Dr. Quebbemann is a renown weight loss expert and he often receives interview requests and invitations to speak on a variety of topics related to weight loss. One topic that is often addressed by Dr. Quebbemann is metabolism. He recently spent some time responding to some questions about it. Here are some of his responses:

1. Medically speaking, what is “metabolism”? What role does it play in weight loss?

Metabolism is the way our body takes in, modifies and uses the calories we eat and drink. Our bodies carefully regulate our metabolism through hormones and other mechanisms to ensure that we have enough energy to survive and to be physically active.

Experts in metabolism distinguish two general types of metabolism, resting metabolism, also called resting metabolic rate, or RMR, and active metabolic rate. Your resting metabolic rate represents the calories your body burns when you’re at rest during the day, where your active metabolic rate, AMR, includes the calories you burn while active, whether brushing your teeth, doing housework or weight lifting.

Since your weight depends on the balance between calories taken in by eating and drinking, and calories burned throughout the day, your active and resting metabolic rate will affect your weight.

If your overall metabolism is higher, you will burn more calories throughout the day, and tend to accumulate less body fat. If your total daily energy expenditure is greater than the calories in the food you eat, then you will lose weight.

2. What are some of the things that people/patients often don’t know about metabolism?

A common misconception is that many people are overweight due to a low metabolism; this just isn’t true. Experts in weight loss know that excess weight and obesity is caused mainly by eating too many calories and getting too little physical exercise.

However, metabolism is affected by muscle tone and by the amount of excess body fat a person has. People with excess body fat generally have hormone imbalances that affect their metabolism, slowing it down, and making it more likely that they will gain even more weight.

3. What can cause metabolism to slow down?

The most common cause of a slower metabolism in America today is lack of exercise.

4. How does aging affect metabolism?

Age tends to result in a decrease in growth hormones as well as a change in your sex hormones, all of which will decrease your metabolism. The effect of aging on your metabolism varies from person to person and is determined to a large extent by your genetics. However, remaining active, and maintaining your muscle tone and aerobic conditioning will do a lot to decrease the effects of aging on your metabolism, allowing you to keep your metabolism high well into your older years.

5. What are some medical conditions that can cause metabolism to slow or speed up?

The most commonly recognized disease that causes your metabolism to slow down is hypothyroidism. However, many other conditions will cause your metabolism to slow, including decreased testosterone or “low-T”, menopause, poly-cystic ovarian syndrome and even stress.

6. What are some foods that can affect metabolism?

The type of food you eat has only a small effect on your metabolism, but some food requires a lot more energy to digest and absorb into your system. Food that takes more calories to digest results in less calories being available for your muscles to use, but also less calories that cause weight gain.

Foods that digest easily, such as high glycemic index foods like sugar and processed carbs, cause a sudden spike in blood sugar and a subsequent spike in production of insulin. If you’re burning off these calories at a rapid pace, such as during a triathlon, your body will rapidly metabolize sugar in your muscles and liver, generating energy. If you’re not actively burning up these calories, the increase in the hormone insulin in your body will result in accumulation of calories in the form of fat, even within your muscles

A “double whammy” occurs when you eat high glycemic index food, like frosted corn flakes, when you’re sitting around, resting, because high blood sugar levels cause a decrease in growth hormone. Decreased growth hormone further drives down your metabolism, limits your “energy level” and decreases your ability to maintain lean muscle mass.

7. Can the manner in which you eat affect your metabolism (eating regularly throughout the day vs. starving and gorging, for example)?

The way a person eats does have some effect on metabolism, but it’s a small effect in general. Fasting for long periods will result in a decrease in a person’s basal metabolic rate, but this is not a common problem.

Short term fasting, on a daily basis, such as skipping meals, will also result in an intermittent decrease in resting metabolic rate.

8. Can exercise affect metabolism – for example, can your overall metabolism be elevated by exercising regularly?

Mild, easy activity, such as relaxed walking, has little effect on your hormones. More strenuous exercise, the kind that makes you sweat, causes an increase in the levels of many hormones in your body, including Growth Hormone and Testosterone, both in men and in women. This results in increased calories being burned, not only during exercise, but also afterwards as your muscles repair themselves and grow stronger and bigger. As a result, not only does your metabolism dramatically increase during strenuous exercise, but your basal metabolic rate increases, meaning you burn more calories in between workouts as well.

A little known, but very important fact, is that excess body fat causes your overall metabolism to decrease. Your muscles lose their normal ability to metabolize the calories that you eat, and instead your those calories get stored in your body as fat. So, as people lose muscle tone, and become more overweight, their tendency to accumulate fat increases.

9. Is gender a factor in metabolism?

Gender is a definite factor in metabolism, but not much of a factor in energy balance. Men have more testosterone which results in an increased energy level and helps to build muscle, resulting in increased basal metabolic rate, and increased calorie burning during exercise. This simply means that men need more energy intake to balance out calories burned. However, men are just as likely to consume more calories than they need, resulting in an imbalance that causes weight gain.

10. Can hormonal issues affect metabolism, and how?

Hormones are molecules produced by our body that control everything from when we sleep, to energy level, sex drive, hunger and also metabolism. Diseases such as hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone) and Cushing’s syndrome (too much cortisol) change your metabolism causing weight gain. But, more commonly, hormone levels are changed slightly by how we live; in other words our lifestyle and physical health significantly changes our hormones. Increase stress, lack of exercise, poor muscle tone and obesity will all cause an imbalance in testosterone, cortisol, insulin and growth hormone resulting in abnormal mood swings, decreased sex drive, low energy, and weight gain. Keeping fit, helps maintain a normal hormone balance, preventing many of these problems.

If you are having difficulty achieving permanent weight loss, The N.E.W. Program team is here to help! Our team of physicians are experts in weight loss and have experience working through all obstacles to help you lose weight. We have helped thousands of patients who thought they had lost their battle with weight, regain the upper-hand and conquer it! If you would like us to join your weight loss team, call us! 949-722-7662