What exactly is metabolism?

Metabolism simply put is the sum total of all chemical processes that occur in your body on a daily basis. Every one of these processes require energy to one degree or another and when you add all those energy demands up that is your daily caloric need or your metabolic rate.

When we exercise we increase our metabolic rate by increasing our demand. Think of metabolism as a checking account; when you eat you put money into the account but as the day goes on the account just keeps leaking money based on every little thing you do and when you do big things like exercise the money comes out way faster. If you have more money going out then coming in you lose weight. If you have more money coming in then going out you gain weight.

Bob Greene
Bob Greene on behalf of The Best Life
You’ve most likely heard a lot about metabolism in relation to weight loss. Simply put, metabolism – or to be more precise “metabolic rate” - is the rate at which your body burns calories. The rate varies depending on what you're doing. For instance, “basal metabolic rate” is when you’re burning the least amount of calories; that’s when you’re sleeping and it has been at least 10 hours since your last meal (digestion increases metabolic rate because it takes energy to digest food). Basal metabolic rate reflects the amount of calories needed to maintain your body’s basic functions, such as keeping your heart beating, your lungs pumping, your temperature steady, and your gastrointestinal tract moving. When you exercise, however, your metabolic rate goes up and you burn more calories per minute because you're working hard - your heart is pumping blood to all of your body, your muscles are contracting, and your breathing is rapid. How much your metabolic rate increases when you work out is directly related to your exercise intensity. The longer and harder you work out, the higher your metabolic rate, and thus, the more calories you burn. Plus, you get a little metabolic rate hike for an hour or so after working out.

Exercise can also increase basal metabolic rate - that’s the real weight loss payoff.  Working out - especially weight training - builds muscle, and muscle requires calories to maintain, even at rest. So, the more muscle you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate, which means you’ll burn more calories than a less active person, even while sleeping.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.