We hear about metabolism a lot. It’s a popular topic in the press. But what is metabolism? Why should it be important to me?

Your metabolism is all the processes in the body that use energy. Breathing, walking, talking and eating are all activities that need energy. Every hour of every day of your life your metabolism is at work burning energy to building your body.

You eat food and your body breaks it down into its simplest forms of protein, fat and carbohydrate. The calories in these nutrients are converted to energy by your cells and tissues to grow and repair. This is the metabolic process.

Everyone’s metabolism burns at a different rate and there are many factors affecting your burn rate. Age, gender, body size, hormones, body composition, food intake and activity level are some of the things affecting your metabolic rate. Some people have a fast metabolism while other people have a slower metabolism.

It’s helpful to think of your metabolism as the engine of a car.  When the motor idles, that’s your body’s basal metabolic rate. It’s the amount of energy your body burns at rest. When you give the motor some gas and rev it up that’s your body moving and burning energy. When you’re driving down the road that’s your body exercising and expending a lot of energy. Your body needs the right amount of fuel for your metabolism to run efficiently.

It doesn’t need too much energy. Too much energy and you build your fat stores. Not enough energy and you burn muscle mass and slow your metabolism. By not eating enough food you burn muscle tissue for fuel and increase the ratio of fat to muscle in your body.  It’s what’s called being skinny fat.  You don’t look fat, but your body composition is high in fat and lower in lean muscle.

Too much energy and you get fat.  Not enough energy and you get fat. That’s right. If you don’t eat enough calories you can get fat. The key is to find the right amount and type of calories right for you. How much food do you need to eat for optimum body composition?

Most people won’t go to the trouble of answering that question. Mostly people learn by trial and error. Certain foods are good for the waistline and other foods are bad.  Keeping the metabolism up is a big concern, especially as you age.  As we age the metabolism naturally slows.

Keeping the metabolism up is vital to our body composition and overall health. Your basal metabolic rate accounts for 60% to 80% of your daily calorie consumption. Exercise burns very little in the way of calories. Exercise alone doesn’t help you lose weight. Exercise makes the body more efficient at burning calories and keeps the metabolism running smoothly.