Your Basal Metabolic Rate & Longevity

Your basal metabolic rate is the amount of energy your body uses just to stay alive day in and day out - your breathing, digesting, excreting, regulating body temperature, tissue maintenance, cell renewal and so on. In this way, it plays an integral part in achieving health and longevity.  More important than weight itself if your metabolic fitness level.

More specifically according to the Miriam Webster dictionary Metabolism is:  The complex of physical and chemical processes occurring within a living cell or organism that are necessary for the maintenance of life. In metabolism some substances are broken down to yield energy for vital processes while other substances, necessary for life, are synthesized.

basal metabolic rate 101

First of all - let me point out that the only difference between a corpse and a body, is the movement caused by all those chemical processes .  Death happens when your metabolism stops completely .  That's how essential those small and never-ending movements are to life and longevity.  

But what determines the rate of your metabolism...what speeds it up and slows it down?  In a nutshell -it's how much muscle you have compared to fat.  We all know that men naturally have more muscle than women.  From an evolutionary point of view that makes sense as men have needed to have more physical strength than women.  It also means that their bodies utilize more energy to stay alive because muscle uses more calories to stay alive than fat does. 

And this lies at the base of all the frenzy about metabolism- because anything that burns calories - is seen as 'the way to go' in our never-ending weight on war.  

what slows and speeds up metabolism?

metabolic fitness

The way to increase a basal metabolic rate permanently is to increase the proportion of muscle your body consists of.  But I want to let you into a little longevity secret.  While people who live to over 100 aren't gym-goers, they do have in common that they keep their bodies active and strong - usually by using their body in activities be it gardening, chopping wood, walking etc.... But you won't find any of them wearing calorie trackers or anything like that.  They keep active because it's part of their lifestyle.  They have a functional fitness, not an artificially-created one with metabolism boosters or obsessive muscle-building (even to a point of bigorexia).

The other way your metabolism increases if called Thermo-genesis, (thermo = heat and genesis = creation) which is a rise in your body temperature and a temporary way to increase the rate at which our body burn calories.  Any time you consume food, drink water etc...your body has a temporary increase in metabolism, but this does not build muscle.

Your basal metabolic rate keeps going 24/7. It's silently utilizing calories (which really only means a measure of energy) whether you are sleeping, sitting, standing or running. The only time it stops is when you die. This, by the way is one of the reasons why I dispute the ' breakfast will kickstart your metabolism' theory. It's baloney because your basal metabolism never stopped in the first place.

Thermogensis is what happens on top of your basal metabolic rate, temporarily raising your caloric expenditure and the amount of calories that are burned before it drops back to it's regular rate.

metatolic fitness

Our basal metabolism is a bit like merely leaving the engine of a car idling whereas thermogenesis is a bit like pressing the accelerator now and again. 

When it's just idling it'll burn off a steady amount of fuel, but when you're accelerating it'll temporarily burn off more fuel. 

Unlike your car where you want to burn as little fuel as possible, when you have more muscle, your body's basic metabolic rate to idle at a higher rate, it'll be burning more calories even when it's just sleeping, sitting, or standing.

The Magic of Exercise on metabolic fitness

You see, when it comes to staying fit and active an interesting thing happens. When you stay active and move your body on a regular and consistent basis your body converts fat into muscle.  Muscle keeps your body strong.

Let me explain something about muscle vs fat The more body fat you have the slower your metabolism because fat doesn't require a lot of energy to stay alive. Having said that, please do not demonize fat - our bodies need fat.

 But the simple fact is that, muscle utilizes a lot more energy (burns a lot more calories) in order to stay alive. 

Thus, when your body replaces fat with muscle, because muscle uses more energy to stay alive, it utilizes more energy for all your basic bodily functions. In other words, even as you're sleeping, your basal metabolic rate is now speeded up and your body is using more energy than it did before.

basal metabolic rate

So, you know how you eat that 700+ calorie piece of cake, and head off to the gym to 'exercise it off'? Well even 40 minutes of aerobic exercise is likely to only burn off just over half of those calories. Yet many people get exercise bulimia or bigorexia when we obsessively try to exercise away calories or do serious muscle-building!  Centenarians, those people who live the longest, don't count calories eaten or calories expended.  They just have active lives.

And the odd bout of exercise here and there isn't going to do anything to change you ratio of body fat to muscle, nor is it going to do anything to speed up up your basal metabolism. Only regular and consistent exercise over time converts fat to muscle. Muscle burns more calories to stay alive, that's what speeds up your basal metabolic rate so that even your basic bodily functions utilize more energy. 

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