Unlocking the mystery of metabolism

Unlocking the mystery of metabolism

 If you’re struggling to gain or lose weight, you might blame your metabolism. But is it really the reason you can’t reach your goal? Maybe not.

As a personal trainer and nutrition specialist at Advocate Good Shepherd Health and Fitness Center, I’m often asked about the connection between metabolism and weight. In explaining, I think it’s important to start with a basic understanding.

Metabolism is your body’s biochemical process of turning the carbs, fats and proteins you eat and drink into energy for your body to function. Some of the ways your metabolism burns calories can be controlled, and some can’t.

For example, you can’t control calories burned at rest to supply the energy needed for essential body functions such as breathing, regulating body temperature, circulating blood, adjusting hormone levels and repairing cells. And you really can’t control how your body uses energy to digest, absorb, transport and store nutrients from food. The amount of calories you burn this way stays relatively steady and isn’t easy to change.

But there is a third way metabolism burns calories, and this one is definitely under your control. It’s all about activity. The surest way to increase your metabolism is by limiting the amount of time you spend sitting and by moving around as much as possible.

It’s no secret that expending more calories than you consume can lead to weight loss over time. You can burn extra calories long after your workout has ended by incorporating strength training into your routine. Muscle cells need a great deal of energy, so they burn lots of calories – far more than fat cells. So when you’re increasing muscle mass and decreasing body fat, you’re increasing your body’s potential to burn more calories. As you age, you lose muscle, so it’s up to you to try to prevent that with strength training.

There’s no magic bullet. Weight management is a complicated balance of genetics, hormones, diet and lifestyle factors, including sleep, activity and stress. The speed of your metabolism depends mostly on variables out of your control, such as your age, gender, genes and thyroid. But you can control the energy you expend during activity. To maximize that, perform strength training and/or cardio on most days, then add activity into your daily routine. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park your car farther from the door and walk some extra steps. You can even burn a few extra calories while gardening, washing your car and doing housework. The key is to get moving.

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About the Author

Joe Ozanic
Joe Ozanic

Joe Ozanic, is a personal trainer, cancer exercise trainer and nutrition specialist at Advocate Good Shepherd Health and Fitness Center in Barrington, Ill. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in Preventative & Rehabilitative Exercise Science and is currently pursuing his Master’s in Business Administration. He trains individuals one-on-one or in small groups and teaches four group exercise classes and a foam-rolling/stretching instructional class on Saturday mornings.