Metabolism is a great word for companies trying to sell you something, and the claims are getting somewhat ridiculous. If you’ve ever seen something that claimed to “kick your metabolism into overdrive!” or talks about changing your body’s Base Metabolic Rate (BMR) then you’re likely being sold a bill of goods.
So what are the things that everyone should know about their metabolism?
Do you have a skinny friend that has the metabolism of a hummingbird while you feel like you’re severely limiting your caloric intake and not losing weight? It must be the metabolism thing, right? Actually, probably not. In fact, on average, skinnier people are shown to have a slower metabolism than most people.
So how does that work out?
Well, sorry to be the one to tell you this, but the problem likely lies in our heads. In this study they showed that people’s calorie consumption was pretty average (skinnier people eating less and heavier people eating more) but the major difference was how many calories they thought they were eating. When asked to take a guess at their meal’s caloric intake, skinnier people averaged within 20% while overweight people were usually under by about 40%.
It’s not that anyone was being dishonest either; it all boiled down to the size of the meals. The bigger the meal, the more likely your caloric guess is going to be off, and it’s not just people. A few months back we linked to the best fitness apps for 2012 Resolutions and one of them takes a photo of your food and gives you a caloric guess. The more food you have in front of it, the more likely it is to be wrong or the higher the margins will be.
(Hmmm…between 400-296,000 calories you say?)
So What Does Affect Your Metabolism?
Your body consumes energy at a certain rate based on two things: muscle mass and heart rate. In the end, the only way to increase your metabolism is to increase those two things. That’s why a common side effect of weight loss pills is heart palpitations. Most of them try to artificially increase your heart rate and therefore your metabolism with stimulants. However, this is a very temporary solution and often times it isn’t the best thing for your health.
That’s why high protein diets with exercise often wield the best results. Building up muscle mass will increase your Resting Metabolic Rate(RMR) and make it so you burn more calories throughout the day. Diets that don’t require exercise are going to have you losing muscles mass as well as fat when you shed pounds and that’s what’s going to make it more likely that you gain the weight back.
And while we’re on the subject of gaining weight back, lets cover another myth. The latest bit of news says the reason you gain the weight back after dieting is that your metabolism has adjusted to the calorie restrictive diet and stores more food (also known as starvation mode). The truth is that your body bounces back from calorie restrictive dieting a lot faster than you might think. And frankly, it doesn’t change much in the first place.
When it comes down to it, a lot of the dieting struggles aren’t with our body’s physiology; it’s in our heads.