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What Is Metabolism?

On the most basic level, metabolism is the process by which your body converts the food and water you consume into energy for immediate use or to be stored for later. This energy doesn’t only power your jog — every action your body performs, including brushing your teeth and getting dressed in the morning, requires this energy.

Your muscles aren’t the only organs that need to be fueled. Your lungs, heart, and brain all require the energy generated in your metabolism powerhouse. But when you eat more than your body needs for all its functions, your metabolism stores that energy as (drumroll, please) . . . fat.

Your metabolism is never sleeping or completely broken; its processes are going on every minute of every day. Of course, your metabolism may not be maximized to work the best it can.

Everyone has to eat and drink, but your body could go for weeks without food. Your metabolism is programmed to conserve the energy for when you absolutely need it. In the absence of food, metabolism actually slow down and releases less energy at a time so that you can survive longer.

But without water, you’d be dead within a few days. That’s because:

  • Your body is more than 60 percent water.

  • The cells in your body that make up your skin, heart, lungs, and muscles (and everything else) require water to maintain their size and shape.

  • Water helps regulate your body temperature. In the process of creating energy from the food you eat, your metabolism generates heat. You sweat when you’re overheated to release that heat from your body, and you drink water to replenish the water loss.

  • Compounds involved in metabolic reactions that help your body process and create energy require water to operate.

Metabolism is at the foundation of your basic functioning to live. It’s what makes your body smart in times of crisis, but it’s also what hurts you if you’re not eating enough or aren’t eating the right types of foods.

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