Exposed: Top 4 Myths About Metabolism

Hello lovely people!

I hope your training is going well and you’re moving (literally) in the right direction and towards your goal. You know it takes a solid effort, both in the diet and exercise department to see significant fat loss. If you are serious about getting sexy results, you have probably read about ways to speed up your progress. Your metabolism has an important role… It can help to increase the rate of your fat loss! However beware, some of the information in magazines/TV is complete rubbish — I don’t want you to be misled!

Let’s start with the basics: What is metabolism? The dictionary states metabolism as “the chemical changes in living cells by which energy is provided for vital processes and activities and new material is assimilated.” Basically, metabolism is a combination of everything going on in your body. Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the daily amount of energy you expend at rest, and this estimation will vary depending on your age/sex/height/weight. So the more, the better – right? You may have also heard of Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). It is similar to BMR, although RMR measurements are taken under less restricted conditions. It’s more useful for you, as it’s easier to estimate this number with an equation.

Let’s be clear from the start — there is no magic trick to boosting your metabolism. Just like there is no magic pill for weight loss. Onto counting down the top 4 metabolism myths:

4. Increasing your muscle mass will drastically improve your daily caloric burn to boost your metabolism

You may have heard one pound of muscle will burn approximately 50 calories extra a day at rest. Unfortunately this is not true, otherwise gaining 10 pounds of muscle would mean you could burn 500 calories extra a day by doing nothing additional. Too good to be true people! On average, an extra pound of muscle will burn 6 additional calories per day, while fat burns 2 calories. OK, better than nothing.

Dr. Claude Bouchard of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, a world-renowned obesity researcher states the vast majority of our BMR caloric burn comes from function of the brain, heart, liver, kidneys, and lungs. Muscle has a relatively low resting metabolic rate.

“When you account for everything that isn’t skeletal muscle, it makes up about 75-80 percent of RMR, so skeletal muscle only accounts for 20-25% of resting metabolic rate.”

So realistically, even adding a considerable amount of muscle isn’t going to drastically increase your resting metabolic rate as skeletal muscle has a small role in the number of calories you burn at rest.

But hey this is not to say weight training is a bad idea! Building muscle is great for strength but it’s not a miracle calorie burner.

3. Pills/Diet Supplements Don’t Work

Many of the ‘increase your metabolism’ claims these products make are unproven and lack scientific backing. Stay away – it may seem tempting but there is no magic pill. Or I would be selling them!

2. Eat frequent meals every 3-4 hours to increase your metabolism

This one’s a cracker! I read this often in a bunch of fitness magazines, and to be honest with you I thought it was true. However, there is NO solid research evidence to show eating 6 meals/day over 3 meals/day will increase your metabolism. It’s a touch controversial but here’s the truth: your metabolism increases every time you eat anything, and the amount it increases depends on the size of the meal and the amount of carbohydrates/fats are in the food ie. big meal, big increase. Research has shown that two equally caloric diets will produce NO significant difference on your metabolism whether you have 3 large meals or 6 small meals a day.(1) The other problem is these smaller meals are too big and cause you to over consume.

Also, skipping meals WON’T slow down your metabolism. It takes about 3 days of fasting or severe calorie restriction before you metabolism goes into ‘starvation mode’. I repeat, you will not go into starvation mode if you don’t eat every 3 hours! In fact, you may feel hungry but you will be using your fat stores as fuel instead of feeding off the calories you are constantly ingesting. (YAY!) If you think about our ancestors, they would not have regular meal times every 3-4 hours. There also wasn’t a pizza joint or Starbucks at every corner tempting their indulgence.

Please note: eating 5-6 small meals a day is still a useful strategy for fat loss. If you struggle to consume 3 meals a day and get uncontrollable hunger between these hours, eating more frequently can help prevent bingeing sprees and keep your total calories in check. Think about the big picture: it’s more about consistently lower, TOTAL daily caloric intake.

1. As You Get Older, Your Metabolism Automatically Slows Down

The number one myth is that your metabolism will automatically slow with age. The main reason is due to a loss in muscle mass as you age. Yes —  as you get older your muscle mass will decline. However, there is no automatic rate based on your age — there is more to it. If you continue to weight train and eat a clean healthy diet, you will see a slower reduction in muscle mass and any weight gain will not be noticeable. Plus, regular exercise will maintain your functional capacity and enhance your quality of life. For example, one of my clients has increased his lean muscle mass and lost significant body fat over the time we have been training– he even has a six-pack… Did I mention he’s almost 62? Very impressive and inspiring!

In summary, getting older is not an excuse for an inability to lose weight.

SO with this in mind… how on earth can you increase your metabolism?!

Exercise. High Intensity Interval Training. Strength training.

The research shows the benefits of strength and interval training for fat loss. (2) Not all exercise is equal: for a greater metabolic boost aim for compound exercises (using more than one body part at once) and up the intensity. The magnitude of the metabolic increase depends on how intense and how long your workout was. It is hard, and challenging. But that’s the aim. Your body is constantly being challenged and improving.

Today’s take home message:

Consistently reducing your daily caloric intake, keeping your appetite in check and exercise intensity is the key to success for awesome fat loss. The best way to boost your metabolism to increase your fat burning ability is through exercise. So get out there and make your workout count!

Stay healthy and happy,

Kate :)

References:

1. Cameron, J.D., Cyr, M.J., Doucet, E. (2010) Increased meal frequency does not promote greater weight loss in subjects who were prescribed an 8-week equi-energetic energy-restricted diet. British Journal of Nutrition. 103(8):1098-101.

2. Stiegler, P., Cunliffe, A. (2006). The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss. Sports Medicine. 36(3):239-62.