Slow Down to Accelerate Your Weight Loss
I came across an interesting article on metabolism, which I will summarize here and add a few of my own thoughts to it.
As we are getting older, many of us are noticing that our lives are not getting any simpler. There are more things to take care of, and we don't get as much sleep and rest time as we used to. Shouldn't that mean that all this stress-related activity is also helping us burn more calories and allowing us to eat more?
We all know the answer to this question, for better or worse. It turns out that one and the same activity can have a different effect on your weight loss depending on how you spend the rest of your day.
The reason for this lies in the two nervous systems involved in metabolism: the sympathetic nervous system, known as "fight or flight," and the parasympathetic, known as "rest and digest." The sympathetic inhibts digestion and allows the body to focus all of its energy on the task at hand. It was meant to help us run away from dangerous animals and fight for our lives. In contrast, the parasympathetic nervous system directs blood to the digestive tract and makes sure food is actively digested.
While we are no longer running away from tigers and crocodiles, we do spend a disproportionate amount of time rushing, worrying, or just simply motivating ourselves to be productive at home, work, or elsewhere. Our predecessors were not half as productive as we are today. And neither are our children. Can you see the link there?
It's important to use the sympathetic nervous system to get your heart rate up and perform the hard work required to burn a decent amount of calories. However, it is the parasympathetic system that is required to restore the balance in your body, and allow it to burn your fat reserves rather than other more accessible forms of energy.
Metabolism is a complex subject and I don’t want to oversimplify it with a few brief points. I heartily recommend this article for a more thorough discussion on hormones, enzymes and fuel used in different metabolic states. However, if there is one thing that can be recommended to everyone is to get as much sleep as you can (see Mary's discussion on this topic), and to look for ways to slow down your life after high-intensity periods of time.