Understanding your metabolism

Can you define metabolism? Did you know your metabolism is unique and working hard to power your daily bodily functions?

When you start talking with someone about healthy eating the conversation may naturally include a discussion of metabolism. Though metabolism is a relatively familiar term it can be hard to accurately define and even harder to explain.

A person’s metabolism is not just one thing. It is an entire process by which your body stores and converts the foods you eat into usable energy necessary for keeping you alive and active. Learning more about your own metabolism and how your body burns energy can help guide healthier food decisions and daily activity. Each person’s metabolism helps determine the number of daily calories you should eat to maintain health and a healthy weight. Michigan State University Extension reminds readers there is an important correlation between total daily calories burned and daily calories needed.

A person’s metabolism is directly affected by three different factors. Most people might think that exercise or physical activity would impact your metabolism the most since these activities can burn 100-500+ calories, especially during a vigorous working out. Surprisingly, even when you combine calories burned during daily exercise with calories expended doing activities such as your job, school, housework and playing, all of these activities combined only account for about 20 percent of the total calories the body burns in one day. 

Being active is important to good health but your metabolism is mainly comprised of another very important factor and that is your basal metabolic rate. Every day your body’s basal metabolic rate utilizes 60-70 percent of the calories expended inside your body to power essential body functions. Interestingly, the average person typically doesn’t even think about what is occurring every minute of every day inside their body. Your metabolism is hard at work fueling vital systems and keeping you alive. Stop and think about each breath, heartbeat and thought requiring converted calories to power your amazing body.

The third factor that impacts metabolism is your body’s ability to digest and absorb the foods you eat through a process called dietary food thermogenesis. Approximately 10 percent of the daily calories burned, as part of metabolism, are due to metabolizing food and absorbing the nutrients for our body to use. Almost all of the nutrients we need for good health are obtained through the food we eat therefore it is imperative to eat a variety of foods to ensure your body gets the essential nutrients, vitamins and mineral it needs to function effectively. 

Your metabolism plays an important role in how your body works and functions. Understand as well that your metabolism will increase or decrease based on your age, gender, body size, activity level and overall health. Speak with your health care provider to further understand your unique metabolic patterns. It is very important to accept the truth that consuming extra calories does not mean your metabolism will burn those extra calories; in fact eating extra calories beyond what your natural metabolism can process will result in weight gain as those extra calories are stored.   

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