How many times have you heard someone say “I can eat whatever I want I have a fast metabolism” or “no matter what I do I can never lose weight my metabolism is very slow”? What exactly is Metabolism? Metabolism is the chemical reaction that takes place within the cell. Thousands of these reactions are occurring constantly throughout our bodies. It is the conversion of caloric intake to energy. It is responsible for the rate in which digested food is transported and distributed throughout the body. Heredity does play a part in our metabolism to a certain degree but that does not mean that other factors also contribute greatly to the speed in which our particular metabolism is operating. Food is of course one of the more obvious. Eating an unbalanced diet that is either too high in protein, fat or carbohydrates can greatly effect our metabolism. Protein can increase our metabolism but ingesting too much can over tax our liver and kidneys. Carbohydrates can provide energy but having too much can slow us down and eventually be stored as fat. A tremendous emphasis has been placed on exercise and its effect on metabolism. Exercise does speed up blood flow throughout the body which in turn speeds up digestion in turn speeding up metabolism. Not only is our rate of metabolism increased during intense exercise but it is proven to increase metabolic rate even while we are resting for up to 11 hours after. But what about stress and it’s relation to metabolism. When we place our bodies constantly in an environment that is other than peaceful whether it be events or relationships, we cause our system to compensate for this. We stress our adrenal glands and force them to produce an extreme amount of the hormone cortisol. This is a major factor in retaining unwanted weight. Cortisol when called upon releases more sugar into the bloodstream as glucose helping us think and move quickly at the same time diverting attention from our immune and digestive systems. Age has a lot to do with our metabolic rate. As we age our metabolism naturally slows. When we are young we call upon our bodies to grow and feed our muscles, tissues and bones. The food we are consuming is used at a faster pace. When we are older unless we adjust our caloric intake and maintain an active lifestyle our metabolism will slow down considerably. Dieting and fasting have some of the most negative effects on metabolism. Dieting calls upon our evolution and it’s defense against starvation. It attempts to make the body super efficient and thereby get the most from it’s caloric intake. It will in turn cling to fat and deplete muscle tissue to provide energy. Fasting is just dieting taken to the extreme. The amount of muscle mass a person contains can play an important role in metabolic rate. Muscle burns calories faster. This is why younger men can burn more calories than older men and why women may have a harder time then men at losing weight. As I mentioned the release of hormones can have a dramatic effect on metabolism. This is especially true as women mature. Menopause can cause great disruption on a women’s metabolic rate making it harder but not impossible to maintain a healthy body weight. Alcohol can completely disrupt metabolism. Since alcohol contains only empty calories and has no nutritional value, the body is unable to store and make use of it. It therefore must be metabolized instantly and can result in malnutrition due to the amount of energy used to process it. It becomes a priority in the body and will disregard other more important processes. Hindering absorption of important minerals, preventing a healthy blood sugar level and making the body unable to metabolize sugars and fats properly are just a few disadvantages of over consumption. Thyroid function regulates our growth and development through our rate of metabolism. It is important that we be aware of the health of this gland that sits at the base of the neck. An overactive or under active thyroid can have a dramatic effect on our weight and can always be determined by a proper blood test. Smoking is by far the most harmful outside influence we can inflict on our bodies. It increases metabolism at an alarming rate causing our hearts to beat 10 to 20 times faster. It increases energy expenditure as well as suppressing appetite while creating great deficiencies in the body. Being aware of all that can effect our metabolism and how at different stages in our lives our metabolism is subject to change, can help us become more in tune with our bodies and enable us to be more in control of keeping ourselves in good health.