I like to camp and I do so at least once every year. There is something about just getting out and stripping yourself of the house, the stereo, the television, and all of the other amenities of modern life: Sometimes it's great to live with just the bare essentials. If you go to a campsite you will always notice one common element: fire. You use it to cook, provide light, or just warm the bones. Even in the hot days of summer there is a cozy feeling of huddling around a few burning logs. Likewise, you have a fire burning deep within called metabolism. Like a campsite, your personal fire is the center for everything you are. It provides heat, energy, and all of the essentials to maintain a healthy campsite...I mean body. Its no secret that metabolism is important to your health, especially when it comes to weight loss. Basically speaking, metabolism is the term used to convey the amount of energy your body uses to sustain itself. It refers to everything from digestion, to hair growth. The more your body does to stay healthy, the more calories it requires. So keeping metabolism fired up and hot is very elemental in keeping excess weight at bay. A high metabolism is also important in all other areas of fitness. It provides you with plentiful energy so you can complete your workouts and daily tasks with energy and vigor. Contrary to popular belief, I don't think metabolism is a static thing. It varies day by day, minute by minute. It is possible to slow it down as well as speed it up. The following are some general ways that metabolism is changed and affected. FOOD-It's really easy for a health manufacturer to claim that their foods have metabolism boosting ability. That's because all foods can boost metabolism. It doesn't matter if it's calamari or a tub of popcorn. Food is like the wood on the campfire. It keeps things burning nice and hot as long as it comes in a steady supply. If you have too little wood on the fire the flames dwindle and die down. However, if you over-eat it's like over-loading the fire with huge logs that snuff the fire out. This is why the experts always say to eat breakfast. Put some fuel on the fire in the morning when the flames are low to help get that fire roaring hot and provide you with energy all day long. Having a well-balanced diet is also an important element. The macro nutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) are the raw fuel for your fire, but the other nutrients (vitamins, minerals, water) are key as well. The metabolism is a very complex process requiring many things to happen. And, if there is one thing that can cause your metabolism to slow to a screeching halt, it's a diet. The deprivation of nutrients and calories is pure metabolic suicide. It doesn't even matter what the diet is, as long as it has some type of deprivation along with an over load of something else. It would be like letting the fire dwindle by starving it of wood and then loading on big heavy logs. I loath diets with a passion, simply because I used to fall under their spell. Now I know better and I don't diet. SLEEP- You only have so much ability to keep the fire burning when you feel run down. Getting sleep is like restocking the wood pile. If you constantly short change your sleep you will have to use a little less fuel to keep the fire going. As a result, your metabolism decreases to conserve energy. Even skimping on sleep a couple days a week can have a significant effect on your metabolism. MOVEMENT- Let's say you have a small fire going and you're roasting your hot dog. All of a sudden 10 of your best friends show up with their own hot dogs. Your little fire might be able to accommodate two people, three if you push it, but certainly not 10. So you throw on some more kindling, wood and charcoal to make the flames bigger in order to accommodate the increased demand. Making the body work harder than it is accustomed to is very much the same deal. Exercise requires more energy output from many cells in your body. If your body requires more energy it will make the changes necessary to increase its fire. Of course if you suddenly slack off and don't require as hot a fire, it will be the efficient machine it is and tone down the heat. Exercise is a great way to purposely force your body to both consume and require more energy every minute of every day. THE OTHER FIRE- When we talk about metabolism we usually refer to the physical. The actual "fire that makes things happen in your body. Now I'm not the world's most metaphysical guy, but I do believe that the fire of passion has something to do with metabolism. It's good to be passionate about something. It doesn't matter if it's about cars, art, or politics. Passionate people seem to exude energy whenever they get going on their favorite subjects. Living a life with passion, drive and mental energy just seems to have a lot of spark to it. I'm not saying that going out and trying to save the whales is going to shrink your waist line. However, if you have something you have real passion for, it brings a lot of energy into your life and any energy can be a good thing at making anything happen. You could consider this aspect of metabolism not really having anything to do with the actual camp fire itself. Instead it's more like the reason why the fire is there in the first place. Passionate energy is like the hunger or chill the campers feel that leads them to build the fire. Where does this fire like passion come from? I don't know, but does it matter? All that is important is that it's there. And as long as it burns hot it can bring you almost anything. Without it, almost nothing can happen to change your life, your body, your metabolism. I'm here at the Fitness Center to help you with anything you need to build your metabolism. After all, even the world's largest fires begin with a single spark. Your fellow camper, Trainer Matt Matt Schifferle is the fitness director and an A.C.E Certified Personal Trainer who works out of the Fitness Center in Burlington. He is also a Fourth Degree Black Belt in Taekwon-Do and a regional mountain bike racer. He can help you at Matt@vtfit.com.