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There is another significant part of metabolism—food. To your body, food is the fuel that keeps the metabolic process running smoothly. Your cells must have an energy supply in order to perform their required tasks. Without an adequate amount of fuel, your cells cannot function properly, resulting in unfavorable consequences.  

Think about your car again. If it runs out of gasoline, it will putter and stop. However, in order to stay alive, your body's cells cannot all just shut off. When your cells are low on fuel from food, your body will turn to its "reserve tanks" to utilize other energy sources. Initially, it will use up carbohydrate that has been stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver. When that is gone, it will begin to break down certain tissues to use for its energy supply, specifically, fat and muscle.

In a state of ongoing fuel shortage or semi-starvation, your body must pick and choose which cells to continue supporting and which ones to "drop." A priority list is developed, and needless to say, the cells that provide vital activities take top priority. Remember, muscle cells require a lot of energy, so those that aren't being used regularly will be given the pink slip!  

When your food supply remains low, your cells must also become more efficient. That is, they attempt to perform their jobs without burning as many calories; they adapt to the lower energy intake by expending less energy. If this happened in your car, you'd be thrilled, but when it happens in your body you will burn 20-36% fewer calories per day by becoming more fuel-efficient.  

Part 5 of this series will show you how to harness your innate survival mechanisms to boost your metabolism.

Michelle May MD
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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Stacy Gandy wrote Oct 13, 2008
    • Thank you for your information and posting these blogs on metabolism!

      I often wondered, I did not gain a lot of weight until I had the last child at age 39.  However, the weight did not come from that, it came from stress after the pregnancy and birth of our child.  And, it never left.  I am an emotional eater.  A lot of people will not eat when stressed, I do the opposite.  I eat, and EAT, EAT everything!

      I noticed that if I do, walk regularly, or some other form of physical activity I can lose pretty quick.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Michelle May, M.D. wrote Oct 13, 2008
    • You are not alone in your emotional eating! One of the things I teach people to do is ask the deceptively simple question, “Am I hungry?” whenever they feel like eating.

      If you decide to try it, you may find that it helps you recognize the difference between an urge to eat caused by physical hunger and an urge to eat due to head hunger.  

      When a craving doesn’t come from hunger, eating will never satisfy it!

            Report  Reply

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Michelle May, M.D. wrote Oct 14, 2008
    • That’s great! You can trust your hunger levels to guide you to eat when you‘re hungry and stop when you‘re full. If you do that, you will likely be hungry every few hours (of course depending on what/how much you ate, and how active you’ve been that day).

      That is absolutely the best way to fuel your metabolism!

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