Most people have heard of the process of metabolism, but they may not understand exactly what it is and how it may relate to weight. Through the process of metabolism, calories are converted into energy, which the body uses to function properly. When a person takes in more calories than are needed or used, the excess calories are converted to fat, and weight gain occurs. How fast the body uses or burns those calories is based on a person’s individual metabolic rate. The process of metabolism is the same for everyone, but the speed or rate a person converts food to energy varies.
To simplify how it works, metabolism is an involuntary process, which takes place in the cells of the body to convert food into energy. A certain amount of calories are needed just to sustain the vital functions in the body, such as maintaining proper hormone levels, breathing and repairing cells. That basic level of energy needed is referred to as basal metabolic rate. Different factors affect how fast a person’s basal metabolic rate will be. Some factors can be changed, while others are uncontrollable.
There are two phases or parts of metabolism, including anabolism and catabolism. During anabolism, the body takes smaller, less complex molecules and converts them into larger molecules. During anabolism, energy is stored in cells for use in the future. During catabolism, fats, proteins and carbohydrates are broken down and used for energy immediately.
There are several factors that can affect metabolism. Some are uncontrollable, while others can be controlled. Certain factors that cannot be controlled include:
Additional factors that affect metabolism, but are controllable include the following:
Weight and metabolism are directly connected in a few ways. When metabolism is slower, the body needs fewer calories to sustain itself. Therefore, if there is no decrease in food intake as the body’s metabolism begins to slow-down, weight gain will occur. Inversely, if the metabolism becomes faster, but there is no change in food intake, or food intake decreases, a person will lose weight. (If you’re interested in making your metabolism faster, read 10 Easy Tips On How To Kick-Start Your Metabolism.)
It is also important to remember that the rate at which a person’s body converts the calories in food into energy varies individually, and not everyone has the same calorie needs. In addition, an individual’s metabolic rate can change over time.
Hormones, which are produced through the endocrine system, play a large role in the regulation of metabolism. In particular, the thyroid gland produces hormones, which affect the rate in which metabolism takes place. There are certain disorders of the thyroid gland which affect and lead to unintentional weight gain or loss. Two of the most common disorders are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when excess thyroid hormones are released into the body, due to an overactive thyroid gland. These hormones cause metabolism to speed up, which may lead to weight loss. Hypothyroidism is the opposite condition and develops when the thyroid gland in inactive. Too few hormones are released into the body and metabolism slows down, which can result in weight gain.
Although some factors, which contribute to metabolism, can not be controlled, there are a few things which can be done to increase metabolism and possibly increase a person’s ability to lose weight.
While it is clear a person’s metabolic rate may play a role in weight management, it is not the only factor that should be looked at, according to The Mayo Clinic. Eating unhealthy, fatty foods, overeating and living a sedentary lifestyle all contribute to weight gain and are usually more to blame than a slow metabolism. Still, it’s important to understand the role metabolism can play in weight management. With proper knowledge, certain changes can be made to increase metabolism, which can help in reaching weight loss goals.