Metabolism, characteristics and functions

Metabolism, characteristics and functions

The “metabolism” is the set of chemical reactions that take place inside the cells to perform all vital functions. They are the work of special molecules, enzymes.


Is it true that some people have slower metabolisms than others? What are the factors that influence our metabolism ? How can we improve it?

Let’s find out together!

  • What is metabolism
  • Energy metabolism
  • Nutrient metabolism
  • Factors affecting the metabolism
  • Slow metabolism: what does it mean?
  • How to “activate” the metabolism

What is metabolism

By “metabolism” we mean a set of chemical reactions that occur inside the cells to perform all the vital functions and that take place by special molecules, the enzymes.

Energy metabolism 

We distinguish metabolism into two broad categories :

  1. Catabolism : degradation of complex organic molecules into simpler molecules, which produces energy.
  2. Anabolism : set of processes that exploit the energy produced during catabolism for the synthesis of various cellular components, such as proteins and nucleic acids (DNA, RNA).

Nutrient metabolism

The main energy source for our body is food . This is capable of not only providing energy , but also a number of substances essential for survival.

These include carbon , hydrogen and oxygen , which derive mainly from carbohydrates, proteins and lipids.

  • Carbohydrates : the main source of carbohydrates are cereals, fruit , vegetables and legumes . The complex carbohydrates contained in these foods are broken down into simpler molecules, that is, glucose molecules, which are absorbed in the intestine and circulated. A part of these molecules will be readily used by the cells, while the remainder will be stored in the form of glycogen in the liver and muscles. 
  • Proteins : the main protein sources are fish , meat , eggs , cheeses and legumes. Proteins introduced with food are broken down into smaller molecules, amino acids. Once absorbed, they will be partly used for the synthesis of new proteins, while the remainder will reach the liver and be converted into urea. This will be excreted by the kidneys via the urine.
  • Lipids : the main lipid sources are fatty fish, extra virgin olive oil , eggs and nuts . Once broken down and absorbed by the intestine, fats can be used for energy purposes or stored as a reserve in the cells of the adipose tissue.

Factors affecting the metabolism

All the processes described above determine a certain energy expenditure and the speed with which the body consumes energy is influenced by several factors. The main ones are age, gender, body composition, lifestyle, health status and medication intake .Is it just a question of “slow metabolism”?

By “slow metabolism” we mean a condition in which the body consumes little energy to carry out vital functions, possibly hindering the weight loss process.

It can depend on several factors including, for example, a restrictive diet that has gone on too long.

However, several strategies allow you to restore this condition. Let’s see some of them!How to “activate” the metabolism

Physical activity : if you are trying to lose weight without getting results, first of all (as well as following a proper diet) you have to ask yourself if you are moving enough. Both planned (sport) and unscheduled physical activity (daily activities, such as walking or climbing stairs) lead to significant energy consumption.

Personalized diet : If you have been following a strict and restrictive diet for too long, we are only making it worse. A continuous and excessive caloric deficit triggers the alarm of “famine”, for which some metabolic functions tend to slow down to preserve useful energy in the event of an “emergency”. In this case, it is important to restore this condition as soon as possible through a specific and personalized food strategy.

Body composition : Muscle mass is the most metabolically active body component. Those with a good percentage of muscle mass, for the same weight, will consume much more energy than those with a higher body fat percentage.

That is why it is important to preserve our muscle mass through both proper diet and exercise.

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