Understanding Your Metabolism
Your metabolism includes the chemical and physical processes that helps your body grow and function. These processes help your body break down and convert food to energy and cell building material. Diabetes happens when some of the many process break down.
Simply put: food + metabolic process = energy + cell building material.
While many people believe that they have a “slow” metabolism if they are overweight, the fact is: they may simply be eating too much of the wrong foods to help them lose weight. Your metabolism simply determines the amount of calories that you are able to burn each day. A calorie (Cal) is a unit of energy.
However, there are some factors that may wreak havoc with your metabolic functions, such as skipping meals, crash dieting, and eating too much sugar. These behaviors may be especially dangerous for diabetics, who already suffer from impaired insulin function and high blood sugar levels.
Here’s some basic information you need to know about your metabolism and how to get it working for you.
Basal Metabolic Rate
You don’t just need calories to walk, run, and perform activities; you also need calories to enegize your heart, brain, and other organs. Your basal metabolic rate is the amount of calories that you need each day in order to keep your body working properly to keep you alive.
Your basal metabolic rate takes up about 66 to 75 percent (%) of all of your caloric needs for the day, including 10 percent of which are needed to help your body digest food, absorb vitamins and nutrients. Your additional caloric needs will be based on your activity level.
How Metabolism Works
The first act of metabolism is digestion. This mechanical and chemical process begins the moment food enters your mouth. It takes between thirty and sixty minutes for half of your solid food to be processed and emptied from your stomach. Once emptied from your stomach, this mixture is filtered into your small intestine, where it will be further broken down by enzymes and absorbed.
During the absorption process, enzymes, which are molecules in the digestive system, break down the proteins from the food mix into simpler compounds called amino acids. Then, the amino acids, simple sugars, and fatty acids enter the cells to be converted to energy, and cell building material and the rest stored for future use.
Insulin plays a critical role in helping the simpler compounds (glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids) enter the cells for further conversion. There enzymes regulate the chemical reactions to release energy that can either be immediately used or stored (as glycogen) in organs, muscles, tissues, or as fat in fat cells.
How different foods are affected by metabolism
Different foods offer different energy and building material. Different foods will create different glucose levels.
Diabetics need to be especially concerned with their intake of carbohydrates, which raise the blood glucose level to different heights based on the type of carbohydrate you eat. A carbohydrate with a high glycemic index (over 100) will quickly increase your blood glucose (to about 170 (mg) milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood (dL) soon after being eaten. It will then cause your blood glucose to fall below baseline about two and a half hours later as your body regulates your glucose levels. However, a low glycemic carbohydrate will slowly increase your blood glucose (up to about 130 mg/dL) and then cause your blood glucose to slowly fall below baseline about two and a half hours after you eat it.
How does diabetes impact the metabolism?
When someone has Type 2 Diabetes, they either produce insufficient amounts of insulin and/or some of their cells resist the role of insulin.
In Type 2 diabetes, The beta cells (located in the pancreas) that create and release insulin do not quickly respond to the body’s need for insulin. By the time insulin is released, the bloodstream has a high glucose level. Now, the insulin has to play catch-up in transporting the glucose into the cells from the bloodstream. The beta cells are forced to release even more insulin due to the blood’s high blood glucose levels. This continual excess of insulin in the bloodstream is called hyperinsulinemia
Some of the glucose is allowed to enter the cells with the help of extra insulin. The body experience low blood sugar without the action of insulin. Without extra insulin from the pancreas, or injections the excess glucose recirculates in the bloodstream – resulting damage to the blood vessel walls, nerves, and organs.
The excess glucose is more than the kidneys can process. Causing excess glucose to be released as urine. This repeated urine release cause dehydration and the thirst diabetics have come to recognize.
Diabetics have a weakened metabolic process. Insulin production, and injections or other diabetic medications can help to normalize a diabetic system by providing more insulin to allow normal metabolic processes to continue.
Millions of Americans try fad diets, which often include crash diets in which they starve their bodies of food and nutrients. These diets often actually hurt the metabolism and slow it down. Here’s how: a normal metabolism requires a balance of caloric intake and output. Caloric intake gives people have energy for daily tasks and helps their bodies continue to function properly.
However, when someone does not eat enough calories, including carbohydrates, their bodies will go into “starvation” mode, which means that the body will treat each calorie with great care because it simply doesn’t know where the next calorie will come from. Many people also call this “caveman” mode because cavemen had to store their energy reserves in their bodies and physically in their caves, as they didn’t know when the next food source would be caught or found.
When your body is in starvation mode, it automatically saves calories as fat and uses the least amount of calories to operate. The body will perform an automatic triage in order to stay alive by deciding which organs should get calories first. That’s why many people on crash diets and starvation diets have severe side effects of the diet, which may include organ failure, and often gain considerable weight after they adopt a healthier meal plan.
In many cases, the brain is the last organ that needs calories, so the body will distribute fewer calories to the brain. Without calories, the brain does not have enough energy to think, so people in starvation mode are often irritable, easily confused, and experience memory loss. Additionally, because the body needs to reserve its energy stores, people in starvation mode are often tired or lethargic.
Weight Lifting Can Increase Your Metabolic Rate
There are some activities that can increase your metabolic rate. First, keep in mind that metabolism is designed to send energy to those organs and body functions that require energy to work. Muscles require a large amount of energy to use. However, maintaining muscle mass also requires energy. Therefore, even when you are not actively using your muscles, they require more energy than fat. Each pound of muscle that you have burns around 6 calories a day, compared to a pound of fat, which burns only 2 calories a day.
How abdominal fat impacts metabolism
Researchers are still trying to find the link between abdominal fat and metabolism, despite being first recognized more than half a century ago by French physician Jean Vague. While there are no universally conclusive results yet, evidence indicates that individuals with increased amounts of abdominal fat are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Abdominal fat appears to be associated with impaired glucose uptake, which means that there seems to be a correlation to the presence of abdominal fat and the body’s inability to turn sugars into energy. Instead of turning food to energy immediately, sugars tend to travel throughout the body’s blood vessels damaging them, associated nerves and organs. Rapid weight loss in long-term diabetics show that excess blood sugars are not converted to fat without extra insulin.
As a result of many studies, the Expert Panel on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults determined that individuals have a greater risk for metabolic disease if they have a waist circumference greater than 40″ (men) and 35″ (women).