What is Metabolism?
What is Metabolism?
Some people think that the metabolism is a kind of organ, or a body part, that influences digestion. Actually, it's the process by which the body converts food into energy.
The Medical Mumbo Jumbo
It's helpful to briefly look at the biological mechanisms behind metabolism.
Metabolism, as mentioned above, is the process of transforming food (e.g. nutrients) into fuel (e.g. energy). The body uses this energy to conduct a vast array of essential functions.
In fact, your ability to read this page - literally - is driven by your metabolism. If you had no metabolism - that is, if you had no metabolic process that was converting food into energy - then you wouldn't be able to move.
In fact, long before you realized that you couldn't move a finger or lift your foot, your internal processes would have stopped; because the basic building blocks of life - circulating blood, transforming oxygen into carbon dioxide, expelling potentially lethal wastes through the kidneys and so on - all of these depend on metabolism.
While we may struggle with unwanted weight gain due to metabolic factors, they certainly have a functioning metabolism.
It's also interesting to note that, while we conveniently refer to the metabolic process as if it were a single function, it's really a catch-all term for countless functions that are taking place inside the body. Every second of every minute of every day of your life - even, of course, when you sleep - numerous chemical conversions are taking place through metabolism, or metabolic functioning.
In a certain light, the metabolism has been referred to as a harmonizing process that manages to achieve two critical bodily functions that, in a sense, seem to be at odds with each other.
Anabolism and Catabolism
The first function is creating tissue and cells. Each moment, our bodies are creating more cells to replace dead or dysfunctional cells.
For example, if you cut your finger, your body (if it's functioning properly) will begin - without even wasting a moment or asking your permission -the process of creating skin cells to clot the blood and start the healing process. This creation process is indeed a metabolic response, and is called anabolism.
On the other hand, there is the exact opposite activity taking place in other parts of the body. Instead of building cells and tissue through metabolism, the body is breaking down energy so that the body can do what it's supposed to do.
For example, as you aerobically exercise, your body temperature rises as your heart beat increases and remains with a certain range.
As this happens, your body requires more oxygen; and as such, your breathing increases as you intake more H2O. All of this, as you can imagine, requires additional energy.
After all, if your body couldn't adjust to this enhanced requirement for oxygen (both taking it in and getting rid of it in the form of carbon dioxide), you would collapse!
Presuming, of course, that you aren't overdoing it, your body will instead begin converting food (e.g. calories) into energy. And this process, as you know, is a metabolic process, and is called catabolism.
So as you can see, the metabolism is a constant process that takes care of two seemingly opposite function: anabolism that uses energy to create cells, and catabolism that breaks down cells to create energy.
Indeed, it's in this way that the metabolism earns its reputation as a harmonizer. It brings together these apparently conflicting functions, and does so in an optimal way that enables the body to create cells as needed, and break them down, again as needed.
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