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In scientific terms, metabolism is a set of life-sustaining chemical reactions in living organisms. These processes help generate energy from the food we eat; they help in converting food into building blocks for running cellular processes like proteins, fats/lipids, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
During the metabolic process, the calories of food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release energy from our body needs to function. The body's energy generated through metabolism is used for all its internal and external processes like thinking, speaking, walking, heart pumping, breathing, digestion, and all body functions.
A metabolism is a balancing act between 2 body processes called Anabolism and Catabolism. We're always burning energy, even when we're sleeping. Two chemical processes take place for metabolism to happen, catabolism and anabolism, which are regulated to remain in balance.
- Anabolism: Synthesis of all compounds needed by the cells. It creates the molecules the body needs for energy through the food.
- Catabolism: This is a process of breakdown of molecules to obtain energy. The complex molecules are broken down, and the energy released is available for the body to use.
Several hormones help control the rate of metabolism. The hormone thyroxine, made and released by the thyroid gland, plays a significant role in regulating the body's metabolic activity.
When an individual has an overactive or underactive thyroid hormone, they either lose weight or gain weight rapidly. That is because the metabolism gets affected negatively when the thyroid hormone is not regulated. Our body undergoes thousands of chemical reactions all the time to keep cells healthy, thriving and functioning. For your body to function normally, it requires essential nutrients, including energy, from the food and drinks you consume.
The amount of energy your body burns at any given time is directly affected by your metabolism. The minimum amount of energy your body requires to carry out these chemical processes is called the basal metabolic rate (BMR).
Factors That Affect Your Metabolism
Various factors such as diet, physical activity, sleep, stress, age and gender can cause the body's metabolic rate.
1. Gender: Men tend to have a better metabolism than women. This because they have more muscle mass, heavier bones and lesser fat than women. This can get altered through a good exercise regime.
2. Genes: Metabolism can be passed down a generation. Genes cannot be changed, but a slow metabolic activity can be corrected through a good exercise regime.
3. Hormones: A shift in the hormonal balance is responsible for a sluggish metabolism. This can be controlled through a lifestyle change.
4. Lack of sleep: An undisturbed 6-8 hour sleep cycle is crucial to regulate the metabolic activity.
5. Starvation diets: Eating way too less or skipping meals can result in metabolism to become very slow. Eating at regulated intervals and eating in controlled quantities helps metabolism.
6. Chronic stress: Excessive and chronic stress leads to a rise in the hormone cortisol. High levels of this hormone make it harder for the body to use insulin. This leads to slowing down of metabolism leading to weight gain.
We can improve our body's metabolic rate by consciously including a few lifestyle changes:
1. Building muscle mass: Muscle cells require more energy to maintain than fat cells. Hence, people with more muscle than fat tend to have a faster metabolism. As we get older, we tend to gain fat and lose muscle. This explains why your metabolism may slow down as you get older.
2. Physically active regularly: Aerobic activity of 30 minutes for five days of the week immensely helps raise the metabolic activity. It could be walking, running, cycling, swimming or any activity that raises the heartbeat and leaves you breathless for a long time.
3. Staying hydrated: Plain water can help in burning calories faster and better, thus leading o an increased metabolism.
4. Eating smaller quantities regularly: Eating large portions of food only 1-2 times the day slows down the metabolism. Eating smaller portions of food regularly is effective in raising the metabolic activity. This also helps us stay away from overeating.
5. Using spices in meals: Spicy meals gear up the metabolic activity-Green and red chilli help boost the metabolic rate. The capsaicin in peppers can help in burning additional calories in small amounts. When combined with other metabolism-boosting foods, can have a slight advantage.
6. Protein-rich diet: The body uses more energy to break down protein than Carbohydrates or fats. Including lean proteins, pulses, peas, and legumes can help raise metabolic activity.
7. Green tea: 2-3 cups of green tea help increase the metabolism for up to a few hours.
8. Sleep: Lack of sleep is responsible for the rising cases of obesity. It greatly affects our metabolism. A good sleep of 6-8 hours helps burn calories, regulate hormones that keep our metabolism high, and process sugar.
On A Final Note...
We now understand that there is no one way to boost our metabolism. It is a combined effect of many lifestyle changes. Being in control of our day to day activities, planning better, incorporating exercises, eating regularly, sleeping peacefully and managing stress are the key factors in having a better metabolism.