We talk about metabolism as if you can manage it, swallowing a pill and drinking some green tea or running. You’ve probably seen the article “Boost your metabolism” or “Try a diet with a high metabolism to lose weight”.

But they are true about this crucial but still enigmatic biological process, remains hidden.

Here are nine facts that will help you understand the essence of metabolism, and also tell me how should talk about metabolism in the context of the dumping and weight gain.

1) the peculiar Metabolism of every cell in your body

Many people talk about their metabolism like it’s the muscle or the organ with which they can move and somehow control it.

But in reality, your metabolism refers to a series of chemical processes in every cell that convert consumed calories into fuel to sustain your life. At least, so says Michael Jensen, a researcher who has been studying obesity and metabolism at the Mayo clinic. The basic metabolic rate (or speed-at-rest) is measured by how many calories you burn while doing nothing, he adds. “This is the highest point of the metabolism in different tissues with different needs and how many calories it takes to support their operation.”

Major body organs — brain, liver, kidneys and heart are consumed about half of the energy that is burned during rest, whereas fat, digestive system and especially the muscles of the body consume all the rest.

2) Most of the energy that you burn is metabolic rate at rest

every day Your body burns energy in three main ways: 1) metabolism dha, or basic metabolic rate — the energy used for basic body functions; 2) energy used to digest food (thermic effect of food); and 3) energy used for physical activity.

As we found out, a very underrated fact about our body is that the rate of metabolism at rest is actually a huge amount of all calories that you burn during the day. Physical activity, on the other hand, is a tiny fraction of the total energy consumption from 10 to 30 % (unless you are a professional athlete or don’t work for physically heavy work). Digesting food accounts for about 10 percent.

“For most people, basal metabolic rate is 60 to 70 percent of all energy consumption is a generally accepted fact,” he informed me Alex Kravitz, neurobiologist and obesity researcher at the National Institute of health.

“It’s not quite true, but not nearly like the level of food consumption, which accounts for 100% of the energy consumption of the body,” added Kravitz. “Here it is therefore not surprising that physical exercise lead to [statistically] significant but small changes in weight.”

3) the Metabolism can vary significantly from person to person, and researchers don’t know why

it is True that two people with identical volume and composition of body metabolism can be very different. One can devour bowl after bowl and not add a single gram, while the second has to carefully count calories to not gain weight.

But why is it still a kind of “black box”, explained FromFig Wong, a researcher and Professor at the Research center of metabolism and obesity at the Johns Hopkins.

“We do not understand the mechanisms that control human metabolism.”

the Researchers found indications, how fast can the human metabolism. Among them: the amount of muscle and fat tissues in the body, age, and genetics (although the researchers don’t know why the speed of metabolism can vary within the family).

Has a value and gender, because women from any part of the body and at any age burn fewer calories than men. Jensen added that women “shall have the meaning and the menstrual cycle: some women with a higher rate of metabolism during the second half of the cycle (the luteal phase) increase the rate of metabolism alone by 10 percent.”

You can’t just pick up and accurately measure metabolic rate at rest (there are commercially available tests, but the best measurements made by researchers who use expensive equipment like metabolic chambers). But you can learn about your metabolic typing some data in an online calculator (like this one). It will show you how many calories you can burn per day, and if you eat just enough, and your weight remains the same, most likely, the result is true.

4) Another factor in the slowing of metabolism: aging

the Effect is gradual, even if the amount of fat and muscle tissue does not change. So 60 alone you burn less calories than 20.

Jensen explained that such a steady decline starts at the age of 18 years and one question that researchers metabolism are unable to answer is why it.it. “Why does the energy decrease with age, even if you don’t change the rest — one of the biggest mysteries”.

5) You can’t speed up the metabolism to lose weight, for weight loss

a Lot of hype rose up around the “speed up metabolism” and weight loss due to the enhanced exercises for building muscles, varied diet or supplements. But really to make this incredibly difficult.

while there are certain foods, coffee, chili and other spices, which would only slightly accelerate the metabolism, changes so slight that they would not affect your figure, says Jensen.

However, building muscles can be a bit more useful. Here’s why: one of the variables that affect the rate of metabolism at rest — that’s how much muscle you have. In any weight than in your body more muscle and the less fat, the faster your metabolism. The fact is that muscles consume a lot more energy at rest than fat (look at the schedule in the first part).

So the bottom line is that if you can develop muscles and reduce body fat, you will have a faster metabolism and your body will burn fuel faster.

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But, says Michael Rosenbaum, a Professor and researcher of weight loss and metabolism at Columbia University, there is a caveat: “If you have more weSHC, the faster they burn energy. But this is only half the battle.” If you develop muscles effectively and accelerate your metabolism, “you need to fight off natural tendencies to the [desire] to eat more, which occurs due to a fast metabolism”.

Many people are driving themselves to the hunger that comes after exercise, and simply end up adding fat to the muscles.

Jensen also noted that people are not easy to maintain the exercise necessary to maintain muscle mass, which they received. “For most as it would be impractical”, he added.

overall, he said: “the Speed of metabolism you can control just a little bit. This control typically appears to be relatively modest, and, unfortunately, it has drawbacks”.

6) Metabolism can slow down due to diet

to Increase the rate of metabolism is incredibly difficult, but, as scientists have found that certain classes can lower — for example, programs drastic weight loss.

“[Extreme diets], perhaps the greatest impact on metabolism at rest, — said Jensen. — Unfortunately, this influence is not directed in the right direction”.

for the past several years, scientists have observed a phenomenon called “metabolic adaptation” or “adaptive thermogenesis”: with weight loss basal metabolic rate — the energy used for basic body functioning at rest — a man is reduced much more than they should.

Explain that it is logical that weight loss will slightly slow down the metabolism because weight loss usually involves a reduction of muscle tissue. Thus, the body weight becomes less, and the body to work is no longer necessary pto relegate such efforts. But, as the researchers found, the slowing of the metabolism after weight loss is often much more powerful than expected, which should correspond to the new weight of the human body.

In the new study aimed to confirm this phenomenon, which was recently published in the journal Obesity, researchers from the National institutes of health began surveillance of participants in the eighth season of the reality show the biggest loser marathon (The Biggest Loser). At the end of the show each of the contestants lost tens of kilograms, and they were all excellent objects for the study of what happens when losing massive amounts of weight in a short period of time.

the Researchers measured weight, fat percentage, metabolic rate and hormone levels at the end of the 30-week competition in 2009, and then again, six years later, in 2015.

Although by the end of the show all participants and lost tens of pounds thanks to diet and exercise, in six years the amount of waist they have again greatly increased. 13 out of 14 participants had again gained a lot of weight, and four participants now weigh more than before the show.

But during the time of the study, the participants ‘ metabolism slowed considerably. In fact, their bodies were burned daily in the average about 500 calories less (about as much is consumed in one meal) than expected, given their weight. This continued and after six years, despite the fact that most of the participants gradually gained the lost weight back.

Sandra Aamodt, neurologist and author of upcoming book “Why we get fat diet” (Why Diets Make Us Fat), explained that this is probably the strong intention of the body to return to a certain weight, so called the specified amount.

When you gain weight and hold it for a certain period of time, the body can become accustomed to their increased size. When the weight is reduced, begin to happen some subtle changes in the level of hormones in the brain — which lead to the slowing down of the metabolic rate at rest, which hunger becomes stronger, and the saturation of the food comes slower. It all seems to be aimed at a return of body weight to the specified value.

For example, the study shows the biggest loser marathon, scientists found that all participants had decreased levels of the hormone leptin in the blood. Leptin is one of the main hormones that regulate the feeling of hunger. By the end of the show, the contestants almost completely exhausted the stocks of leptin, because of what they constantly experiencing hunger. Six years later, the leptin level was recovered, but only 60% of its level prior to the participation in the contest.

“I think most people don’t realize how significant could be associated with metabolic changes occurring at strong weight loss, he Amodt. — Set and weight loss are not equal: the body is much stronger than the resisting weight loss than increasing it.”

But not all of any weight reduction leads to such disastrous slowing of metabolism. For example, the impact on leptin, as in the case of the study show the biggest loser marathon, not observed for body weight reduction by surgery.

Indeed, all scientists with whom I spoke, believe that the results obtained in the study, “Lost the most” was extreme and may not be used as General indicators for most people. (This is clear because in procedureAANII involved only 14 people who lost massive amounts of weight through extreme diet and exercise program.)

Jensen of the Mayo clinic stated that participants of his study patients lost about 10 kg in four months — not noticed such a drastic slowdown of metabolism.

“We did not observe such a strong slowing down of metabolism [in the biggest loser marathon]. Slow, gradual weight loss metabolic rate is”

7) Researchers do not fully understand why there is such a slowdown

However, there are several interesting hypotheses. One of the most established explains it through evolution. “For hundreds of thousands of years we evolved in an environment where we often had to deal with periods of malnutrition, says Rosenbaum of Columbia University. — Therefore, we can assume that in human DNA there are many genes that contribute to the accumulation of extra calories as fat. This feature to some extent increases our ability to survive the malnutrition and increases the ability to reproduce genetic survival.”

today it is believed that the inability to lose weight is our body’s defense in case of periods of malnutrition, but now they happen much less frequently.

But not all researchers agree with this so-called hypothesis of the “Thrifty gene.” In 2003 epigenetic John Spykman wrote in his analysis that one of the problems of this hypothesis is that not all modern people are fat:

“If stocking alleles that provide a selective advantage for survival during the famine and hunger towaited for us all this time, then these alleles would have strengthened the entire population. All of us would be stocking the alleles in modern society we all suffer obesity. But obviously it is not. Even among the most obese Nations in the USA for example, there is still a certain number of people, constituting approximately 20% of the population who remain stubbornly thin. If hunger contributed to the spread of reserving alleles, one should ask how so many people managed not to inherit.”

Also, Rosenbaum added: “the evolution of the genetic predisposition of the person to the accumulation of fats is quite complex. It is associated with frequent changes in the environment, with the interaction of specific genes with the environment and interaction between genes”. And still not completely known how this occurs.

in addition, researchers are trying best to study metabolic syndrome — the name given to the set symptoms that includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, a wide waist and higher than normal cholesterol or triglyceride. People experiencing several of these problems are most at risk of chronic health problems, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Again, how it happens and why some people are prone to this more than others, remains a mystery.

8) Slow metabolism doesn’t mean that weight control is an exercise in futility

“on average, 15% of people manage to lose 10% or more of its own weight and to keep it at this level,” says Rosenbaum. So weight loss is possible.

With those wishing to lose weight Rosenbaum shares that the most important is to make in your lifestyle changes which you can adhere for up tologo time, and to regard them as necessary to control disease — obesity. (More tips from experts on weight loss can be found here.)

as an example, he cites a study by the National registry of weight control (National Weight Control Registry), which examines the traits, habits and norms of behavior of adults who managed to lose at least 13.5 kg and maintain the weight for at least one year. At this point in this study involved more than 10,000 people who annually survey on the topic of how they manage to keep the weight off.

those who managed to lose weight, there are a few common characteristics: they are weighed at least once a week. They hold regular exercises with varying degrees of intensity, and the most popular exercise among them — walking. They restrict your calorie intake, abstain from food high in fats and watch portion size. They also try not to skip Breakfast.

But the ingredients of their dishes are very different. (So there is no “best” or “trendy” diet that works wonders.) And they count calories.

“They are much changed diet and workout plan. It’s not easy, says Rosenbaum. But I would rather prefer to be told that I can not lose and retain weight due to a biological disease and not due to the fact that… I’m a lazy glutton”.

9) And as a bonus fun fact: hummingbirds have the fastest metabolism in the animal Kingdom

Researchers are studying different animal models to unravel the mysteries of the human metabolism.

of Special interest are the hummingbirds. “Among all vertebrates all animal Kingdom samay the high speed of the metabolism of a Hummingbird, says Wong from the Research center at Johns Hopkins, they perform 60-80 flapping wings per second.”

interestingly, the food they get from sources with a high content of sugar such as nectar, and the person with the same blood sugar level is considered diabetic. But hummingbirds it quickly burned off to maintain the maximum frequency of the flapping of wings.

the new York times contain estimates of the solely foreign media and do not reflect the views of the editorial Board of the new York times.