Metabolism: How Does It Work?

Extending Lives

By Ross Macdonald

Eating five times a day controls your metabolism and makes it work for you. It’s easy to spend three, four, even five hours a week in the gym or at some other rigorous exercise. It is very hard to have the perseverance, the mind set, to pursue a “diet” which will keep the weight off.

Your thyroid gland, located in your neck, regulates metabolism, which is controlled by three factors. The thermal effect of feeding accounts for 5 to 10 percent of the calories you burn. This is the energy your body needs to digest the half-liter (or more) of ice cream you were not supposed to have last night.

The thermal effect of activity makes up 20-30 percent of the calories burned daily. This refers to the number of calories you burn in physical activities during the day. Finally, and most important, is your resting metabolic rate (RMR). This is the number of calories it takes to maintain the body’s basic functions and uses 60-70 percent of the total calories you expend in a day.

It is when this RMR declines that the battle of the bulge begins and RMR decreases, as we grow older. Often this happens because we grow more sedentary. A low RMR, however, can also be caused by diet, especially if it is too low in calories. The more calories you cut when you start to diet the harder it will be to lose weight.

As we cut mega calories from our food intake, in the mistaken belief this will reduce fat, the opposite happens; the metabolism, believing it will starve, burns fewer calories and stores fat. One pound of muscle can burn 50 to 60 calories a day, compared with less than 10 calories for one pound of fat. So if your strict diet causes you to lose five pounds of muscle and you have decreased your calorie intake by 500 per day your net result is a calorie reduction of 200 calories because the five pounds of muscle you lost no longer burns 300 calories. All you are doing is losing lean muscle.

Eating five times a day is inconvenient. People tend to underestimate their calorie consumption by 400 to 500 calories per day. Eating large meals “dumps” a lot of insulin, glucose, and fat into the blood all at once. The body cannot absorb it. This greatly increases our blood sugar count. The point of five meals is to even this out. The body no longer believes you are starving, so it burns all the food calories and the pounds come off. You can also take vitamins C and natural E before meals to slow the fat/glucose build up.

Now the fun part: let’s outsmart our genes, muscles, and metabolism. Did you know that muscles have memory? To make them grow we have to deceive them into trying harder. Muscle memory is genetic; each of us is different. Some believe there is a genetic base, or “set-point” below, which your body does not want to lose weight. Experts, including those at the Mayo Clinic, now agree that weightlifting increases calorie-burning muscle mass and increases metabolic rates. If you build enough lean muscle you will force the body to lower the “set point” and you will lose fat and weight. Fact: weightlifters keep burning calories up to 15 hours after the workout; even the soreness burns calories. Cardiovascular or aerobic exercises have little if any after effect. Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand, it’s worth a try. For further information contact Ross at


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