Your metabolism is the process that changes the calories you eat and drink and turns it into energy. The energy can be burned into the immediate energy you use during your day or fat, which is energy your body stores for later.
No, not every guy is going to be a ripped muscle bound god of the beach or even a trim, yoga bro with zero fat. However, each one of us has a metabolism and it does more than just turn food into energy. This is quite literally the engine that drives the body. Too much stuff out there is based on what works for women and even healthy eating advice is based around what works for the female metabolism and preferences vs how the male metabolism works and what men want to do with it.
Your body needs the energy your metabolism produces to function. Things like breathing, digestion, moving, and even thinking require metabolized calories to work. Everyone has an ideal amount of calories they need to be healthy, which depends on their age and lifestyle.
How Does Your Metabolism Work?
When you eat or drink and your body digests it, your body then combines those calories with oxygen, which creates energy. Your body uses that energy to keep itself going. Not only does your body need energy to move, like walking, talking, and exercising, it needs energy just to be alive. Your body’s systems, from the circulatory system to the digestive system, actually burn the majority of the calories you need.
What Is Your Basal Metabolic Rate?
Basal metabolic rate, or BMR, is the minimum number of calories you need to function while your body is at rest. This is about 60 to 70% of the energy your body uses each day. Everyone has a different BMR.
What Factors Impact Your Metabolism?
The biggest factor in your metabolic rate is how much muscle mass you have. The more muscle mass, the higher the metabolic rate. This ratio is generally true for body size in general. There are other factors that are related to how much muscle mass you have, like age and sex, which are also linked to BMR. Males tend to carry more muscle mass. Older people tend to carry less.
Although people sometimes try to jumpstart their metabolisms through weight loss, the relationship between weight and metabolism is complex. Ironically, if you lose weight quickly or severely restrict the amount of calories you eat, that can slow down your metabolism.
How Is Your Metabolism Related to Your Weight?
The good news is that your rate of metabolism isn’t a significant factor in weight loss or weight gain. Primarily, your weight is tied to how many calories you consume. Other factors include your hormone levels, genetics, how physically active you are, how much stress you have, and even how much sleep you get.
If you are trying to lose weight, you will have better, faster results if you focus on burning more calories than you take in. A combination of aerobic exercise and strength training is your best bet for weight loss. Either cut calories, increase exercise, or do both. Trying to increase your metabolism is difficult.
Why Should You Monitor Your Metabolism?
Although it’s not going to be the lynchpin to any big weight loss plans you have, your metabolism is still important to your overall health. Doctors use metabolism tests as indicators of things like your kidney function or your blood sugar levels.
If you are experiencing unexpected weight loss or weight gain, or big changes in the amount of energy you have, there could be a correlation with your metabolism or the biochemicals that influence your metabolism.
What Do Metabolism Tests Do?
There are different types of metabolism tests. Some you can do at home, some a doctor must order, and some require highly complex equipment. Each type of test examines components of your metabolism, which may be of different interest to different people depending on their needs and concerns.
If you want to purely know the amount of calories your body burns at rest, and not the underlying biochemicals associated with your metabolism, you need a direct or indirect calorimetry test. Both types of calorimetry tests require the use of a special insulated chamber called a calorimeter.
If you are interested in the type of metabolic test that gives you readings on the hormones and biochemicals that impact and accompany metabolic rates, you can do an at-home test or have your doctor order one for you. A comprehensive metabolic panel is a blood test taken by a trained phlebotomist and includes glucose, calcium, protein, bilirubin, and a variety of other chemicals found in your blood.
An at-home test is much simpler and can also provide valuable insight into your health. Measuring your thyroid stimulating hormone, cortisol, and testosterone levels will alert you to a hormone imbalance that may impact your metabolism and other things.
Why Does Cortisol Matter?
Cortisol is commonly referred to as the stress hormone. It’s the chemical your adrenal gland releases when you exercise, are ill, or are experiencing stress. Cortisol helps regulate your metabolism and assists in controlling your blood sugar levels.
Why Does Free Testosterone Matter?
Testosterone is the hormone tied to sex drive, bone density, fat distribution, and muscle mass. Free testosterone is testosterone that is not attached to proteins. It matters in part because we need testosterone to replicate cells, an activity necessary for strong muscles and bones, and also for quality of life issues like libido and body shape.
Why Do Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone Levels Matter?
Your thyroid-stimulating hormone, or TSH, is the hormone most associated as being an indicator of thyroid health. TSH is essential to determining your metabolic rate.
High TSH levels can indicate hypothyroidism, and low TSH levels can indicate hyperthyroidism. TSH also impacts your muscle control, brain development and bone maintenance.
What Personal Factors Affect Your Metabolism?
Mostly, your metabolism is controlled by your body composition. However, there are some lifestyle choices and medical issues that can also be important factors.
Things you cannot control, your age, family history, genetics, and your sex, make up the bulk of how fast or slow your metabolism moves. Other physical factors that matter are ones you have more influence over. Although some people build muscle more easily, almost everyone can improve their overall muscle mass, if they desire to. The same goes for physical activity in general. Any exercise you do burns calories.
There are an assortment of medical issues that may cause an increase or decrease in your metabolism. Cushing’s syndrome and hypothyroidism may slow your body’s ability to burn calories. In the case of certain types of metabolic disorders, like Gaucher disease, hemochromatosis, maple syrup urine disease, Wilson disease, and others, your body is not producing certain enzymes appropriately, which impacts your metabolism and weight. These metabolic conditions require oversight by a doctor.