Understanding Your Metabolism
Your Metabolism – The Basics
Metabolism is a general term that describes all the chemical changes occurring in living organisms. Your body has two main metabolic pathways catabolism and anabolism. Catabolism describes reactions that break down compounds into small units. Anabolism describes reactions that build complex molecules from smaller ones. The metabolic pathways are never completely inactive, it has ebs and flows that are based on internal and external events.
The body gets its energy by breaking down the macronutrients, carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It does this in three stages:
- Digestion, absorption, and transportation
- Breakdown of molecules into metabolites
- Transfer of energy to a form cells can use
To produce the energy that the body needs to power itself it must convert food to Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), this is the fundamental goal of your metabolic pathways. When ATP is broken down the cells use this energy to power biological work. Without it we would not survive. The body has different methods of creating the energy it needs depending on where it is getting it from (fats, carbohydrates, protein). The body uses different metabolic pathways to create and store this energy depending on its needs at the time.
The regulation of your metabolism is controlled by hormones. These hormones may favor either anabolic or catabolic functions. The hormones that control your body’s metabolism are:
For the purposes of weight loss we are going to focus on insulin and cortisol.
Insulin is secreted by the pancreas and is the leader of the anabolic team. Insulins role is to decrease the amount of glucose in the blood. This promotes carbohydrate use and storage as glycogen. When the body has enough glycogen stores it begins to convert excess to fat. People who are overweight may become insulin resistant, this means the body’s cells have become resistant to insulin and as a result blood sugar levels are elevated which increases risk for some chronic diseases and causes the body to release more insulin. Being that insulin is an anabolic hormone, when insulin levels are high your body will not be burning fat, meaning weight loss efforts will be undermined.
Cortisol is known as the stress hormone. It is released for a variety of reasons, stress, lack of sleep, after a hard workout and early in the morning for example. Cortisol can hamper weight loss efforts as it’s job is to promote breaking down amino acids to make glucose which raises blood sugar levels resulting in a release of insulin. So if you are constantly stressed out and don’t get much sleep your body is going to be breaking down protein in your body and turning it into glucose which will lead to a rise in blood sugar levels and a rise in insulin levels to compensate. This means any attempts at fat will be very difficult.
So understanding this, two ways that you can help yourself in any weight loss efforts are:
- Find ways to lessen your sugar intake and avoid sudden spikes in blood sugar levels. Avoid high sugar and processed foods, opt instead for whole foods (vegetables, proteins) or foods with less added sugar.
- Find ways to relax, whether that be light stretching at home, meditation, going for a peaceful walk, etc. and ensure you get a good quality sleep each night so that you wake up feeling refreshed. The less stressed you are the better it will be for achieving your goals.
Doing these two things will not only help in your weight loss efforts but will also help improve your overall health and enjoyment of life! Any exercise program is going to be limited in what it can achieve, in terms of weight loss, if those two things are not taken care of. Once you have made adjustments to diet, reduced stress and are getting adequate rest you will notice a difference. To learn more about nutrition and exercise and how to combine the two to create a powerful weight loss program contact us.