Losing weight isn't about having a fast metabolism

Yes, I’m writing this blog because I am trying to lose some weight. It's not easy, as you have probably heard many people complain. And it’s likely that you have also heard people place the blame for this difficulty on a slow metabolism. I’m not exactly sure what that might mean, but, hey, the excuse made sense. That is, until I asked the researchers at Metabolon. 

Bottom line: I lost my excuse. 

Metabolism is the process by which your body converts the food and drink you consume into energy. It’s a pretty complex biochemical process, but essentially calories are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to do everything from breathing and pumping blood to walking, running, climbing stairs, lifting weights and even watching TV. 

So it’s safe to say that metabolism and weight are linked because metabolism controls you body’s basic energy needs. But it’s the amount of food and beverages you consume and how much physical activity you do that ultimately determine how much you weigh. 

Here’s why.

The number of calories your body uses to carry out its basic functions is called the metabolic rate, or metabolism. Three things really determine your metabolic rate: body size and composition, gender, and age. Energy needs for everyday basic functions, such as those listed above, are pretty consistent and account for about 70 percent of the calories that you burn daily. 

So while you don’t have much control over the speed of your metabolism, you can control what happens with that remaining 30 percent. And that is where you can actually lose/gain weight. 

You gain weight when you eat more calories than you burn, or burn fewer calories than you eat. 

Conversely, to lose weight, you need to create an energy deficit by eating fewer calories than you burn (diet), increasing the number of calories that you burn to exceed the number of calories you eat (physical activity), or both. 

Burning more calories means exercise: aerobic exercise such as walking or biking, strength training such as weightlifting as well as lifestyle changes such as taking the stairs. 

Unfortunately, it turns out there is no magic trick to losing weight. If you take in fewer calories than you burn, you lose weight. 

It's really pretty simple. It's also not that easy!


—Frank Graff 

Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on Sci Tech Now North Carolina, a weekly science series that airs Tuesdays on UNC-TV. In addition to producing these special segments, Frank will provide additional information related to his stories through this North Carolina Science Now Reporter's Blog!

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