A staggering number of adults and children are overweight or obese in the United States today. Obesity is one of the main factors associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, psychological disorders such as depression, and some forms of cancer. Obesity is no longer an adult disease; its prevalence has almost tripled among adolescents in the last two decades. There are several factors associated with maintaining a healthy body weight. These include genetics, body composition, environment, and physical activity and their relationship to metabolism, as well as excessive calorie intake.
GENETICS AND METABOLISM
Calorie expenditure is not entirely dependent on exercise. Metabolism is an involuntary activity that affects an individual’s ability to burn calories. When you are awake and resting, calories are burned just to keep you alive; This is considered your resting energy expenditure (REE).
The REE between men and women is significantly different. A woman’s metabolism is 10-15 percent slower than a man’s because men naturally have more muscle mass, while women have a higher proportion of body fat.
Also, hormonal activity, like hormones produced by the thyroid gland, sets the overall metabolic rate. Body composition, unlike genetics, can be altered to some degree.
BODY COMPOSITION AND METABOLISM
REE naturally declines with age due to loss of muscle mass. As a result, weight loss at a younger age is easier to achieve. In general, losing body weight due to fat or muscle reduces your daily REE. It should be noted that at rest fat burns about 1-2 calories per hour compared to muscle, which burns about 30-35 calories per hour. Therefore, maintaining body weight while reducing fat and increasing muscle mass will greatly increase REE.
ENVIRONMENT AND METABOLISM
The last and most modifiable REE factor is the environment. Certain stimulants can elicit a response in metabolism. Two of these that are used on a daily basis are caffeine and nicotine. Two to three cups of coffee have been reported in studies to increase REE by up to 12 percent. Cigarettes, which contain nicotine, also stimulate the metabolism. People who smoke cigarettes often experience weight gain after quitting. This may be due to a decrease in REE, as well as a higher caloric intake.
Temperature is another important environmental factor that affects metabolism. In cold environments, the combination of the release of certain hormones (i.e., adrenaline) and chills can increase REE by up to 400 percent. REE rises in warmer environments due to increased cardiovascular activity and sweating.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND METABOLISM
As you can see from the examples above, your metabolic rate is regulated by several factors. Exercise, in general, will increase your metabolic rate. When you exercise, your body releases stored fuels to aid in energy production. Remember, your body composition greatly affects how many calories you burn in a typical day. Therefore, the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn because muscle is metabolically active. Resistance exercise is the best way to increase muscle mass, while aerobic activity is best to increase your circulatory system and strengthen your heart.
However, exercise is only part of the picture. To maintain a healthy body weight, you need to match your energy intake with your energy output.
EXCESSIVE CALORIE INTAKE = LARGE WAIST
The average adult consumes about a million calories a year. The human body has evolved into a highly efficient system, which is why excessive caloric intake leads to weight gain. For example, if you were consuming just over 50 calories a day from your energy expenditure, you could expect to gain about five pounds of additional fat per year. This equates to just five fries.
Everyone knows that fast food is not the healthiest option, yet millions of people visit fast food restaurants every day. While fast food isn’t the only way people get too many calories, it is an important factor.
If you went to Wendy’s and ordered an inexpensive classic single burger meal, it would probably hit half your allotted calories for a single day, given you’re the average adult on a 2,000 calorie diet. A Classic Single, with all the fixings, has about 410 calories, a Biggie fry has about 470 calories, and a 22 fl oz. oz. of regular soda has about 277 calories, for a whopping 1157 calories. Now if you had Biggie Size in that order, the total calories would increase to about 1383 calories.
Burger King burgers are fire-grilled, does that make them healthier? Not quite. A BK Whopper with cheese contains about 850 calories. If you ordered the Value Meal, which includes a large fry and 22 fl. oz of soda, your meal total has risen to 1630 calories. Opting for chicken over beef is a healthy alternative, as long as it is grilled breast meat without breading.
Subway has been marketed as a healthy alternative to other fast food chains. What they don’t tell you in the commercials, or mention in the fine print, is that you can’t have a regular soda, added seasonings (ie cheese or mayonnaise), or a 12 “sub to be considered low-fat or low-calorie. A 12 “roast chicken breast sub has approximately 622 calories, without cheese or mayo. No fries, if you add a 22 fl. oz. of regular soda to that meal, it was just increased to 900 calories. Even worse is the Subway 12 “meatball subwoofer, which has about 1000 calories.
As you can see from the examples above, fast food can actually contain a caloric intake. Inexpensive meals seem to have great value when you consider the cost of creating your own food compared to what is suggested to you. There is nothing wrong with going to fast food restaurants once in a while. The problem is that he frequents these places too often. I only mentioned total calories here, but I must remind you that these places are not only high in calories, but also high in total fat, particularly saturated and trans fat, and cholesterol.
So what does it take to burn down a Whopper, fries, or a sub every day? Let me ask you this. “While you oversize those meals, are you oversizing your exercise routine as well?” To burn off an average value meal (approximately 1500 calories), you can choose any of the following activity options:
* Run 15 miles in 2 1/2 hours (10 minute / mile pace).
* Climb flights of stairs for 7 1/2 hours.
* Walk at a light to moderate pace for 10 hours.
* Drive your car for 13 and a half hours.
* Stand up for 15 hours.
As you can see from these examples, it takes an excessive amount of activity to burn those calories. So does this mean you should never eat at a fast food place again? Not.
If you were to go to these places, I would first tell you to look at the calorie content of the foods you intend to buy. Fast food restaurants should have their nutritional information readily available; although you may have to do some searching. Just a few quick tips to cut calories:
1. Order small sides with your burger
2. Drink diet soda versus regular soda
3. Load the veggies into your sandwich and use vinegar instead of mayonnaise
However, eating too many calories, without doing physical activity, are the two main causes of weight gain. If you are consuming too many calories, you should also increase your exercise routine to compensate for this. Adjustments in nutrition, exercise, and general lifestyle are the best solution. Eat moderate amounts and adjust your daily activities to reflect changes in your diet.