One often hears about metabolism and generally the term is associated with physical fitness. Let’s try to clarify this term and its processes, thanks to the contribution of Professor Daniela Lucini, Head of the Section of Exercise Medicine and Functional Pathologies in Humanitas.

“Metabolism is the set of biochemical processes indispensable to the production of energy derived from what we introduce with food. Our body receives nutrients and uses them according to the body’s requirements.

The introductions of food and energy consumption are therefore the two arms of the scale. In this delicate and complex balance other factors come into play, such as genetics, age, lifestyle, level of physical training and body. When we talk about metabolism, we also talk about weight, but what counts is muscle mass. Let’s take an example: an obese person (who therefore has an important weight) could consume less than a normal-weight person because he could have low muscle mass, in addition to a large reserve of fat” explains the teacher.


The basal metabolism

“We distinguish the basal metabolism, or the energy it takes to live, at rest, from the metabolism that varies depending on the physical activity you do: the more physical activity we do, the more energy we need. The basal metabolism varies from person to person, also in light of your training level and muscle composition. A well-trained subject, for example, will have a higher basal metabolism and at rest will consume more than a physically inactive individual; this happens for two reasons: the muscle mass of a trained subject is greater and therefore requires more energy, being well-trained then affects the basal metabolism, keeping it a little more “awake”, the specialist points out.


How do you work on your metabolism?

“The factors that need to be addressed are power supply and energy consumption. Strategies will vary according to clinical goals: there are people who only need to lose weight and people who need to improve body composition, ideally this has the right muscle component and an essential fat reserve.

Generally speaking, as many studies have shown, it is important to ensure a healthy, correct and balanced diet that contains the right amount of proteins, the right amount of quality carbohydrates (whole grains, better to limit white flour and sugars), fruit and vegetables. In fact, metabolism works according to what we eat. If we do not introduce enough protein but a lot of carbohydrates and fats, it will not be possible to build/maintain the right muscular component, but the metabolism will transform the excess carbohydrates into fats, increasing only the fat mass.

It is also necessary that physical activity is aerobic (running, walking), of medium-high intensity and above all continuous: it is continuity that exerts an action of metabolic modulation, so it is good to do correct exercises every day rather than exaggerate occasionally,” recommends Professor Lucini.