Ok, time for everyone reading this to fess up. No judgment, I promise. All you have to do is nod your head in agreement or do the slow, sheepish raise of the hand. Answer this question honestly:
Have you ever blamed weight gain or difficulty losing weight on “slow metabolism”?
Anyone who just said “no” is clearly lying, so I’m going to proceed as if everyone said yes. We’ve all had that friend we totally envy because he/she can seemingly eat like a horse and never gain a pound. You’re thinking of someone right now, aren’t you. I mean, it makes sense that we would be under this false impression. We know that metabolism is a biochemical process in which calories we eat from food and beverages are converted to energy. So we naturally think, “If my metabolism is slower, I don’t burn as many calories, and can’t lose weight.” Well it’s about time we turn this thinking upside down. Let’s bust some myths, shall we?
Myth: you can’t change your metabolic rate.
Truth: your metabolic rate is comprised of 3 factors:
- Basal metabolic rate: amount of energy expended to carry out basic functions while the body is at rest. Basic functions include breathing, temperature regulation, blood circulation, and hormone regulation. This is the biggest piece of the pie.
- Thermic effect of food: energy it takes to digest, absorb, transport, and store food. This doesn’t really vary from day to day.
- Physical activity: energy for any movement you do during the day. This is the most variable factor.
Metabolism is affected by genetics, body composition, gender, and age. Sure, you can’t change 3 out of 4 of these factors (even though I’m sure plastic surgery would tell you differently), but you CAN change body composition. Boost your metabolism by increasing lean muscle mass, which is more metabolically active, thus burning more calories throughout the day. Pick up the weights at the gym and add resistance training to your weekly routine, it’ll do your metabolism good!
Myth: weight loss supplements can boost your metabolism.
Truth: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…there is no magic bullet for weight loss! Supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, and there’s no clinical evidence that a certain pill or food can boost metabolism without you putting in the work. Focus on increasing your physical activity and balancing your calories. Eat nutrient-rich foods that fill your body with vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, fiber, and lean protein; and you’ll be less likely to reach for the less-healthy alternatives. Besides, I highly doubt those bikini-clad models ACTUALLY use the weight loss supplements they hock on TV.
Myth: eating 500 fewer calories a day leads to weight loss of 1 pound per week.
Truth: we’ve ALL heard this one, but unfortunately, science now tells us it’s just not that simple. Restricting calories forces your body into conservation mode, and 2 things subsequently happen: 1. Your metabolic rate decreases, and 2. Your physical activity level decreases. Basically, your body thinks you’re on your way toward starvation, so it adapts to carry out its functions with less energy. Here’s an example: if you usually eat 2,000 calories a day and restrict by 500 to 1,500 (this is low, by the way), your body adapts its metabolic rate. Now 1,500 is your new baseline. You’d have to further restrict to 1,000 the next day to see any difference on the scale. And by using simple math, you can see how this process is not very sustainable. Pure calorie restriction is not the best way to go, both for metabolic and personal reasons. I mean, I get crabby when I’m hungry. Increase physical activity instead. Save the people close to you. Eat.
You know I like a bottom line, so here it is: we need to stop blaming issues we have with weight on metabolism. All metabolism ever did was convert what we eat into fuel, and what do we do? Throw it under the bus every time we get on the scale and don’t see the result we want. It’s time we take some personal responsibility and let metabolism off the hook. Balance your calories, increase physical activity, and understand that everyone’s metabolism WILL BE different. So let’s embrace what we’re given, and make the most of it.