Your Metabolism: Is it revving up or slowing down?

April showers are going to bring beautiful May flowers and our bodies are wanting to come out of hibernation.  In addition, daylight hours are increasing, which means more activity for longer periods of time.  How will your body or more specifically, your metabolism, react? Are you watching every calorie in and every calorie burned to reach your goal weight?  Or have you given up on the mind numbing math because no matter what you calculate, nothing changes on the scale?

Out metabolisms are a very controversial topic!  Blame has been widely placed on genetics, disease and just plan bad luck.  However, our bodies are amazing machines and given the right tools and time it will begin to react the way we want it too.  Of course, the right tools do not mean fad diets or quick fixes, instead these are every day, life long decisions you are allowed to make.

First up – what is metabolism?  Technically – it’s the set of chemical reactions that happen in living organisms to maintain life.  Plain English – it’s the rate at which your body burns its way through calories just to keep itself alive – to keep your heart beating, your lungs breathing, your blood pumping, and your mind fantasizing about the Caribbean while mind numbingly moving through your daily grind.  Your body is burning calories ALL the time – every minute of every single day and every second you sleep.

There are three main types of calorie burn to consider.  Once you understand how they work, you will have the ability to focus in on the habits that will increase your chances of reaching that beautiful body goal at the end of the rainbow.

  1. Thermic effect of eating: Each day you will burn between 10 to 30 percent of your calories just by eating!  That’s great – right?!  You get to satisfy your food cravings and burn calories just by the simple act of digestion.  Here comes the BUT… not all foods/calories are created equal.  Your body will burn about 25 calories for every 100 calories of protein consumed, while only 10 to 15 calories are burned for every 100 calories of carbohydrates and fats.  Real Health Solution:  Be sure to include a good carb, good protein and good fat, as well as fiber, in to every meal or snack you consume.  The combination will keep you full longer because your tummy has to think harder to separate all the wonderful nutrients you just fed it.
  2. Exercise and movement: An additional 10 to 15 percent of daily calories burned come from moving your muscles, whether you’re pumping iron, running to catch the bus or just twiddling your thumbs.  Real Health Solution:  Did your teachers ever tell you to stop fidgeting?  Go ahead and fidget away – you have my permission.  Get up and walk the room when you’re on the phone, bounce that knee and just plan move around!
  3. Basal metabolism: This is the big kahuna!  The major contributor to our every day caloric burn (or lack there of).  Basal = resting and refers to the calories you burn while doing nothing at all.  Sleeping, watching TV or sitting through the mind numbing corporate meetings each day – you are still burning calories.  Every minute your body is constantly in motion breathing, pumping blood and dividing cells; because your body is constantly in motion, you burn 60 to 70 percent of your daily calories doing nothing!  Real Health Solution:  Have more muscle!  Your body burns up to 50 calories per day per pound of muscle!  That means the more muscle you have, the more your body will burn doing …. nothing!

When you add up the percentages, you will clearly see that the majority of calories are burned by physiological functions that you don’t even think about – the thermic effect of eating and your basal metabolism.  Let me make something very clear – it is absolutely necessary that you exercise and more specifically, that you weight train.  It is absolutely necessary for overall health (not just your metabolism) that you have lots of lean, strong muscle.  I can already hear some of you saying, “but, I don’t want to bulk up.”  The fact is: it’s nearly impossible for most people to bulk up, it’s not in your genetics.  With that said – most people have a certain amount of visceral fat (think about the fat that is woven through the steak you bought at the grocery store).  When you start lifting weight, your muscles will naturally get bigger because the fat still remains… once the fat disappears, your muscles will be long, lean and beautiful!  However, I want you to forget about the calories you burn while pumping iron or mind-numbingly climbing on that piece of cardio equipment for 30 to 40 minutes (workouts longer then that may cause you to lose muscle) and concentrate on the calories you are burning the other 23 1/2 hours in your day.

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