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What is metabolism?

Metabolism describes the ongoing chemical reactions in the body, such as the breakdown of food and its transformation into energy. This is controlled by hormones, which secrete enzymes to achieve this task.  These chemical messengers, secreted by the glands of the endocrine and the nervous system, control your body's metabolism. Your metabolism can be upset by a variety of events, including genetic disorders and hormonal problems.

Metabolic typing is based on the belief that each person has a unique metabolism, and that diets should be tailored to reflect these differences. Balancing your body chemistry can result in a significant increase in energy production. One can therefore recommend a particular diet to bring the body into balance and harmony.

The body has three main sources of energy

Carbohydrates are sugar compounds found in foods such as bread, cereal, potatoes, and fruits.  These are broken down into glucose after digestion and stored in the liver and muscles.

Lipids are fats (such as cholesterol) stored as body fat, which are broken down into fatty acids for energy.

Proteins comprise nearly three quarters of all solid material in the body, and are therefore crucial structural components. They are made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Protein is present in the diet in foods such as meat, eggs, nuts and dairy products.

Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of energy burned at rest and contributes 50-80 per cent of energy used by the body.

A number of interdependent factors affect your BMR, including:

  • Body size - larger people have a larger BMR
  • Age - metabolism slows with age, due to a loss in muscle tissue but also due to hormonal changes
  • Youth - infants and children have a higher energy demand per unit of body weight due to the demands of growth
  • Gender - men tend to have faster metabolisms than women, as they are generally larger with less body fat
  • Genetics - your metabolic rate may be partly decided by your genetic composition
  • Muscle tissue – more muscle tissue will burn more energy
  • Body fat - fat cells burns less energy than muscle tissue
  • Hormones - hormonal imbalances can influence how quickly or slowly the body burns energy
  • Illness - BMR will increase because the body has to work harder to fight the infection
  • Exercise - exercise increases muscle mass and the body gets used to burning energy at a faster rate
  • Drugs - caffeine or nicotine can increase the BMR

Tips for boosting your metabolism

You might be trying to loose weight, trying to counter the effects of ageing on your metabolism or simply trying to feel better.  Here are some tips which will help you optimize your metabolism:

Exercise – this will help you boost your metabolism by ensuring you burn fat and build muscle tissue. This may be weight training, jogging, walking, swimming or cycling - at least three times a week.

Diet – make sure you are getting enough calories in your diet, otherwise you may be inadvertently slowing your metabolism.  Smaller, regular meals work best for your metabolism, with breakfast especially crucial. Eliminating or minimizing sugar intake from your diet will prevent you converting and storing this as fat.  Low glycemic foods, such as whole grain cereals, which are broken down gradually, will help maintain an even blood-sugar level too. Limit your intake of caffeine and stay well hydrated with plenty of water intake.

Stress – avoid or minimise stress as it causes weight gain, by activating the release of cortisol, a steroid that slows metabolism.

Sleep – get at least 7-8 hours sleep a night, so your body has a chance to recuperate.

If you are interested in boosting your metabolism see a personal trainer or dietitian soon!


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