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The Science Behind Metabolism

Author: Morgan Tung

Editors: Shirley Chen and Angela Pan

Artist: Kyra Wang

What comes to mind when someone mentions the word “metabolism”? Muscle gain or losing weight? In this article, I will explain what metabolism is, how it relates to our daily lives, and how we can change it.

Metabolism is the process by which the body converts consumed food into energy, consisting of two main parts: anabolism and catabolism. Anabolism helps with cell growth, energy storage, and body tissue maintenance. At the same time, catabolism breaks down fat and carbohydrate molecules to release energy that fuels anabolism and enables muscle contraction. One’s metabolic rate can be measured in several ways. For precise records in a laboratory setting, individuals are asked to breathe into a calorimeter, which calculates their breath rate and uses the number to measure the amount of calories burned at rest. However, there is still a simpler way to calculate for the general public, using the Mifflin-St Jeor formula and one’s weight in kilograms, height in centimeters, and age. The result would be the amount of calories the body needs to survive. Therefore, normal people should consume more calories than that.

Our basal metabolic rate is often known as the key during weight loss and muscle gain for health purposes. The typical factors that affect it are body size, amount of lean muscle tissue and body fat, age, gender, genetic predisposition, hormonal and nervous control, and amount of physical activity. Increasing body size and amount of lean muscle tissue would require a greater metabolic rate to burn more calories. On the other hand, a diet with an extreme calorie deficit, an increase in fat, and aging can contribute to slower metabolism. This is because fat cells generally burn far fewer calories than other body tissues and organs. With the loss of muscle tissue and potential hormonal and neurological changes, the bodies of the elderly and people who go on crash diets or starve would decide to slow down their metabolism to conserve energy with a decreased need for calorie burn.

Having a sufficient metabolism provides several benefits to our body. A faster metabolism allows the body to eliminate toxins and unnecessary fats more quickly through bowel movement, respiration, and urination. A faster metabolism also helps people lose excess weight rapidly in a healthy manner, with better blood circulation to all body parts. This way, white blood cells are more likely to reach and defend against foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses. According to research articles updated in December 2022, there are some realistic ways to naturally boost one’s metabolism: Eating at regular times with enough calories of larger portions of lean proteins would increase energy burned per hour in one’s body; drinking water or green tea and engaging in strength training would help with hydration and muscle building; getting enough sleep and reducing stress can directly affect one’s hormone levels, specifically cortisol, as well as eating patterns.

Whether or not you are seeking a way to lose weight or build muscle for a better physique, everyone needs to maintain a sufficient metabolism healthily. Doing this allows for achieving great goals in our lives with good health.



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