Metabolism, Part 1 of 3

Ever wonder how metabolism works inside your body? Which foods aid metabolism and which ones inhibit it? Why certain foods metabolize more quickly than others?

All of these questions will be answered between now and Friday at PWN blog. We just finished our metabolism unit at school and I am completely fascinated with everything I have learned. So, I want to share it with you. I am sure that once you understand metabolism a bit better, and how certain diets and lifestyles can actually help or hurt metabolism, you will be motivated to make small changes!

Part 1: Science

I’ve been called a “mathlete” many times in my life (I majored in math at Marquette). But is there a term for the science geek? Because that’s what I’ve felt like this past week. I have been completely captivated by YouTube videos on cellular respiration and spent hours sketching diagrams of glucose molecules. I’ll try to simplify it here so I don’t bore you too much, but I do think it’s important to have an idea of the science behind the nutrition.

Everything we do requires energy, from sleeping to sprinting. This energy is called ATP. Metabolism is the process that changes food energy into body energy, or ATP. A body with no food, or a body with the wrong foods, will have a tough time producing ATP. This is why you may feel run down when you are hungry; eating a diet that restricts calories, fats or carbs; or eating a diet high in things like potato chips, baked goods and white bread.

Food Energy In Body Energy Out

But only with proper metabolism!

Metabolism breaks apart 3 things inside of us: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. When you eat a banana, glucose sugar molecules enter our cells to begin metabolism.

In Step 1, they are broken apart in a 10-part process to a simpler type of sugar, pyruvate sugars. Step 1 produces 2 ATPs, or 2 “energy pills”.

In Step 2, the pyruvate sugars are further broken down into a new type of sugar called Acetyl CoA sugars. This produces no ATP energy.

In Step 3, the sugars finally complete their breakdown. Step 3 is powered by carbohydrates (and sometimes proteins). So if you are eating a low-carbohydrate diet, your metabolism will eventually slow. This explains why some may experience weight loss initially on a low-carb diet, but eventually that will taper off. Step 3 produces 2 more ATP energy pills.

In the final step, tiny atoms from your food are transferred through certain vitamins and minerals, all lined up in a row. As the atoms travel through, they create more and more ATP energy (34 ATP energy pills total for step 4). This step requires certain vitamins and minerals to operate. Those who are consuming foods that are not nutrient-rich, such as processed or packaged foods, may not have the vitamins and minerals they need to complete Step 4 properly. This will explain why some people go on a low-calorie diet and still have trouble jump-starting their metabolism. If your calories are not coming from the right foods, your body is not going to operate effectively.

The entire metabolism process, Steps 1-4, creates about 38 ATP energy pills. We use each energy pill to power our daily lives. However, any excess energy can be turned into stored fat.

A good example we talked about in class: 1 cookie has trillions of glucose molecules. If each glucose molecule produces 38 ATP energy pills, think about how much energy you are producing with just that 1 cookie! Chances are you will not use up all this energy, which can result in fat storage.

Check back tomorrow and Friday for more information on what types of food power metabolism, what types slow it down, and specific lifestyle changes you can make to help your body run more efficiently!

By the way, I'm thinking of ordering myself one of these t-shirts. Anyone else want one?