April 5, 2013
Slow metabolism? Try a nice dose of movement.

 “I have a slow metabolism.” How many times have you heard that statement? Having a slow or fast metabolism is largely within your control. It is a myth that you are born with a fast or slow metabolism. It is time we bust this myth.

What is metabolism? It is the life sustaining chemical reactions within the cells of your body. Metabolism can be broken down into two categories: Anabolism and catabolism. Anabolism builds organic matter and catabolism is the breakdown of matter. At every moment your body is in a state of catabolism and anabolism, but how you choose to live your life will dictate whether the balance tips to one or the other. If you eat more calories than you burn, the scale tips towards overall growth. If you burn more than you consume, the scale tips towards weight loss.

To survive, your cells need energy. They need energy to perform their functions and to help keep the rest of your body alive, and it takes a lot of calories just to stay alive. When your cells act, they use energy. They divide, grow, heal themselves, heal other cells, metabolize enzymes, maintain body heat, and relay signals, just to name a few functions. All of these functions contribute to what we call the BMR, or basal metabolic rate. Your BMR can account for 40-75% of your daily caloric expenditure.

In order for your cells to get that needed energy, you must consume it and break it down into usable parts. This is done via digestion. Digestion of food also requires calories and leads to an increase in metabolic activity. This is called the thermic effect of food. Ever notice that you get a bit warmer after eating a large meal? Digesting food can account for ~10% of your daily caloric expenditure.

Movement and activity is the next largest contributor to caloric expenditure. Non-exercise-activity-thermogenesis can account for 10-50% of your daily caloric burn. Yes… 50%. This is not exercise. This is the movements you make when you are not exercising. This can include walking, manual labor, standing, gardening, yard work, washing dishes, etc. The more you move through the day the more calories you will burn. Sitting and laying around will burn the fewest amount of calories possible. If you sit all day, make a point to get up and walk around. Use your pedometer to track your steps. At minimum you should be getting 5,000 steps per day. 10,000 steps per day may seem impossible but it is a good number to strive for.

Your body will not burn calories unless you force it to. It will not use energy unless you force it to do work. Does your car burn gas while it is parked? No way! If so, you better call the dealership. A better auto example would be the idle. When you start your car and let it idle down the road the speed and RPMs will settle at a certain rate. This is like your BMR. The speed and RPMs will not go lower or else the car will stall. Your BMR will not go any lower or your body will die. In order to increase the speed and RPMs on your car you must force it to work by placing your foot on the gas pedal. The car then burns more fuel and speeds up. You just increased its metabolism.  If you never push your own gas pedal, you will continue to idle. But if you increase the demand on your body, your caloric expenditure will increase.

If you are trying to lose weight it is imperative that you move. You have to move in addition to your exercise. Metabolism is linked with movement. If you are not moving, your metabolism will be slower. When you hear, “I have a slow metabolism,” What you should be thinking is, “you are not moving as much as you should be.”

Next week, we will discuss how sleep (or a lack of it) affects your metabolism. As a preview to that story, let me say that sleep is a life saver. Low sleep and poor sleep quality is about as dangerous as smoking.

Until next time… Stay strong, team.

Written by Clark Masterson

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