Metabolism - Trying to Keep It Healthy

Apr 13, 2021

By Barret Procyshyn, Family Pharmacist at Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

If you have missed a Pharmacy Feature article or want to review something you heard on CKDM or read in the Parkland Shopper, we post our articles on our website at We also post the links on our Facebook & Twitter, so make sure you follow the DCP. As discussed last week, Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. Whether you are out for a walk, or at rest; your body needs energy. Even while resting or sleeping, your body requires energy for functions such as breathing, circulating blood, and repairing cells. The energy required for your body to perform these basic functions is known as your basal metabolic rate.

Several factors determine your basal metabolic rate. Some you can control, and some are a little more pre-determined. Body size and composition is one of the most significant. A big truck burns more fuel. If you weigh more or have more muscle mass, you will burn more calories, even at rest. So, people who weigh more are more likely to have a faster basal metabolic rate, not a slower one, because a portion of the excess weight is muscle tissue. The key is to have more muscle tissue. Men tend to have less body fat and more muscle mass than women of the same age and weight. Again, higher muscle mass means burning more calories. As you get older, your muscle mass decreases, which slows down the rate at which you burn calories. Usually, eating too many calories, not exercising enough and genetics are more likely to contribute to weight gain. Bad habits like eating right before sleep or getting a poor sleep also contribute.

Diabetes is often the first condition we think of which would affect metabolism. Interestingly, the actual metabolism of people with diabetes is almost identical to the metabolism of people without diabetes. In diabetic patients, it is the amount of insulin being produced and/or the effectiveness of the insulin using up fuel for the cells. Consequently, blood sugars become elevated, weight gain is more likely and the resistance to insulin becomes even greater. As type 2 diabetes progresses, weight gain occurs increasing fat to muscle ratios. That in turn starts to wreak havoc on your metabolism and other functions of the body. Over time stress on the cells from not getting enough fuel will affect metabolic function.

Hormones control hunger, metabolism, and the ability to burn fat. The problem is this often goes unnoticed and even if someone is exercising, less calories are used up. In females, if the estrogen-progesterone balance is lost, it makes weight gain easier and weight loss much more difficult. It also contributes to lower thyroid function, which in turn impacts metabolism. Continued or chronic stress leads to an overproduction of cortisol and adrenaline and if the body once again loses balance of these hormones versus others, metabolism may decrease because of an "aging" process.

Testosterone drives the physical attributes that help you look and feel younger by supporting muscle mass and energy levels. It acts as a clear signal that tells your body's metabolic system to ramp up muscle production. In healthy men, adequate testosterone levels will support specific fat loss, as opposed to only weight loss. In addition to helping build or at least maintain muscle mass, it also ramps up insulin sensitivity and ensures good metabolic health. While we usually only consider testosterone levels in males, diagnosis of low levels in women is also important to consider. To help boost testosterone, ensure you are eating enough lean protein, eating fresh unprocessed foods, exercising regularly (lifting weights is preferred over cardio) and sleeping properly. Also keep up your vitamin D with sunlight or supplementation.

If you have concerns about weight gain and slow metabolism impacting you, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about healthy lifestyle changes you can make. This should always be attempted first. Most commonly, weight gain is simply a result of eating too many calories, eating too many of the wrong type of calories, or not exercising enough to balance out your caloric intake. Proper sleep habits and obtaining quality sleep must also be considered. However, if you believe a slow metabolism might be due to a rare condition or disease, your doctor might be able to test and assess you for these issues, with various treatment options available.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional.


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