Monday, January 29, 2007

4.3: What is metabolism?

This is the dictionary definition of the word metabolism (from
"the sum of the physical and chemical processes in an organism by which its material substance is produced, maintained, and destroyed, and by which energy is made available."

I like to think of it as life, because without metabolism we wouldn't be alive. Our bodies are wonderful automated machines. We put material in and our bodies break it down to repair cells and supply energy. We're just a bundle of billions and billions of simultaneous chemical reactions being guided by little biological Oompah-Loompahs. And, for the most part we're completely unaware of it. Good times.

Sitting around watching the tube our bodies burn about the same amount of energy as a 65 to 100 watt lightbulb. When we're exercising vigorously, we burn about the same amount of energy as a computer - approximately 150 - 250 watts on top of the 65-100 watts.

We're burning calories 24/7. On a typical day I burn 1,500 - 1,700 calorieswhile I'm going about my business. That's called my basal metabolic rate. Exercise typically adds another 300 - 400 calories.

Weight is simple math. If I consistently eat more calories than I burn, I'll gain weight. To control my weight I need to balance the 1,500 - 2,200 calories I burn each day with the calories going in my mouth.

Metabolism can be tricky. Your body likes new calories coming down the hatch every 3 - 5 hours while you're awake. If you do this, your metabolism is happy and stays fired up. Regularly go longer than this and you risk two things that can work against your weight goals. First, your metabolism will slow down in order to conserve the energy expenditure to help you make it through those long periods without food. Second, your body will be more likely to store fat because it's putting some fuel in the tank to draw upon when you skipping meals.

Going so long without eating is a common mistake. I hear of people skipping breakfast or not eating after 7 pm. I hear people say they're going to skip lunch so they can eat more at dinner. Simple advice - Don't do it.

I had such a weakness in my routine. I ate lunch and usually didn't eat anyting until dinner. Needless to say, I was usually famished. Simply eating a 100 - 200 calorie snack at 4:30 stoked my metabolism and kept me satiated until dinner.

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