Metabolism and burning calories

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

kid not eating
Many individuals believe that starving themselves is the best way to lose weight, when actually, it does more harm than good!

When I was really young, I could eat piles of food and not gain an ounce of weight! As I got a bit older, however, I got a little… pudgy around the edges. According to my doctor, it’s perfectly normal to experience this because our “metabolism” slows down as we grow. You know, I’ve heard this word thrown around before, but what is it exactly?

Phrased simply, metabolism is a collection of chemical processes in our bodies that either store energy – constructive metabolism – or generate energy – catabolic metabolism – from food! Long after we finish the last bite of food on our dinner plates, our bodies work hard to chop up the meal into tiny bits and pieces. These broken down food particles are then used to build up, repair, or fuel numerous other processes. Any leftover energy is usually stored as fat on the body! This process isn’t just found in humans, either. All living organisms – such as plants, animals, and bacteria – have a metabolism!

As far as people, though, does everyone have the same metabolism? Nope! In fact, there’s several factors that can influence our metabolic rate – the speed at which we burn calories – like age, genes, and lifestyle. When we are really young, our bodies are stretching so fast, we have to buy new shoes practically every year! It takes a lot of food to keep up with our growing energy demands, so it’s not unusual to see kids devour entire refrigerator contents as a mere snack! As we get older, our bodies stop growing and need less energy to keep up with its functions.

That’s not to say older individuals can’t have fast metabolisms. People who lead an active lifestyle – young or old – are constantly burning energy, and their metabolisms speed up! By the same token, not all individuals are born with the same base speed. That’s why some folks can just sit their lazy bottoms on the couch all day and not gain so much as a single pound. Others balloon right after a single trip to a buffet!

When people are actually trying to shed extra pounds, they mistakenly assume it’s best to eat as few calories as possible and let their bodies use stored fat as energy. However, not only is this a dangerous approach, it’s also counterproductive! Studies have shown that consuming less than 1,200 calories a day – far fewer than the recommended 2,000 – actually slows down metabolism, which, in turn, makes it harder to burn fat! Heck, even too much time between meals can slow it down, which is why experts recommend eating five small portions of food throughout the day.

Regardless of whether you have a fast or slow metabolism, are big-boned or slim, it’s important to eat the right foods in order to nourish your body properly. Gobble up plenty of leafy green veggies and colorful fruits, heaps of healthy proteins, and complex carbohydrates. Don’t forget to mix in some  vitamins, minerals, and water, too!

Image of kid refusing food courtesy of Michael and DeEtta Cobra on Flickr.