The collection of vital body processes commonly referred to as metabolism is unquestionably complex. Though one could go on for days discussing this topic, in the interest of getting across some key points that you’re likely to remember, we strived to keep this read nice and concise. And so, with that little pre-ample out of the way, let’s get to the point…
First off, metabolism (or basil metabolism) has been often dumbed down to simply calories burned at rest. However, a truer, more accurate definition of metabolism is this:
“Every chemical process that keeps your body alive and thriving”
With this comprehensive definition in mind, it may help to think of metabolism as an umbrella term for every metabolic process our body performs, including (but certainly not limited to): cell turnover, catabolism and anabolism (or energy production and energy metabolism respectively), producing hormones and maintaining their balance, making neurotransmitters and other neurochemicals that function in the brain, digestive motility and the making of digestive enzymes, and supporting sleep cycles and rhythms. Needless to say, metabolism is far more than simply “calories burned at rest”.
Of note, these metabolic pathways can only do their job with required micro and macronutrients – vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, glucose, amino acids, fatty acids, etc. While metabolic output can be measured through calories, metabolism is fed with nutrients, not calories. If done inappropriately, calorie restriction may mean inadequate nutrient intake which trickles down into a lower metabolic output. This is far from ideal for health, happiness, and long-term progress.
Additionally, you may have heard that our body is wired for survival – this means that it readily adapts to calorie restriction; effectively slowing the rate at which we use energy until food is in an appropriate supply again. The equation is further complicated because when you eat at a caloric deficit for a period of time changes in your body happen such as hormone down-regulation including leptin (the satiety hormone) and as you lose weight your body starts to expend less calories for the same amount of activity. The good news is that metabolism is highly flexible and adaptable – it can absolutely be restored with adequate energy and nutrient intake.
Through mindful macronutrient and calorie adjustments over time, you can maintain your metabolic potential to keep you progressing towards your goal. The key really is in the execution, as an ill-formed approach to weight loss, muscle gain, or metabolism improvement has the potential to wreak havoc on your long term progress and success, not to mention your health and feelings of wellbeing.
In summary, to lose fat we need to be in a calorie deficit (burn more calories than we consume) however, our bodies are continuously working to maintain homeostasis. In other words, over time our metabolism will adapt to the point where we may not be able to continue to see results. As you may have suspected, this is why when people go on a diet they see results for the first few weeks, but dieting through calorie restriction becomes less effective their body works towards homeostasis. That is if they can stay strict with whatever diet they choose to follow.
The point being that your body will only stay in a calorie deficit for a certain period of time. If you’re at a point where you cannot safely lower your caloric intake and/or increase your workout volume, then you need to focus on improving your metabolic potential in order to continue to make progress. In short, this involves increasing your calories and often backing off your cardio volume. However, this needs to be done strategically to promote the desired results.
We kept this blog brief, as the topic of metabolism is highly scientific and complex. We feel a key component for you to understand – and what we want you to take away from this read – is that metabolism is on our side. It is functioning as best it can to keep you alive and well. However, it may require some coaxing to best assist you in reaching your body transformation goals. Luckily, this is what we live for at MacroNutrition – and we’d love to be a part of your success this year.
If you’re a new or past client, for more information on this hot topic, give our article Energy Balance Explained a read (found in the resource section of the Client Portal).