Busted: Metabolism Myths (and What’s Really Going On)
Your metabolism is the cornerstone to your weight loss success. Because of this, people are often quick to point the finger at their metabolism for stalls in weight loss or try metabolism-boosting tips and tricks that their mother’s friend’s cousin told them about. With so many myths and half-truths about metabolism circulating around, it’s often difficult to figure out which advice you should take and which you should take with a grain of salt. But we’re here to bust all of the metabolism myths for you.
What IS Metabolism?
The key to understanding metabolism at all is understanding what your metabolism is and what it does. The official definition of metabolism is all of the chemical processes that occur in an organism to maintain life. Your metabolism breaks things down and puts others together using a variety of enzymes, hormones, and complicated pathways in your body. So what does this mean for weight loss?
Well, your metabolism is responsible for converting the food you eat and the drinks you drink into energy you can use – which translates to burnt calories. Even when you’re not moving a muscle, your metabolism uses calories to maintain all of the physiological processes that are going on underneath the surface – the ones you probably pay no mind to. This is called basal metabolic rate, or BMR. Your BMR accounts for 60 to 75 percent of the calories you burn each day and when it comes to metabolism myths, most of them surround BMR.
Myth: Thinner people just have a faster metabolism.
The Truth: It’s actually the opposite. Thinner people generally have a slower metabolism than larger people. That’s because when you weigh less, it takes fewer calories to maintain your weight, so your BMR tends to be slower. It’s not size that determines your metabolism, but your muscle mass. The more lean muscle tissue you have, the faster your metabolism will be. The way to build lean muscle? Strength training. Don’t be afraid of those weights; they’re your key to becoming a lean, mean, calorie-burning machine.
Myth: Skipping a meal puts you in “starvation mode”.
The Truth: This is a popular metabolism myth that has roots in truth, but over the years has become a little skewed. Back in the day, your ancestors ate what they could find. Sometimes this meant not eating for several days at a time. When this happened the body responded by saying “Uh oh. I’m not getting any new calories. Better slow down my metabolism to conserve the ones I have.”
However, the body doesn’t react the same way when you skip a single meal or when you eat three large meals over the course of the day instead of five to six small ones. That doesn’t mean that skipping meals is a good idea though. Skipping a meal can make you extra hungry (not to mention cranky) and can lead to strong cravings. When you skip a meal, you’re more likely to overindulge later or binge on foods that you’re trying to avoid.
Myth: Eating after 8 p.m. slows down your metabolism.
The Truth: You’ve probably been told once or twice (or 100 times) that when you eat late at night, your body doesn’t burn off the calories and stores everything as fat. Well, you can take comfort in knowing that this just isn’t how it works. Your body is smart – really smart – but it doesn’t have the ability to magically start storing any calorie you take in after 8 p.m. as fat. The problem with late night eating is that it typically occurs in addition to your meals. Eating a healthy, balanced dinner at 8 p.m. is different than eating a pint of ice cream while you’re watching a movie. Instead of having a hard fast rule that says you can’t eat after a certain time, but attention to WHAT and HOW MUCH you’re eating and your metabolism will do what it does best – burn calories.