The Wonder of Metabolism

Our body is fearfully and wonderfully made by God. One of the wonders is metabolism. Metabolism breaks down food eaten into enzymes that make chemical reactions possible in our digestive system. These enzymes accelerate, or generate, chemical reactions that break down then proteins, carbohydrates, and fats we’ve eaten. Discover the wonder of metabolism in this article which follows.


The old Gainesville Midland locomotive passed in front of my grandfather’s plantation house near Jefferson, Georgia. The Midland connected Gainesville and Athens and was a sight to behold for a five year-year old boy fascinated with the huge thick black smoke belching from its smokestack, its piercing whistle as it neared the railroad crossing, and its wonderful chugging sound. I didn’t know it back in the mid-nineteen fifties, but it was the last of the steam powered locomotives in Georgia. 

The city of Jefferson was given the old locomotive, built a protective shed for it, and gave it a permanent home in front of the high school for the enjoyment of all. 

Our body’s metabolism is like that old  steam locomotive powered by coal. Carbohydrates are the coal fire that powers the body. Fats are the grease that lubricates the wheels. Protein is the chemical process that occurs when the coal is set on fire to produce energy.  Water is turned into steam from the fire forcing the giant wheels to turn and move the locomotive forward. Fire, grease, a chemical process, and water are all necessary to operate the locomotive successfully. 

The process that occurs in a steam locomotive can be compared to our body’s metabolism. Metabolism is the process by which our body converts what we eat and drink into energy powering everything the body does. During this complex biochemical process, calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy our body needs to function.

Metabolism breaks down food eaten into enzymes, the ‘workers’ that make chemical reactions possible in our digestive system. These enzymes accelerate, or generate, chemical reactions that break down then proteins, carbohydrates, and fats we’ve eaten. This is all a component of metabolism. 

From the digestive system, the broken down substance is then carried to the cells where they can be used as fuel. Our body either uses these substances immediately, or stores them in the liver, body fat, and muscle tissues for later use.

Even when you’re at rest, your body needs energy for all its “hidden” functions, such as breathing, circulating blood, adjusting hormone levels, and growing and repairing cells.

The old locomotive burned coal. Our metabolism burns calories which are defined as a unit of energy. So, even when we are asleep, our metabolism is at work burning through its fuel. Sleep is a key that affects weight loss. Your ability to burn calories plus the food choices you make all contribute to nighttime calorie burning. 

On average, good sleep burns 0.5 calories per pound, per hour. I weigh 235 pounds. If I sleep 8 hours, I’ve burned about 940 calories. That’s more calories than I burn walking for an hour at 2 1/2 MPH!  At my rate of walking, I burn 320 calories in an hour. I would do better sleeping! Want to calculate your calories burned by walking? Here’s the link:

Each of us has a basal metabolic (BSM) determined by several factors including weight and age. My BSM based on a height of 5’10”, age 66, and 235 pounds is 1,976 calories burned per day just being a couch potato!  By the way, the heavier you are, the greater your BMR. Our metabolism is always working. If you want your BMR, click on this link.

To understand how a heavier body’s metabolism burns more calories, I think of a 1967 Pontiac GTO that I drooled over when I was 16. One of my friend’s had a new one courtesy of his rich dad. The closest I got to having one was when he would take me on a thrill ride in it. 

That GTO had a huge 389 cubic inch engine with power to spare!  It sucked rather than sipped gasoline and averaged only 8.8 mile per gallon! But then, gas was only 27 cents a gallon!  

Contrast that gas guzzler with the  2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid. It gets up to 57 city / 59 highway miles per gallon with a small 1.6 L 4-cylinder engine. 

It takes more carbohydrate fuel to run a heavy body like it takes more gas to run the big GTO engine.  Yet, in order to lose weight, it is necessary to not fill up the big body. It’s like putting in 5 gallons of gas instead of filling up with 10. This can be a tough thing to do. 

A healthy metabolism helps ensure our body is functioning properly, and that it has less risk of other diseases like diabetes, which is a sign of a metabolic disorder. That’s why eating a proper and balanced diet of carbs, protein, and fats is essential to a healthy metabolism and good health!

There are certain foods that boost our BSM. Imagine that!  Eating helps in weight loss by speeding up metabolism. These foods include almonds, beans, berries, dark chocolate, apple cider vinegar, and cinnamon. There are many more. I indulge in one piece of Love’s dark chocolate after supper and we keep a bottle of cinnamon on the table with our salt and pepper shakers. Cinnamon also enhances the taste of many foods while boosting the BMR. How’s that for a win-win!

Many nutrition experts like Dr. Don Colbert recommend eating three small healthy meals a day and a mid-afternoon and bedtime snack to keep the metabolic fire burning. After all, if the fire goes out in the locomotive, the train stops! If metabolism slows down, less calories are burned. That’s why it’s important to keep the metabolism fire stoked. 

Low metabolism not only burns less calories, but it is linked to low immunity. When it’s low, we are more subject to experience cold, flu, depression, headaches, belly problems, constipation, weight gain, and acne and skin problems.

To boost metabolism, drink water. Lots of it. Experts recommend 8 glasses a day. The locomotive most have water to function. Water turns to steam from the coal fire which sends the train on its way. In the same way, water is necessary for our metabolism to burn away calories. 

When we drink water, the body begins to warm it up to 99.6 degrees. That burns calories. This process is known as thermogenesis. About 60% of our body is water!

And for your health’s sake, ditch those sodas and all sugary drinks including Gatorade. Drink unsweetened tea or tea sweetened with Stevia. I sometimes add a little cranberry juice to my tea and water to vary the flavor. Of course, lemon is a good additive too. 

Don’t forget caffeine. Coffee lovers rejoice! It turns out that cup of java may give you more than just an energy boost midday. When researchers gave subjects coffee and then measured their caloric burn, they found that the caffeinated individuals burned more calories than their decaf-ordering counterparts. One or two cups of plain coffee daily is recommended. I add a little half ‘n half and an artificial sweetener to mine. 

What about skipping meals or skipping breakfast? Skipping meals will cause you to enter the starvation state and can cause the body to break down those good muscle to maintain itself. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. 

Eating breakfasts helps jumpstart your metabolism especially if we eat within one hour of waking up. Our metabolism went into rest mode over night. Our first meal of the day revs it up again.  To work the kick-start effect to the max, choose foods high in fiber and protein, like whole-grain cereal, oatmeal, low fat milk, and berries. I skip the milk and drink low sodium tomato juice. I save the milk for a low calorie snack at bedtime. 

Dr. Colbert advises, Eat like a king at breakfast, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” But if you are like me, our biggest meal is dinner!  Not good. 

When you come home after a stressful day at work, take some time to relax if you can rather than jumping into your evening responsibilities. Your metabolism will thank you. Why? When we get stressed, our body releases cortisol (the fight or flight hormone), and too much cortisol slows down our metabolism. 

If our body is lacking in the minimum nutrients and rest, it cannot carry out its bodily and mental functions leading to a risk of metabolic disorders which can have serious consequences.

What about fad diets, magic weight loss pills, and miraculous weight loss shakes and drinks?

Fad diets like the no-carb or low carb diets that are popular today can cause our body to suffer since carbs are the coal that power the engine. Most fad diets go something like this: Take a few foods, give them ‘magic’ power, and set a plan to convince people that eating this way and only this way will promote weight loss. 

Take the popular high protein low carb diet. If misused, it can lead to a predisposition for autoimmune diseases, renal and liver damage, and bone loss. I’d rather not take that risk. 

Carbs are a major source of energy and are a vital fuel for body. A carb-free fad diet seems like a death wish to me. 

Granted, you can lose weight on these low-carb and no carb diets in the short term but not the long term. After a short term loss, you can hit a plateau and lose nothing for days or weeks as the body replenishes lost carb energy by consuming muscle cells. Not good. 

Carbs do not make us fat. The unused carbs from eating too many of them are stored and make is fat. Carbs must be used immediately to avoid weight gain. Limit carbs to proper portion sizes to avoid weight gain. Reducing carbs sensibly along with reducing calories can lead to weight loss. 

Plus, the good carbs from fruits and vegetables contain anti-oxidants that naturally cleanse and de-tox our body.  They keep our body functioning efficiently so that it can maintain its natural internal-cleansing mechanisms. As such, antioxidants are known to help slow the effects of aging and prevent a variety of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, autoimmune diseases and some forms of cancer. Eat your veggies!  And remember that old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!”

You can lose weight in the long term by walking and other activities and eating healthy, small portion meals. 

Weight loss pills do nothing for our metabolism. Most of them just curb appetite. But, so does eating right. I’ve never felt famished eating properly. 

The ads for quick weight loss pills and supplements promise you the world and if you have been struggling with obesity and weight gain it is only natural to be tempted to go for that ‘quick fix‘. The claims are wide and varied and often not backed up by any scientific research. These include promoting weight loss pills as amazing fat burners that increase the metabolic rate, leading to impressive weight loss and even improving health, energy levels and fitness.

What about weight loss drinks and shakes? Years and years ago, I tried the Slim Fast diet of drinking a Slim Fast in lieu of breakfast. Between breakfast and lunch, I got very hungry and pigged-out for lunch. They don’t work for me. 

The final nutrition component is fat.  Fats are like the grease that lubricated the old locomotive to keep the wheels running smoothly. They serve the same purpose in our body. 

Fats are an essential part of our diet. They provide energy, absorb certain nutrients and maintain our core body temperature. 

Like good and bad carbs, there are good and bad fats. In general, good fats are liquid like olive oil. Bad fats with the exception of butter never liquify are room temperature. Margarine and shortening are considered bad fats. 

The worst fat product is man made, artificial trans-fat made in factories. Trans-fat is created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. The primary dietary source for trans fats is “partially hydrogenated oils.” Processed foods like cookies. shortening, snack foods, fried foods, and some salad dressings are fat bombs. Many restaurants use trans fat. Read the nutrition label to see if the product contains trans-fat. Consider not buying it if it does. 

Fats are an essential nutrient for us. Nutritionists recommend that our body contain 18% fat. Just because the product label may boast that the product is low or no fat does not mean it’s low in calories. Be a wise consumer. 

Dr. J. Ron Eaker, a Christian physician says, “Enjoy any fat from God-created food and avoid processed fats.” Examples of God-created fat are olive oil, almonds, and fish. 

In conclusion, losing weight requires you to eat fewer calories than you burn. Metabolism is the engine that burns calories. Boost your metabolism by eating a healthy, whole-food diet. Get active and find an exercise you enjoy and can do. Just walking a mile or more each day increases our body’s demand for energy which increases our metabolism.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made and our metabolism is one of God’s wonders He made in our body!  

“I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you” (3 John 1:2). 

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