People seem to be forever looking for ways to “speed up” their metabolism, but really what they are looking to do is to increase their body’s anabolism. Technically, metabolism is defined as any biochemical process required by the body for its maintenance. This includes growth, reproduction and damage repair in addition to the breakdown of food into energy. Metabolism actually consists of two different processes: catabolism and (the above mentioned) anabolism.
Catabolism is responsible for breaking things down. This process provides us with the energy our bodies need by breaking down larger components into smaller ones, such as through the process of digestion. Food particles are broken down so that they release energy in the form of ATP, which is used by our muscles for movement. This is similar to the heat released from wood in the burning process. Essential nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, are released from food in catabolism and are absorbed into the bloodstream to be used in the construction of important bio-chemicals such as catabolic hormones (including cortisol, glucagon, adrenaline and cytokines). Catabolism breaks down carbohydrates into mono- and polysaccharides, and breaks proteins into amino acids.
Anabolism, on the other hand, is responsible for building things up. This process takes energy, and uses the energy released from catabolism to fuel anabolic reactions. These reactions include the synthesis of anabolic hormones (such as insulin, estrogen and testosterone), sugars and proteins. Anabolism is the process involved in cell growth and tissue maintenance and can be compared to building or maintaining a house.
It is the ratio of anabolism to catabolism that plays a part in determining our body weight. The amount of energy required for anabolism is subtracted from what is provided by catabolism, and any excess is stored as energy in our fat cells or as glycogen in the liver and muscles. So the faster the anabolic rate, the more quickly weight will be lost. If there is not enough stored in our fat cells, catabolism will begin to break down our muscle cells to release enough energy to fuel our body’s processes, although in the developed world this is not usually an issue.
Your anabolic rate depends on your body size and the ratio of muscle to fat (the more muscle you have, the more energy that you burn while at rest), your age (your metabolism slows as you get older) and the amount of exercise you get. Most people without underlying medical issues who are interested in weight loss don’t need to “trick” their metabolism. To maintain a healthy body weight, your anabolism will do the job just fine if you get sufficient regular exercise, eat a healthy balanced diet and get enough sleep.