If you go with the what bro-science says, you would be forgiven in thinking that your metabolism was a small generator, or car part, installed in your body which could turned up for down with the flick of a switch.
Often in conversation you will hear people describing their metabolism as slow, fast, sluggish or something that they got from their family. For all the talk about this mysterious thing, it is clear that what metabolism is about and what it does for us is a confusing subject.
For starters, your metabolism isn’t a physical thing- it’s the term used to describe the groups of chemical reactions in the body which we need to happen to keep us alive. The body is like a construction site which is under constant development and extension. All day we are breaking down and building up our body in a constant cycle- renewing or throwing out what’s broken or un-needed. I was checking out the metabolic process in our body mapped out and, well it kind of looks like the London tube map to me... but I might just have an over active imagination. However it does help you get a picture of what's going on if you look at it with the London tube map in mind.
To run these reactions from start to finish, or get to the next stop of train line, we use the vitamins and minerals (our micronutrients) from our food to tick these chemical reactions along, or 'catalyse' them. To get nutrients from our food, we need to break it down into it's smaller parts, then use them in the build process. huuuuuuh? Ok, you know the game mouse trap?
Well, it's kind of like that- to set off the next step, micronutrients are needed to help this happen.
So, when you look at the role micronutrients play in metabolism, you can see how important eating a wide variety of foods, which contain different types of micronutrients is! We eat not only for energy, which can be provided from protein, carbohydrates and fat (Macronutrients) but also to provide our body with the right materials to rebuild along with the tools to do it.
Fats, protein, carbs and alcohol are all broken down through different ‘metabolic pathways’. Your metabolic rate, or how efficient your body is at doing these processes, depends on lots of things including age, gender, hormones, nutrition, body composition and physical activity level.
Your BMR (basal metabolic rate) is how much energy you need to keep your body going each day. That is, if you were lying in a dark room, doing absolutely nothing, this is how much energy you need to keep your organs functioning and to maintain muscle mass. The amount of lean muscle you have is a big predictor of your BMR as muscle requires more energy to be maintained.
If you’re eating a balance and varied diet, healthy and physically active, chances are you will have a higher metabolic rate and be more ‘energetic’ than if you are sedentary and fuel your body bad food choices. Giving your body ample nutrients from an instagram worthy diet of wholefoods ensures it can do the work it needs to do, so it doesn’t need to slow down, or hold back! Too few calories means the body has to reduce efficiency to make sure our organs get all the energy needed to stay alive, and is unlikely to be able to portion energy to anything else, meaning you'll feel pretty lack-lustre. Enough food (from the right foods- i.e. nutrient DENSE foods) is key. We can get away with low-cal for a while, our body is a peace keeper who can buffer most dietary attacks for the short term, but long term, defeat is usually nigh, and so too is rebound-weigh gain.
You see you can be getting enough ENERGY (calories) but not enough NUTRIENTS from those calories. 2000 cal of Mars Bar is great, but you'll be missing out on all the nutrients you get from 2000 cal of fresh, unprocessed wholefoods.
As far as the relationship between good nutrition and metabolism goes, you are only as strong as your weakest link. It is important to see the food we eat as the fuel to keep our many metabolic processes happening efficiently and take a holistic view to our diet, rather than the reductionist, calorie counting approach where food is purely judged on calorie content alone. That approach is so 1990's, and although round glasses, floral skirts and crop tops are back in, unfortunately, calorie counting as a means to weight loss needs to stay back with the 90210 crew. #truthbomb
You can't bottle it, buy it in powdered form or sign up to an online forum to get it. The keys to boosting your metabolism are FREE- consistency, a holistic attitude to eating healthy foods, building a good amount of lean muscle and treating your body with regular rest, sleep and movement.
Ok, so I realise that in one explanation I have used the London Tube, a board game, referenced 90's fashion and TV and told you to eat like they do on instagram....But hopefully you have a better picture of how intricate the old metabolism thing is!
All in all, it is important to keep in mind that the body is a complex system, and if treated with care, can do some amazing things, but on the same hand, does a very good job at correcting itself when needed. There are no magic tricks or one size fits all solutions to health and fitness and reaching your physique goals. However get the basics right first, and the rest will fall into place.