You have probably heard a lot of people in good or bad shape saying stuff like “oh my metabolism is just slow” or “oh I just have a really good metabolism.” Most people refer to their metabolism when talking about physical health and fitness, but do you really know what metabolism is and what it does? Does it really affect your weight as much as most people claim?
Metabolism is the umbrella term for all the physical and chemical processes that occur in the body in order to convert or use energy. Breathing, digesting food, muscle exercise, brain functioning etc., all undergo metabolic processes that use or convert energy. In terms of weight gain and loss, your metabolism is what controls how fast you both gain and lose weight—it controls how fast or slow we burn calories. In that sense, a fast metabolism means you will have an easier time losing weight that you put on and a slow metabolism means it will take a longer time to burn your calories. The speed of your metabolism is dependent upon several factors:
- Age: Your metabolism is fastest in your teens and then slows over time, decreasing by about 5% each decade after you reach the age of 40.
- Sex: Men, in general, burn calories at a much faster rate than women. This is why they are recommended to have a higher daily caloric intake than women.
- Lean Body Mass Proportion: The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism will burn calories.
- Genetics: some people inherit a physical make-up that just burns calories slower than others. Thyroid problems can also lead to a slower or faster metabolism rate.
It is pretty straight forward: you metabolism controls how fast your body burns calories. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that your metabolism actually controls your weight. A slower or faster metabolism rate shouldn’t matter all too much if you are consistently engaging in healthy eating habits and exercise. Maintaining a weight that is healthy for your body cancels out whether you have a fast or slow metabolism (excepting when there is a severe problem or genetic issue). So when you hear people talking about their weight can be boiled down to their metabolism alone, unfortunately that just isn’t true. The truth is, you and your habits control your level of physical fitness, and your metabolism plays a supporting role in helping you with the process. It is important to understand what your metabolism is and how it works, but ultimately healthy food and activity choices will make a big difference in your ability to enjoy life and maintain the physical fitness level you want.