Metabolism is the body’s process that converts food, water, and oxygen into energy for all of your daily activities, not just exercise. The calories in the food you consume are just units of energy. During metabolism, this energy is converted into a simpler form. The energy created from this process will either be immediately used or will be stored to use later in the form of fat. All organs need energy this energy that is generated, especially the brain, heart, and muscles.
Your metabolism is always changing depending on how much energy your body needs at the time. In the absence of food, metabolism slows down and release less energy. This is a survival instinct so that you can live through periods where food isn’t available. Your body is just like a fire. When the fire has enough fuel to burn it is strong and large. As the fire runs out of fuel it begins to shrink and burn out. However, unlike the fire, metabolism is always working and will never completely stop but bad eating and exercise habits may drastically slow it down.
This slowing of the metabolism is called metabolic damage. This is usually caused by excessive calorie restriction combined with extra stress on the body, such as a large increase in exercise. The drastic decrease in calories consumed causes the body to react like it is in a starvation mode. More of the calories you consume will be stored as body fat so it can survive. Burning excessive calories in combination with a dramatic calorie reduction will only increase this affect. In simpler terms, the more your metabolism slows, the more weight you will gain. The good news is, all metabolic damage can be reversed with time and attention to your eating and exercise habits.
Tips for a better metabolism:
- Don’t stop eating!
Eat breakfast. It’s called break-fast for a reason. You have to break the fast while you were sleeping. Give your body some energy to start the day with. Divide the calories you eat everyday between three meals and two to three snacks. Be careful not to skip any meals, especially before your workout. Not eating before a workout can cause your metabolism to go into starvation mode and your body will store more energy in the form of fat from the meals following your workout.
- Drink enough water!
Water is never something to skimp on and your metabolism can’t function without it. (3 Liters or 13 cups for men, and 2.2 Liters or 9 cups for women).
- Reduce your stress and get enough sleep!
Stress causes hormonal changes in the body that will slow down your metabolism. If you’re feeling stressed try to get to the root of the problem. Exercise is also always a good cure. Not getting enough sleep affects important hormones that your body uses to regulate metabolic processes. Just like stress, not getting enough sleep can slow down your metabolism.
- Don’t rush weight loss!
Aim for no more than 1-1.5 lbs. a week. Don’t ever trust diet pills to help you, they can cause chemical damage to your metabolism that is difficult to reverse. This damage is what causes the weight gain that typically happens after you stop taking them. Losing too much weight too fast is another way to trick your body into thinking it is starving. Rapid weight loss will also cause a loss in muscle mass. Combat this with some resistance training during your healthy weight loss. Muscle is a tissue and requires oxygen and energy to survive. The more muscle tissue you have, the more energy your body needs. For this reason, at rest a person with a higher muscle mass burns more calories than a person without.
- Keep carbs in your diet!
You should never completely cut out carbs from your diet. Carbohydrates are a very important energy source during exercise. Having this energy source will enable you to have longer and harder workouts!
- Don’t cut healthy fat out of your diet!
Fat is the fuel your body uses at rest and is a very important energy source. Low amounts of healthy fat in the diet is a red flag for your body. This causes a strong hormone response specifically with the hormones Leptin and Ghrelin. The change in these hormones will cause your metabolism to slow down because the body thinks it is starving. More of the food you eat will begin to be stored as fat instead of being used immediately.
Following these tips will help you avoid damaging your metabolism and will help keep it functioning efficiently through your weight loss journey.