Metabolism: Fact vs Fiction

A simple online search produces thousands of articles about our metabolism, making it hard to figure out what’s fact and what’s fiction.

Many articles simply categorize your metabolism as either slow or fast. And if it’s slow, how to boost it into overdrive with tips and tricks. These articles promise that drinking teas and regular snacking will help speed up your metabolism, giving you more energy and the ability to lose weight faster, but unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Before you continue to berate yourself and your slow metabolism, let’s learn more about the process of metabolizing calories into energy:

Metabolism explained

According to Mayo Clinic, your metabolism is the process of converting food and drink into energy. The calories found in food and beverages are broken down through a complex biochemical process. They are then combined with oxygen which releases energy.

The energy is then used by your body to keep you alive. Body functions that use energy include your heartbeat, brain function, breathing and many more. Even when you’re sleeping your body uses a lot of energy.

The number of calories your body burns to carry out these basic functions is known as your resting metabolic rate.

Your resting metabolic rate is generally at an unchanged state but there are a few factors that influence it. These include:

Body size and composition: People who are larger and who have more muscle burn more calories.

Gender: Men generally have more muscle than women, resulting in them burning more calories.

Age: The older you get, the more your muscles deteriorate, slowing down your calorie burn.

Along with your resting metabolic rate, there are two other ways of burning calories: digesting food and exercise. These three ways make up what the mainstream media refers to as your metabolism.

Now that we know more about resting metabolism, let’s look at some of the myths related to it:

Claim: You’re stuck with a metabolism that remains unchanged.

While factors like genetics play a role in determining your metabolic rate, you can still boost your rate by increasing your muscle mass. Studies show that muscle burns an exponential number of calories per hour than fat. This means that a person with more muscle will burn more calories faster than a person with a high percentage of body fat.

Claim: When you’re older, your metabolism will continue to slow down.

As you grow older, your muscle mass decreases which in turn slows your metabolic rate. You’ll be able to counteract this through weight training which will help you build more muscle and burn more calories.

Claim: Certain foods help boost your metabolism.

There’s no wonder food that will suddenly boost your metabolism. Studies have shown that certain foods can boost your metabolism but the effect is so small and insignificant that it’s not worth drowning yourself in green teas and peppers.

Claim: People who are skinnier have a faster metabolism.

Weight loss is a result of creating an energy deficit. This means that a person needs to ingest fewer calories than they’re using each day. People who are skinnier than others simply consume fewer calories or move more than others.

Claim: Eating six meals a day boosts your metabolism.

People who have more muscle, like weightlifters, burn more calories, so it makes sense for them to eat more than just regular meals. But for people who don’t have a lot of muscle mass, or aren’t as active, it doesn’t matter how many meals you eat a day, as long as you’re ingesting fewer calories than you’re using.

There’s no quick and easy way to lose weight. Placing all your attention on media hype and fad diets focused on boosting your metabolism will only distract you from the best and safest way to lose weight: consume fewer calories and move more.

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