right after waking up and meditating. Immediately after my workout I eat my breakfast meal. I eat my lunch at around 12pm and dinner around 6-620. Between those times I drink water and munch on my snack bag whenever I feel necessary. I try not to eat right before bed, typically 3 or so hours before. Though that doesn’t matter it’s just my personal preference so I don’t feel full going to bed. My significant other and I conclude our day by doing a yoga routine before we go to bed.

My day is pretty straight forward, but what really impacts my energy levels and overall physical health is the fact I’m eating quality food throughout my day. I’m not binging on chips or sweets, I don’t drink soda, and I don’t try to limit what my body is telling me it needs. Certain days I eat lighter, some days I eat heavier. I’ve come to realize that part of the problem is, even when trying to limit our food and lose weight we’re constantly fixating on it. I simply set up my day using my planned meals and go from there. I ensure I nourish my body correctly through healthy foods, if you do that you don’t have to worry about it. I only suggest a routine works best because it establishes practices of consistency and discipline; which is the most important aspect of a healthy lifestyle.  Ultimately you don’t have to even worry about your metabolic rate as long as you’re fueling your body with nutritious and healthy food.

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