Metabolism and weight loss: How do they relate?

Anyone who is involved in fitness and weight loss knows at least a little about metabolism. Metabolism and its effects on weight loss, fitness, and overall health is a key feature of wellness. We all know that our general well-being is tied to our metabolism. 

For people who either want or need to lose weight, metabolism is a key physiological feature you need to understand. As we count calories, carbs, or simply work at some type of exercise routine, our metabolism is something that will impact our weight loss goals. 

Yet how much do we know about metabolism? What exactly does metabolism mean, and what is the role of metabolism in our bodies and for weight loss? How do we take steps to work with our metabolism? And are there steps we can take to change our metabolism? These are important questions for weight loss programs since metabolism will determine how much weight we are likely to lose. 

This guide is designed to give you all the information you need to understand metabolism and its role in weight loss. 

What is metabolism?

Metabolism is the general term given to encompass all the chemical reactions that occur to maintain a living state and to sustain an organism. While we tend to throw the term around, it is a very general term that contains a set of physiological processes. 

There are two main categories of reactions that make up the totality that is metabolism. These are:

Catabolism: the breakdown of molecules to obtain energy. 

Anabolism: the synthesis of other compounds needed to sustain cells and to sustain life. 

Since these two primary processes require fuel and nutrients, metabolism is closely linked to things like nutrition and general health. Insufficient nutrition naturally interferes with the processes of metabolism. Poor nutrition leads to a metabolism that must engage these necessary processes with the wrong types of fuel. 

The vital component in metabolism is energy. Metabolism requires energy to function, and it makes energy available to the rest of the body so that you can function. 

Taken together, nutrition and energy will determine how your metabolism functions and your health. Health includes things like weight and fat content. 

Types of metabolism

As we said above, metabolism consists of two types of physiological processes. The entire metabolic system breaks nutrients down into usable chemicals, and metabolism generates other chemicals that make our bodies function. The specifics of these two types of metabolism are below:


This involves the release of chemical energy from materials we ingest in the forms of food. The process of catabolism unfolds as the chemical compounds of foods are rendered into usable forms. 

In this phase of catabolism, large molecules that make up the majority of food materials are broken down into smaller chemical units. Proteins, for example, are broken into the 20 amino acids that comprise proteins. Carbohydrates are converted into simpler forms of sugar. Fats are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol. 

The processes of catabolism do release energy in the form of heat, but this is a small amount of energy. The primary purpose of catabolism is to convert large, complex compounds into forms the body can use to produce energy and to synthesize other biochemical parts of cells. 


While catabolic processes convert food materials into compounds and chemicals the body can use, anabolic processes consist of reactions assisted by enzymes that make it possible for the body to convert these compounds and chemicals into building blocks of the body. 

One of the key products of anabolic systems is the production of energy. Anabolic systems convert phosphates into ATP and ADP and these are the fundamental units of energy for the body.  

Anabolic processes convert elemental amino acids into more complex proteins within the body. These become muscle tissue, among other things. Sugars are converted into energy, but they are also stored in the body if there is an excess. This is one key feature to pay attention to regarding weight loss. 

Anabolic processes also synthesize the fundamental building blocks of the body. In a complex system of biosynthesis and converted energy sources, body tissue is synthesized at the cellular level. 

One of the things we need to pay attention to is the way catabolism and anabolism work together to convert some food materials into fats that are stored in the body.  

Metabolism and weight

It is pretty common to blame weight gain or excess weight on metabolism. People will find a kind of defeat in saying their metabolism simply will not allow them to lose the weight they would like.

While there is some validity in genetics, metabolism is a complex process that depends on many factors for how it is regulated and for how it regulates other physiological processes in the body. There are rare cases of specific medical problems that will adversely affect metabolism. 

Cushing’s syndrome, or hypothyroidism, slows metabolism and will cause weight gain. 

But weight gain and weight loss are complicated processes. They depend on a complex relationship between genetics, hormone controls, diet, and lifestyle. All of these things will work together to impact how metabolism affects weight loss. 

Losing weight comes down to a fairly simple equation. You must burn more calories than you take in. To lose weight you need an energy deficit that forces your body to metabolize excess fats and calories. 

To achieve this energy deficit, you need to do two things: increase physical activity and eat fewer calories. In doing these two things your body will naturally burn excess calories and fasts, but it will also adjust your metabolism to accommodate the energy deficit. This is a two-way process. Low activity and high-calorie intake lead to less metabolic burn, and higher activity and fewer calorie intake lead to increased metabolism.  

The good news in all of this is that your metabolism is not a static process that is set at one pace. You can take steps that will effectively change your metabolism so that you lose weight. It is possible to boost your metabolism

Ways to Boost your metabolism

Again, there is no magic bullet when it comes to metabolism. The energy deficit equation is the basic feature of how to work with metabolism and weight loss. However, there are some things you can do that will boost your metabolism. 

Eat more protein

As we noted above, catabolic processes do produce energy in the form of heat. Heat burns calories. This means the simple act of eating burns a few calories. This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF). Protein causes the highest rise in TEF. Eating proteins can increase your metabolic rate by as much as 30 percent. Eating more protein also has the collateral benefit of making you feel fuller for a longer period. 

Drink cold water

It is a fact that people who drink water rather than sugary drinks tend to be more successful in losing weight and keeping it off. Sugary drinks contain large quantities of calories and these are simply converted into fat that stays on the body. 

What is not as well-known is that drinking cold water temporarily speeds up your metabolism. Drinking 17 ounces of cold water can increase your metabolism by up to 30 percent for over an hour. 

High-intensity workouts

Something like High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, involves short bursts of intense activity. This has the obvious effect of burning calories. This is accomplished due to the high increase in metabolism that is necessary to sustain this kind of workout. But another benefit of something like HIIT is that it tends to increase metabolism rates in the long term. High-intensity workouts can reduce belly fat by as much as 17 percent

Stand up

Sitting and generally being sedentary is bad for you and it leads to weight gain. The sedentary lifestyle has become what some health professionals have called the “new smoking.” Remaining sedentary leads to a host of health problems. 

Standing up, even for short periods throughout the day, can burn an average of 174 calories. Simply taking the time to stand up for a while at work or home can increase your metabolism enough to help with weight loss. 

Green tea

Green tea can increase your metabolism by as much as 5 percent. These kinds of teas also help your body burn stored fat. Studies have shown that drinking green tea can increase the amount of fat you burn in a day to about 17 percent. 


The most effective way to increase your metabolism is through regular exercise. Physical exertion is the one true way to increase metabolism, burn calories and fat, and lose weight. 

Factors that affect your metabolism

As we said above, metabolism and metabolic rates are not fixed. Several factors affect your metabolism. These factors include:

Muscle mass

The amount of muscle you carry on your body will impact your metabolism. Muscle requires more energy to sustain that fat. More muscle, higher metabolism. 


As we age our metabolism tends to slow down. This is due to several factors. A decrease in muscle and changes to the hormonal systems are the primary reasons our metabolism slows as we age. 

Body size

Bigger bodies require more energy to sustain them. This is a simple physical fact. 


Men tend to have higher metabolism rates than women. 


Some families simply have higher metabolic rates than others. Much of our metabolism is determined by genetics. 

Physical activity

Exercise increases your metabolism. Being sedentary will cause your metabolism to slow down. 

Hormones. Hormone imbalances like hypothyroidism can have a serious impact on metabolism. 

Environmental factors

Environmental changes such as increased heat or deep cold can change the way your metabolism works. 


Caffeine and nicotine will increase your metabolism. Some medications like antidepressants and steroids will lead to weight gain because they slow metabolism. 


What you eat has a massive impact on your metabolism. 

Metabolism FAQs

What is metabolism?

Metabolism is the general term given to encompass all the chemical reactions that occur to maintain a living state and to sustain an organism. While we tend to throw the term around, it is a very general term that contains a set of physiological processes. 

What are the two types of metabolism?

Catabolism consists of the processes of breaking down food materials into usable chemical compounds. Anabolism consists of converting elemental compounds into chemicals the body can use. 

How does metabolism affect weight loss?

Your metabolic rate determines the amount of energy you expend about the number of calories you take in. If you take in fewer calories than the amount of energy you expend, you will have a net loss and lose weight. 

Can you increase your metabolism?

Yes. There are several ways to increase your metabolism. The most effective way to increase your metabolism is through physical activity. 


Metabolism is one of the most crucial factors in weight loss and weight gain. With increased metabolism, it is easier to lose weight. When your metabolism is slow, you will likely gain weight. The reason for this is simple. Your metabolism determines how many calories you burn. 

But metabolism is not a static process. Several things affect your metabolism. Some things, like genetics, are impossible to change. But all of us have some control over our metabolism. 

By eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of physical exercises, the metabolism naturally increases and we burn more calories than we take in. By increasing our metabolism we can either not gain weight or lose weight. 

There are several things you can do to increase your metabolism. Some of these things are as simple as making sure you stand up regularly during your workday. Something as common as green tea can also increase your metabolism. Still, the best way to control your metabolism and lose weight is through a good diet and healthy exercise. 


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