Mighty, Mighty Metabolism

Alex Woodrick, M.S.
Weight Management Coach
Exercise Specialist
Meridian Fitness & Wellness
27 South Cooks Bridge Road, Jackson

When it comes to traditional weight-loss methods, there are many variables to consider. Some, such as genetics, we are powerless over. Others, like diet and exercise, are pivotal - and completely under our control.

So where does metabolism fall on that spectrum?

Alexandra Woodrick, M.S., Weight Management Coach and Clinical Exercise Specialist, Meridian Fitness & Wellness at Jackson, recently took time to help explain the connection between losing weight and our body's metabolism.

How does metabolism work, and what function does it serve?
Simply put, metabolism is the process by which our bodies convert the food and liquids we ingest into energy, which our organs and bodily processes need to function, Woodrick says. When we take in more calories than our bodies can put to use, the excess energy gets stored as fat.

Is it possible to be overweight because of a slow metabolism?
Although it is possible to have a slow metabolism, it is uncommon and in most cases not the main cause of being overweight — which is primarily a result of a combination of genetics, diet, physical activity, and other factors, says Woodrick.

Even while at rest, your body uses energy for breathing, blood circulation, and cell repair. The calories used for these basic functions it is referred to as your basal metabolic rate, she adds.

Factors that determine basal metabolic rate include:
•    Your body size and composition — if you weigh more or have more muscle mass, you will burn more calories, even at rest. So people who weigh more are more likely to have a faster metabolic rate — not a slower one — because a portion of excess weight is muscle tissue.
•    Your sex — if you're a man, you probably have less body fat and more muscle mass than does a woman of the same age, so you burn more calories.
•    Your age — as you get older, your muscle mass decreases, which slows down the rate at which you burn calories.

How can people increase their metabolism?
Get moving! Exercise is a great way to burn more calories and rev up the metabolism.  Lean muscle mass can increase energy expenditure, so incorporating resistance training into workout routines will help to burn more calories, says Woodrick. An active lifestyle can help keep weight gain at bay and will make an individual feel more energized when at rest instead of feeling sluggish and tired.

Eating nutrient-dense food not only provides our bodies with necessary macro-nutrients, vitamins and minerals, it also helps to mitigate predispositions for diseases like metabolic disease and heart disease, she adds.

How important is metabolism for weight loss?
Understanding how metabolism works is a great way to determine what actions one can take to reach and maintain his or her goal weight. There are so many factors which affect metabolism and how efficiently we expend energy or burn calories. The concept of energy in, energy out is how we can efficiently lose weight, Woodrick says.

The amount of calories burned should be more than the amount of calories consumed. Keep in mind the majority of the calories we burn comes from the basal or resting metabolism. The last 15-30% of calories are burned through physical activity, she adds. 

What are the best exercises for someone looking to lose weight, and how should someone begin an exercise program?

Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise and resistance training are terrific ways to get the heart rate elevated and have fun at the same time, said Woodrick. Resistance training builds the lean muscle mass, which increases the metabolic rate, resulting in more energy expenditure thus leading to weight-loss.  

What is your advice for helping people stay on track with their weight loss program?

Tracking your calorie intake and analyzing your eating habits by keeping a food and activity journal can be helpful in getting and keeping you on track, she says. Also, tracking your physical activity helps to monitor how many calories you have burned in comparison with the amount of calories that you have taken in throughout the day or week.  

Probably the biggest issue that individuals have with following a weight-loss program is not having someone there to hold them accountable for their behaviors.

According to Woodrick, accountability is just one of the many benefits that Meridian’s Lose for Life program provides for individuals with a weight-loss goal and also for those who would like to learn how to eat properly and change their behaviors and lifestyle. The program is based on eating real food, having realistic goals and expectations, and living a happier, healthier, more fulfilling life.

Learn more about Meridian’s Lose for Life program here.