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Understanding your metabolism

Nov 24, 2023

Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. During this complex biochemical process, calories in food and drinks combine with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function.

Basic metabolism: understanding the fundamentals

Basal metabolism , also known as the metabolic rate, is the minimum amount of energy your body needs to maintain basic life functions such as breathing, blood circulation, and cell regeneration while being at rest. This therefore does not include energy spent on physical activities and digestion.

In more scientific terms, basal metabolism can be thought of as the sum of chemical processes that occur in the living cells of your body, enabling growth, development, and response to environmental stimuli.

The higher your basal metabolism, the more calories you burn at rest. You should know that 60 to 75% of the calories you burn each day are used to support these basic vital functions!

How to calculate your basal metabolism

Several factors affect your basal metabolism, including your age, gender, height and weight. However, there are several formulas for estimating basal metabolism, and the most commonly used is the Harris-Benedict equation.

Men: 66 + (13.7 X weight in kg) + (5 X height in cm) - (6.8 X age in years)

Women: 655 + (9.6 X weight in kg) + (1.8 X height in cm) - (4.7 X age in years)

Beyond basic metabolism, it's essential to understand how the foods you eat, the activities you engage in, and even sleep can affect your overall metabolism . All of this can help you maintain a healthy weight and prevent many obesity-related chronic diseases. We will discuss these aspects in more detail in the following sections.

The different phases of metabolism

Metabolism , this word that we have often heard without really understanding its meaning. It is the set of chemical reactions that take place in our body to survive. It is divided into two opposite but complementary phases, i.e. catabolism and anabolism .


Catabolism includes metabolic reactions that break down complex molecules into simpler molecules. This includes digesting and transforming food into usable substances for our body. The products of these reactions are often used to produce energy .


Anabolism represents the constructive part of metabolism. It uses the products of catabolism to build new cells and tissues. Proteins are a great example of this construct. Derived from amino acids, they help regenerate tissues and create new cells.

Changing your diet, your sleep, your stress , but also practicing regular sporting activity can influence these two phases of metabolism.

Factors that influence metabolism

We know that metabolism is vital for the body, particularly with regard to the recovery of energy. However, it can be significantly influenced by a series of factors. It is therefore crucial to understand what can affect your metabolism.

1. Age : As we age, our metabolism tends to slow down. This is mainly due to a decrease in muscle mass and a slowdown in physical activity with age.

2. Gender : Men generally have a higher basal metabolism than women because they have more muscle mass and less body fat.

3. Genetics : Some individuals are born with a faster metabolism than others. It is a characteristic that is largely determined by genetics.

4. Physical activity : Physical activity, especially resistance exercises that promote muscle growth, can increase your metabolism.

5. The amount of muscle mass : The more muscular a body is in relation to its fat mass, the higher its basic metabolism. This is because muscle burns more calories than fat, even at rest.

6. Diet : Metabolism can be affected by what you eat. Certain foods and drinks such as chili, green tea or coffee can slightly increase metabolism.

It is important to note that although you cannot control all of these factors, some are changeable. For example, adding physical activity to your daily routine and eating a balanced diet could help increase your metabolism.

Mistakes to avoid to maintain a healthy metabolism

Certainly, to keep your metabolism healthy and balanced, there are certain mistakes to avoid. This way you can optimize your metabolism and, therefore, your general well-being.

Insufficient sleep is a common mistake that can lead to metabolic problems. During sleep, your body works hard to repair cells and carry out important metabolic processes. So, not getting the necessary hours of rest can disrupt these processes and harm your metabolism.

Eating too little or skipping meals are also unwise practices. This is because your body needs energy to function properly. When you eat too little, your body goes into survival mode and slows down your metabolism to conserve energy. Likewise, skipping meals can make your body more prone to storing fat during the next meal, which can slow down the metabolic process.

Lack of physical activity is another serious mistake that can hamper your metabolism. Regular exercise, including high-intensity interval training (HIIT), can boost your metabolism and increase your calorie burning, even at rest.

A Insufficient hydration can also harm your metabolism. Water helps with digestion and absorption of nutrients, so a lack of hydration can hinder these essential processes and slow down your metabolism.

It is therefore crucial to be aware of these mistakes and make the necessary efforts to avoid them, in order to support a healthy and optimal metabolism.


Understanding your metabolism can be vital to your overall health. Whether it's to lose weight, gain muscle, or simply maintain good health, a thorough understanding of your metabolism will help you achieve your goals.

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