Body Blog: Metabolism Myths and Facts

We all love to talk about metabolism. A lot.

Some of us love it (like that girl who never goes to the gym and eats french fries for every meal and somehow still wears a size 00) and some of us hate it (when we eat an apple and our thighs starts rubbing together). But does anyone really know what metabolism is or how it works?

Your (my, our) metabolism is really just your metabolic rate, or BMR, which is roughly the amount of calories that you burn when at rest. Like right now as you sit on your couch, feet up, laptop on your lap and a bowl of cereal in your hand. This is the energy that your body uses to keep organs, cells, and digestion all going. It is influenced by your age, sex, height, weight, and the amount of muscle mass that you have.

There are lots of myths around about things that will “speed up” your metabolism, causing you to burn more calories. There are also many surprising truths. I’m going to separation the fact from the fiction and give you all the tools to control your metabolic destiny. Here we go!

Myths

If your mom has a “slow” metabolism, you will too: This is one is half-true. Heredity does play a role in metabolism, but just because mama passed on that snail’s-pace metabolism doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. There are many ways to speed things up: build muscle mass, eat a balanced breakfast and overall diet, snack throughout the day on low-calorie foods, include protein in your diet, and keep moving!

Grapefruit increases your metabolic rate: Its fiber and water will fill you up, and the Thermogenic Effect of the fruit means that your body will use extra calories to digest it, but it won’t speed your metabolism up more than any other food.

Celery is a negative-calorie food: I wish! That would be easy. And I’d be eating a whole lot more celery. But, nope, it’s not so. Celery still has calories, no matter how difficult it is for our bodies to eat and digest it.

Truths

Ice cold beverages and foods rev up your metabolism: It’s true, but the number of extra calories that you’ll burn are definitely not enough to burn off the damage done at Thirsty Thursday. Studies have suggested that drinking five to six glasses of ice cold water could help you burn an extra 10 calories per day. Not too exciting, but those calories could help you burn up to a pound a year without even trying!

Drinking water can help you burn more calories: Say it with me, “I LOVE WATER.” Seriously, you need it. And not just when you’re working out and not just when you’re hungover (or chugging water late-night to prevent a hangover). We all need water all the time! Getting enough water per day for your body weight helps to keep your metabolism, as well as all of your body’s other functions, running at full speed and maximum capability.

Dieting slows your metabolism: Yep! This one’s true, even if it seems counter-intuitive. For every pound you lose, your Basic Metabolic Rate (a fancy term for your metabolism) drops about 2 to 10 calories a day. So, if you manage to lose 10 pounds, you now have to eat 20 to 100 fewer calories per day.  Counteract this effect by gaining muscle as you lost weight; more muscle mass means a faster metabolism!

Protein speeds it up! Protein is far superior to fat or carbohydrates when it comes to your metabolism, because it requires more of your body’s energy (fat!) to digest!  Studies show that you may burn up to twice as many calories digesting protein as carbohydrates. To get enough protein per day, take one third of your body weight and convert it into grams. That’s about how much protein you need to eat to keep things running smoothly.

YOUR BURN MORE CALORIES WHEN YOU’RE PMSING!: I wanted to believe it, I prayed it was true…and it actually is! Pass the Oreos, please!! Yes, PMS cravings ARE related to the boost in your metabolism before your period. Your resting metabolic rate increases between ovulation and the first day of your period and can burn up to an extra 300 calories per day! Woohoo!

Eat well, and often: Though it seems a little backwards, eating balanced meals and snacks every 2-4 hours keeps your metabolism in high gear! This includes breakfast – eat it, people! Even a tablespoon of peanut butter is better than nothing. Breakfast gets your metabolism kick-started for the day and then you can keep it at maximum speed by eating small meals and snacks throughout the day.

Drink Some Coffee and Green Tea: This one’s tough because it is true, but like water, isn’t a huge metabolism booster. The caffeine in coffee will help you burn more calories after drinking it, but very few. Green Tea, which contains a substance called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), may also help you burn more calories, but so few that any weight loss effects are almost impossible to detect.

Lift! For every pound of muscle in you, your body burns 35 calories per day. The body burns just 2 calories for each pound of fat. Conclusion? Weight train!! Increased muscle mass and density will lead to an increase in calories burned because the muscle takes more energy to maintain than the fat. This means that even when at rest you will be burning more calories! (Here are some great exercises that you can do just about anywhere!)

Some Like It Hot: Some studies have shown that hot pepper and very, VERY spicy foods can raise metabolic rates by about 20% up to 30 minutes after a meal. If burning your mouth, turning red, dealing with heartburn and sweating are worth it to you, go for it! But if you’re willing to put in that much work, why not just hit the gym instead?

Don’t Trust Those Food Labels!
Don’t Trust Those Food Labels!
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