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How Does Metabolism Work?

Metabolism is the key to life. “Pausing” it is the key to indefinite cryopreservation.

Every second of every day, your body performs millions of chemical reactions to keep you alive. While some of these are noticeable (breathing), most of them happen without any awareness (cellular division). However, metabolism is the key to life. This is why, in regard to cryopreservation, we always say that metabolism is basically “paused.” It’s operating so slowly that it requires no external energy and cellular decay ceases. This is what allows patients to remain in the same state as when they reached legal death. But how does this work? In the following article, we’ll explore the mysteries of metabolism, how it contributes to aging, and its relevance to the field of cryonics (aka biostasis). 

Different hormones, vitamins, and minerals play an essential role in metabolism

What is Metabolism?

Your metabolism is the chemical process that occurs in your body to fuel digestion, circulation, growing, cellular repair, managing hormones, regulating body temperature, breathing, and more. It’s powered by breaking down food and drinks into energy and is impacted by several different lifestyle factors. Metabolism requires calories and oxygen in order to operate and, without it, cellular functions wouldn’t be possible. It’s what keeps you alive day-in and day-out. The slower the metabolism, the less energy or sustenance required to survive. 

There are two primary processes that encompass metabolism. Catabolism refers to the energy that’s released due to food and beverage breakdown. Anabolism refers to the process where energy is used to power bodily functions, such as cellular repair, growth, etc. Both are important in sustaining life and overall health. 

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

As a whole, basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of energy that’s required to simply exist. It’s the number of calories your body needs to function at a state of rest and makes up about 60% to 70% of total energy usage in an individual, regardless of if you’re sleeping or running around. Most people can get a basic idea of their BMR using height, weight, and age, but this can change based on lifestyle habits and overall health. 

Exercise can help boost metabolism and increase muscle mass as you age

What Affects Metabolism?

There are several different factors that can affect your metabolism. These are what cause differences in BMR across individuals. Some of the habits that can influence your metabolic rate include diet, exercise, weight, underlying conditions, and deprivation.

  • Diet: while many people think that eating specific food (eggs, beans, chicken, etc.) is one of the biggest ways to improve metabolism, that’s not necessarily true. Aside from the short-term boost from digestion, long-term metabolic changes won’t come from “magic” foods. However, your diet as a whole can improve your metabolism if you focus on the thermic effect of food (TEF). This is basically the energy required to break down macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates) in what you eat. Protein takes the most energy, while fat takes the least. Higher TEF rates can lead to a higher metabolism.

  • Exercise: physical activity also has an impact on your metabolic rate. The more active you are, the more efficient your cells become. When you incorporate strength training and increase muscle mass, this further raises your BMR. A combination of weight lifting and aerobic activity can have long-lasting impacts, help improve cellular viability, and slow the rate of aging in your cells. 

  • Weight: the relationship between metabolism and weight is often misconstrued. People assume that weight gain or obesity is caused by a slow metabolism, but that’s not true. In fact, studies show that individuals with obesity tend to have fast metabolisms, as they require more energy to power basic bodily functions. People with higher muscle mass also tend to have faster metabolisms, as maintaining muscle requires more energy than fat. 

  • Deprivation: your cells need an adequate amount of fuel and your body needs rest to function at its best. So, depriving yourself of food or sleep can have a negative effect on your metabolism. Skipping meals or sleeping fewer than seven hours each night alters glucose metabolism in the cells, therefore reducing your body’s overall BMR. 

Metabolism impacts cellular health and vitality

The Connection Between Cellular Metabolism and Age

Age is another major factor in the rate of your metabolism. However, this is usually because the controllable factors of metabolism tend to become more difficult to manage over the years. You may move less or start to eat more processed foods out of convenience. This results in a lower muscle mass, which is one of the primary reasons for age-related decreases in BMR [1]. Age and metabolism are inversely related—the older we get, the slower the metabolism becomes.

Slower metabolisms lead to inefficient cellular function and eventually, deterioration. This helps to explain why the gradual decline in metabolism is connected to many of the hallmarks of aging and “severe metabolic injury can accelerate aging” [2]. Aging affects virtually every single aspect of cell biology, as metabolic exhaustion inhibits efficient functioning [2]. 

However, research suggests that if there were a way to pharmacologically alter metabolism, it might result in improved longevity. This is one of the driving factors behind the research involved in anti-aging pills. As metabolism declines with age, mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cells) lose their efficiency. This eventually leads to cellular senescence, which refers to the “process by which a cell ages and permanently stops dividing, but doesn’t die” [3]. Cellular senescence is one of the driving forces behind aging and metabolism plays a vital role in this process.

Alternatively, hormesis, which is a process of introducing low levels of metabolic impairment in an effort to strengthen resilience and stimulate repair, has been shown to help diminish the effects of aging [2]. One way to incorporate hormesis into your daily life is to increase your exposure to cold temperatures with occasional ice baths or cold showers. But remember, taking a cold shower isn’t going to prevent you from aging!

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Cryopreservation and Metabolism

The relationship between metabolism and aging is becoming an increasingly popular topic amongst the research community. In fact, several researchers are looking for ways to slow down the metabolism and possibly increase life span. Cryopreservation may provide some interesting insight into their efforts. 

Cryopreservation has shown that by slowing metabolism to a point where it’s almost entirely paused, aging can be stopped in its tracks. Cellular deterioration no longer occurs and individuals can remain in their cryopreserved state indefinitely. This is essential to the success of cryonics. Unfortunately, as revival technology hasn’t yet been developed, cryopreservation can’t be considered a cure for aging. It stops it, but that’s all it can do for now. On an optimistic note, there’s no reason why it may not work in the future, and therefore, for many it represents the ultimate long-term cure for aging and diseases. 

Cryopreservation essentially “pauses” metabolism


Metabolism is the driving force behind all forms of life and future revival technologies will have to find a way to restart it. At Tomorrow.Bio, we will continue pursuing the research surrounding these fields in the hopes that someday, there may be a way to revive patients and “cure” aging altogether. If you’re interested in learning more about the science behind this, schedule a call with us today. If you’re already hooked and ready to join our community, sign up today!


[1] Shimokata H., & Kuzuya F. (1993, July 25). Aging, basal metabolic rate, and nutrition. PubMed.

[2] Catic, A. (2018). Cellular Metabolism and Aging. Science Direct.

[3] NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. (n.d.). National Cancer Institute.

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