The final piece of the puzzle is exercise. I know this is supposed to be a nutrition blog, but metabolism is a perfect example of how nutrition cannot reap its full benefits without exercise. They go hand in hand, and both are vital to a healthy life.
Remember when I went over how much ATP energy “pills” are in just one Christmas cookie? Trillions! But if you don’t exercise and release that ATP energy, your body must store it. This is what leads to things like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, obesity, diabetes, and other very serious health problems.
The other benefit of exercise is the deep breathing. Metabolism absolutely needs oxygen to operate. Look back at Steps 1 and 2: tiny sugar molecules from our food are trying to break down into more basic forms. However, the process halts at Step 1 if there is no oxygen available. Instead, the sugars are temporarily turned into lactic acid. This is why we may feel soreness during and after a workout. But eventually, as our heart rate slows and we can breath more deeply and inhale more oxygen, that lactic acid slowly goes away and those sugar molecules continue to metabolize, powered by oxygen.
Breathing out carbon dioxide is also an important part of metabolism. Deep breathing activities like yoga, pilates (my personal favorite), Tai Chi, and meditation are all very beneficial to proper metabolism.
In my opinion, exercise and healthy eating go hand in hand. Some people say three times a week is enough, but I disagree. I would challenge people to try to do something active once a day. Some days that may include a 6-mile run and a yoga class. Other days, maybe just a 10-minute walk to the post office. But either way, you are getting your heart rate up, working your muscles, and helping your metabolism stay healthy.
Some ideas for getting a workout in on days you are busy:
• Wake up 10 minutes earlier and run for those 10 minutes. That one mile will make a huge difference in your day. Even if you just walk for 10 minutes, that is still so much better than avoiding a workout altogether.
• Park in the farthest corner when you’re at the mall or grocery store.
• Take the stairs instead of the elevator at work.
• Sit on a fit ball at your desk. If your coworkers make fun of you, they are just jealous that you are doing something good for your health! Guys can sit on fit balls too. A certain guy I know uses it in his home office…
• Walk more places. Whether it’s the grocery store, the pharmacy or the bank, if you can walk there, why not? It saves money and gives you a workout. I walk everywhere for these reasons (okay, well, my walking may also have something to do with the fact that my Saturn wagon is barely chugging along and I don’t want to have to buy a new car for at least another year…). Sometimes Ed and I even walk to dinner on date night, whether it’s ½ mile down the street or 4 miles across town! It’s fun, a good chance to talk, and the food and drinks taste much better if you feel like you’ve earned them!
Exercise is so important. Don’t let a day go by without it! Oh, and for those who live in colder climates, remember that you burn extra calories when you run or walk outside in the cold, because your body is working hard to stay warm!
That wraps up metabolism. If any of you want more detailed information about how it works, send me an email and I will share with you the “client handout” I made for my final exam in my class. It is helpful to know what’s going on inside of you. Also, I met a girl last weekend who is reading Jillian Michael’s book on metabolism (Master Your Metabolism). She was totally into nutrition talk (which I loved), and when we talked about metabolism she said it’s exactly what she’s reading in this book. I may be a little biased since I love watching Biggest Loser each Tuesday night (even though I don't always agree with their nutrition approach), but this book may be a good one to pick up.