CARVILLE: 37 trillion cells |

CARVILLE: 37 trillion cells

Phil Carville
Fitness Columnist

You have heard me say that fit people can eat more without getting fat. That is because fit people burn fat in ways that unfit people don’t. The answer resides inside the cells of your body.

All your cells require energy, but some require more energy than others.

Energy Dogs

Your brain cells use only two times as many calories when you are thinking compared to when you are sleeping.

On the other hand, your muscle cells can go from a resting condition to a sudden burst of activity demanding a 50-fold energy increase in less than a second. That energy comes from enzymes and chemical reactions inside your muscle cells.

Only your muscle cells have the special enzymes that create this tremendous release of energy. These are the ‘big energy dogs’ of your body. Your function and very survival depend on the presence of these enzymes. That alone should be reason enough to take care of your muscles.


Your muscles constitute 30-50% of your body mass. Muscles burn lots of calories because: (1) movement demands more calories than any other body function, and (2) muscles are such a large part of your body. Combine these two factors and you can see that 90-percent of the calories burned in your body are burned by muscle cells.

So, if you want to get fit or lose weight, you should improve the quality of your muscles.


These are small potato-shaped objects inside your muscle cells that house the enzymes that convert calories into energy. Studies show that aerobic exercise increases the number and size of mitochondria along with an increase in metabolizing enzymes.

Conversely, people who don’t exercise, lose enzymes. Enzymes are fragile, complex proteins which are continuously broken down and rebuilt. If your muscle cells are not active, the ‘rebuilding’ process is retarded… the enzymes are slowly discarded.

Losing several pounds of muscle is bad but losing just one ounce of enzymes is drastic.

Losing Weight

I want to stress the importance of muscle enzymes… particularly regarding getting fat. If you have low levels of these muscle enzymes, your body will not efficiently metabolize calories… and you are going to get fat.

The body has great wisdom. When you place stress on your muscles (exercise) your body says, “Hey she’s doing it again… she’s exercising, we are going need more enzymes.” Her body goes into action sending blood flow, oxygen and nutrients to the muscle cells. Her DNA responds to create increased levels of mitochondria which spring into action.

You have a marvelous machine of biologic activity inside your muscle cells and you don’t even have to manage them… they manage themselves… if you exercise.


Fitness is more than just ‘form,’ it is also about ‘function.’ The average sized human has about 37 trillion cells in the body. Each cell is a complex machine with an enormous amount of molecular activity. Obviously, you can’t fine turn those 37 trillion cells with tools like a screwdriver or pliers.

The major tools you do have are exercise and diet. Try an ‘apple and a jog’ instead of the ‘screwdriver and pliers’; then you will be on your way to taking care of that wonderful machine you own.


We all want to look good and function well. Comb your hair, put on that new outfit, stay trim, speak kindly and laugh loudly. Those are the reflections of happiness and health. They make the world a better place.

But those outward reflections are the result of your 37 trillion cells working in harmony. Staying healthy should be simple: exercise vigorously 15-minutes each day and eat a balanced diet.

Remember the KISS principle: “Keep It Simple, Sweetheart.”

Phil Carville is a co-owner of the South Yuba Club. He is happy to respond to questions or comments. He can be reached at

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.

For tax deductible donations, click here.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User