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The word metabolism is thrown around a lot these days. Some people complain about having a "slow" or sluggish metabolism or buy products that claim to "boost" their metabolism. But what is metabolism anyway?  

In a nutshell, metabolism simply refers to the amount of fuel or energy that your body burns each day. While images of treadmills and aerobics classes may come to mind, you're using energy right now just reading this post.  

The largest part of your metabolism, called basal metabolism, is the amount of fuel your body burns to support your basic bodily functions. These vital functions include your heartbeat, breathing, brain function and numerous other important, but invisible, activities going on inside of you at all times. Even eating, digesting and processing food contribute to your metabolism.  

In fact, every little cell in your body is like a tiny engine that burns fuel continuously in the process of doing its job. These tiny engines never shut off while you are alive. Even when you're sleeping or sitting still, your body's cells are still actively working. It's just like a car; when the engine is running, it's burning fuel—even if it's just sitting in the driveway.  

Your basal metabolism is partly determined by your genetics - so of course your genes are partially responsible for your jeans!

In my next post, I’ll talk about the aspects of our metabolism that we have more control over - and one of the reasons our metabolism goes down when we‘re over 40.

Michelle May, M.D.
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