Your metabolism is super freakin’ awesome, it provides you with the energy you need to function. You wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning, go for your afternoon run, or sit and watch TV without it. Basically, when you eat food, your body converts the calories in that food into energy.
But sometimes, it might seem like your metabolism isn’t working in your favor. Whether you’re gaining weight, losing weight, or have a lack of energy while working out, you may not be fueling your body correctly. This could mean you’re eating too much, too little, or not the right kinds of foods.
As a professional athlete, understanding the root of problems was always the priority for me so that I could treat the cause, not the symptom. Understanding how your metabolism works may help you better understand if you can improve your eating habits.
Your Metabolism is a Balancing Act
As you can see from the infographic above, your metabolism is constantly doing a balancing act between:
- Breaking compounds down – to supply energy so you can breathe, your heart can beat, you can walk and run, and so your body can build compounds back up
- Building compounds back up – this means building and repairing cells, building up and storing energy in tissues: muscle, fat, etc. so that you would have energy to use for vital functionality if you were ever unable to eat
The Two Parts of Metabolism
- Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) – aka: the energy for the vital life functions. It’s the number of calories you’d burn if you just sat on your ass all day long (from things like breathing, circulating blood, adjusting hormone levels, etc.)
- Active Metabolic Rate (AMR) – aka: the daily energy output. It’s the number of calories you burn from things like walking, running, standing, cooking dinner, etc.
BMR + AMR = Calories Required to Replenish Your Energy Output
So How Much Food Should I Eat?
Let’s take me for example. If my goal was to stay at the same weight I’m at now, but make sure I’m fueling myself correctly (meaning not over eating, but not under eating either), this is how much food I’d have to eat in a day based on my age (28), height (5’9”), weight (139lbs) and gender.
- My BMR = 1,445 calories/day
- My AMR = 639 calories/day (based on medium activity level)
- BMR + AMR = 2,084 calories/day*
*I did a rough estimate of BMR & AMR so it’s not 100% accurate. But for the sake of the example, just humor me.
So basically, if I ate more than this I would have “excess energy” that my body would then use to repair my cells, build up muscle and other tissue, or store for later use. If I ate less than this, it would start burning stored energy (fat, muscle tissue) so that I could function.
If my goal is to sustain myself to be able to get through my daily workouts and life without the mid-afternoon crash, I would probably want to look at getting in an extra snack.
4 Things that Affect your Metabolism
These are some things that can contribute to a faster metabolism and may therefore factor into lifestyle decisions:
- Muscle Mass – Muscle tissue breaks down old protein and constructs new protein in your muscles. This takes energy to do, therefore it increases your metabolism. Typically the leaner you are, the faster your metabolism.
- Protein Intake – it takes more energy to digest than carbohydrates or fats and therefore, can increase your metabolism. Plus, it helps build muscle!
- Fiber Intake – like protein, fibrous foods take longer to break down and therefore, cause your body to work harder. Things like whole grain oats, bran cereals, beans, fruits and vegetables are all great sources of fiber.
- Exercise – obviously the more you move, the more calories you’re going to burn.
Your Current Lifestyle
So if you’re unhappy with your current weight, don’t have enough energy to get through your workouts, or always get an afternoon crash, take a look at your current diet and daily lifestyle. Are you eating too little or too much food? What is your activity level? Are you providing yourself with the right kind of fuel?
And if this is all just way over your head and you need something simple, I typically follow this rule: Eat when you’re really, truly hungry, and stop when you’re full.