Do “calories” really count?

Do “calories” really count?
April 25, 2017

This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.  What it really means is that your metabolic rate technically describes all of the biochemical reactions in your body.  It’s how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.

You know that if your metabolic rate is too slow you might gain weight easily and perhaps lack energy throughout the day.

But what exactly does this all mean?

Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive.  And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.

Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:

  • Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity, etc.).
  • Allow activities you can’t control (e.g. heartbeat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).
  • Allow storage of excess energy for later.

So when you put all of these processes together into a system, let’s call it metabolism, it’s easy to imagine that these can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.

Which brings us to the definition of “metabolism”.

Metabolism or metabolic rate:

This is how fast this system works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).

The calories you eat can go to one of three places:

  • Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).
  • Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).
  • Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).

As you can imagine the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.

There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate.  One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you’re not being physically active.

The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.

What affects your metabolic rate?

In a nutshell: a lot!

The first thing you may think of is your thyroid.  This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism.  Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you’ll burn.

But that’s not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.

How big you are counts too!

Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial!

As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does.  So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the faster your metabolic rate will be.  Even when you’re not moving or working out.

This is exactly why I always recommend weight or strength training as part of a healthy program. Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you.

The thing is, when people lose a lot of weight too fast their metabolic rate often slows down which you don’t want to happen.  So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass.

Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they’re doing “work”.

The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!

Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize the food you eat.  This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).

Yep, you burn calories by digesting food.  The more fiber the food you eat have the more calories the body needs to break it down.  On the other hand fats and sugar don’t require much of a thermic effect to be absorbed.

And don’t forget the mind-body connection.  There is plenty of research that shows the influence that excessive stress and lack of sleep have on the metabolic rate.

So in summary, it is much more than the calories you eat.  This blog barely covers the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding how so many different things can affect your metabolic rate.

Recipe (Protein): Lemon Herb Roasted Wild Caught Salmon

Serves 4

2 lemons, sliced
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon thyme
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 wild caught salmon fillets
dash salt & pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive old

Preheat oven to 425F.  Layer ½ of the lemon slices on the bottom of a baking dish.  Sprinkle with ½ of the herbs and ½ of the sliced garlic.

Place the salmon fillet on top and sprinkle salt & pepper. Place remaining lemon, herbs and garlic on top of the salmon.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Cover with a lid or foil.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until fish is cooked through.  If you want this dish to be a bit more “roasty” then remove the lid/foil and broil for another few minutes (watching carefully not to burn it).

Serve with veggies such as peppers, onions or green beans & enjoy!

Tip: You can add a leftover sliced salmon to your salad for lunch the next day!



All about Energy Balance

10 Ways to Boost Metabolism


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Posted in Health/Fitness, Healthy Tricks, Recipes by Mari Pizarro