Your body’s metabolism can be defined as the rate at which you burn off extra fat or the amount of energy your body burns. That sounds rather clinical, but metabolism’s an extremely important part of your being. Diana Schwarzbein, M.D., author of The Schwarzbein Principle: The Truth About Losing Weight, says, “Metabolism is the combined effects of all the varied biochemical processes that continually occur in your body on a cellular level."
These biochemical processes Schwarzbein alludes to enable every part of your body to function. In fact, they are the reason why you can think, digest food, move and breathe. Some of the biochemical processes allow for bone and tissue regeneration, hormone production, heart pumping, talking and even how your internal organs function.
Did you know that you burn most of your calories unknowingly through what happens autonomically, such as heart, brain and liver function? It’s true. In fact, only 15% to 30% of your calories get burned off through intentional physical activity like walking.
But don’t give up on intentional exercising as a way to boost your metabolism. Any movement can speed up metabolism—even if it’s only fidgeting. Likewise, every increase in body temperature of one degree can boost your metabolism by 14%.
On the flipside, sleeping slows your metabolic rate by 10%--and watch out if you go without food for more than 12 hours. It causes your metabolic rate to go down by a whopping 40%.
That’s why calorie-deprivation diets can backfire quickly. Your metabolism winds down to nearly nothing and when you start eating regularly again, your metabolism can’t keep up. What happens when you restrict food intake too much is that the number of calories consumed drop below your resting metabolic rate, which is the basic amount of energy or calories needed to run your metabolism for the day.
Limited food intake can cause your body to use up your muscles and bone mass more than it does fat. In essence, you lose more weight from muscle and bone mass depletion than you do from burning fat as energy. Take healthy proteins and fats, for example. They’re necessary for metabolic processes and for the continual rebuilding of the body. When you cut back on proteins and fats, your body is forced to take these materials from bones and muscles to maintain the rebuilding process, which is a metabolic disaster in the making.
To add to the problem, when you lose weight, only about half of what is lost is fat. The rest is valuable, metabolically active muscle. By the way, muscle cells can burn up to 70 times more calories than fat cells. That’s why it’s important to maintain and build lean muscle through regular exercise. Speaking of muscle… adding muscle burns fat because muscle needs energy to survive. A pound of muscle uses between 75 and 150 calories a day, but a pound of fat needs only 3 calories a day.
Those calorie-deprived diets are double-edged swords, too. Not only does it cost you when you lose weight (muscle and bone loss), but it also costs you when weight is regained. You can count on most of the weight you regain to show up as fat. And that sure doesn’t help with your metabolism.
Maneuvering your metabolism can take some intentionality, so make sure you’re doing all you can to keep your metabolic rate revved up!