Metabolism – What you need to know

Metabolism is a complex science and without a scientific background most people are unable to understand it fully. However, as a strength trainer or athlete it is useful to have some knowledge of the subject in order to appreciate the importance of good nutrition. Metabolism is the term used to describe all of the biochemical reactions and processes that take place in the body. In broad terms, these can be grouped into two main process pathways: anabolism and catabolism.

Anabolism is the construction of complex molecules from smaller units to create new cellular materials including enzymes, proteins, cells and tissues. In other words it provides the body’s growth, maintenance and repair functions.

Catabolism works in the opposite direction and is the breakdown of complex molecules into smaller units and the release of energy to fuel anabolism.

Where does the energy come from?

Energy is produced in every cell of the body as a result of the catabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Energy is released when a chemical bond is broken within the substance adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The ATP molecule, found in every cell in the body, consists of a carbon “backbone” to which three phosphate groups are attached.

When one phosphate group breaks off energy is released and the molecule is converted to adenosine diphosphate (ADP). A new phosphate group immediately attaches to the ADP molecule, turning it back into ATP and this process repeats itself continually. You can think of ATP as a fully charged battery, which can provide instant energy. But only a small amount of ATP is stored in the muscles for immediate use and when you begin to exercise the body must manufacture more ATP by mobilizing its reserves of glycogen, in the first instance.

A quantity of glycogen is stored in the muscles and in the liver, and is capable of providing sufficient energy for most activities. However, when exercise is carried out over prolonged periods, glycogen supplies can become exhausted and additional fuel is required.

Stored fat can provide this fuel, but only when sufficient oxygen is present within the body to metabolize it. Proteins can also be used as energy for exercise. However, this involves the breakdown of muscle tissue into amino acids for energy production. The body resorts to this only when glycogen supplies are low.

A diet low in carbohydrate reduces the amount of stored glycogen. This means that protein is more likely to be mobilized to create additional energy, leading to the loss of muscle and lean tissue.

What are the Basal Metabolic Rate and the Resting Metabolic Rate?

The Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR is the amount of energy used by the body for the vital functions while at rest and when the digestive system is inactive. It is normally expressed as the number of calories required daily. A true reading of BMR is difficult to ascertain because it requires the body to have fasted for approximately twelve hours prior to measurement and to be completely at rest.

Resting Metabolic Rate or RMR is similar to BMR but is measured under slightly less stringent conditions. Both are influenced by age, sex, height and even climatic conditions and although they differ in scientific definition, they are generally regarded as interchangeable terms.

Nutrition and Metabolism

Good nutrition plays a vital role in maintaining metabolism at optimum levels. The body needs a wide range of nutrients to function optimally and even a slight deficiency of one vitamin or mineral can slow down metabolism and cause chaos throughout the body.

Maintaining a fully functioning metabolism is therefore critical for the athlete or strength trainer. Adhering to the principles of the food pyramid is a great start in achieving the correct balance.


Tips to Charge up your Metabolism


  1. Perform exercises that are best bang for your buck.


  • Design the perfect balanced program to match your goals, ensuring you simulate lean muscle – one of the key drivers for charging up your metabolism is always including compound movements such as Squats, Deadlifts, Chin ups, Dips so you are working multiple muscles.


  1. Use interval-based cardio exercise to speed up fat loss.


  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is shown to be some of the best type of training to melt away that fat. Use HIIT between your weight training workouts (resistance training).


  1. Use breakfast to program your body for the day


  • If you eat a breakfast that is high in sugar and carbohydrate, your body will burn sugar and carbs for the rest of the day. Make the choice of a breakfast high in protein and essential fats, and your body will be looking for fat as a fuel for the rest of the day.


  1. It all about Nutrient Timing


  • Timing your nutrient intake will determine the environment you put your body in whether it’s a fat burning machine or not. Eat the right macronutrients for your energy output. Carbohydrates are your short-term fuel, so eat them when energy is required i.e. training.


  1. Eat frequently to keep your body burning


  • Meal frequency is a key factor in fat burning. Aim for six meals throughout the day. Include two – three liquid meals such as protein shakes if you cant fit 6 small actual meals in.


  1. Cut out the processed carbohydrates


  • Stick to your fresh wholefood carbohydrates and stray away from the processed.

Treat all processed carbohydrates as simple sugar and your body does not need or benefit from having that in your daily intake of food.


  1. Drink your Water and keep hydrated.


  • Your choice of fluid needs to be in balance with your food intake. Don’t go for the sugary soft drinks, juices or sweetened water. More plain water to keep your body flushing effectively and cells volumised and enhance nutrient uptake.


  1. Prepare your meals


  • Preparing your meals is a sure way to stick to your plan and not straying due to not having a meal ready to go.

Your health should be priority so prepare your meals to keep your body working efficiently and as it should. Reaching your health and fitness goals will depend whether you plan out and prepare your daily meals or being lazy and leaving it to last minute.



  1. Live by the ‘90/10 Rule’


  • You need balance in your life and are not expected to live 7 days a week every week thinking you are being deprived from certain foods.

Pick one day of the week to go and enjoy meals you really enjoy guilt free. Remember not to go overboard and only eat till you are satisfied and not so full you cannot move out of your seat. Remember that 90% you stay on track will lead to your Health and Fitness goals.


Keep your Nutrition Balanced and Train Hard