4.3: What is metabolism?

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This is the dictionary definition of the word metabolism (from Dictionary.com):
“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.

The Ellen Show

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Martina Navratilova recently appeared on the Ellen show promoting her new book, “Shape Yourself”. Her and I share one secret to weight control – moderation. We also share a love of chocolate and have identical approaches to enjoying it without wrecking our waistlines. I eat a few Hershey’s dark chocolate kisses each day. Since I know I’ll enjoy more chocolate the next day, I don’t feel compelled to eat a lot at one time. In fact, by eating it every day, it’s even lost some appeal.

I don’t believe in giving up the foods you like best to control your weight. That leads to binging and negative feelings about your diet, neither of which are helpful. Find ways to enjoy your favorite foods in moderation and often. You’re not trying to become a nun. You’re just trying to lose some weight.

Ellen’s personal trainer, who is a Biggest Loser trainer, was also on her show recently. He finds that people have a hard time getting back on their exercise routine after falling off. I agree. His advice: Remember how you felt after the exercise, not before it. Good advice. I never noticed it before, but I do that. A few nights ago, I was dragging and not wanting to jog. But I remembered that in the past when I felt the same way, a jog made feel a lot better. I was right.

The Body Religion

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I’m thankful for having the chance to live this life through my body and my mind. It seems proper to do my best to take care of both. I don’t worship my body, but I do respect it. It’s a wonderful gift. It’s the least I can do.

More evidence supporting my moderation advice…

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If you haven’t figured out yet, I like to bike. One of my favorite cycling websites is PezCyclingNews.com. This piece on Pez suggests that over exertion in exercise can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to contracting minor ailments like a cold.

Remember that as you start your New Year exercise routines and be sure to read my “forget about no pain, no gain” from last year.

If you’re out of shape and you start an exercise routine for the New Year, be careful no to over exert yourself. Catching a cold will then be your first excuse to skip workouts. Instead of approaching your exercise program like you have two months to get ready for the Olympics, start slow and strive for consistency. Patience. Patience. Patience. You have the rest of your life. Consistency is MUCH, MUCH more important that intensity. If you are consistent then you will eventually get in shape.

Consistency and moderate intensity also burns more calories than a high intensity regimen punctuated with lost workouts due to illness.