Metabolism is one of those weight loss terms that gets thrown around left, right, and center. What is it, exactly? Metabolism is a two-step process: the body breaks down food and converts those food calories into energy. So in order to increase your metabolism, you must take into consideration your energy consumption (calories) and your energy production (burning those calories). To LOSE weight, you need to make sure that the amount of energy your body expends is GREATER than the amount of energy you consume. In other words, LESS calories IN, and MORE calories BURNED.
This equation is simple enough, right? Then why is it still a confusing concept for many people? Let’s examine the top five FACTS and MYTHS about metabolism you need to know, so you can lose weight efficiently without resorting to nasty fad diets or pills that claim to help you boost your metabolism:
TRUE: Metabolism declines with age
It’s true that your metabolism slows down naturally due to a decrease in lean body mass. To combat this, healthy eating and exercise are key. Aim to eat within your calorie range and focus on eating every three to four hours. If you restrict your caloric intake too severely, your body’s metabolism will SLOW DOWN to conserve energy.
Aerobic exercise helps to burn calories and increase metabolism as you work out, while strengthening exercises boost your resting metabolism. Engage in cardiovascular workouts at least four to five days a week like running, jogging, swimming, hiking, and biking. Build your muscles two to three times a week by lifting weights or doing other strengthening activities like crunches and push-ups.
FALSE: Certain foods will speed up your metabolism
There is no “magic” food that can boost your metabolism. Remember, losing weight is based on how much energy you SPEND over how much energy you CONSUME.
The answer to increasing your metabolism is a balanced diet. This, combined with eating every three to four hours, helps produce the thermic effect of food (TEF). Essentially, your body BURNS calories when you eat and digest food. Therefore, eating several small meals a day can help boost your metabolic rate. Eat lean protein like chicken, turkey or fish with each meal (or if you’re vegetarian, meat-free options like eggs, beans, nuts, milk and legumes), as lean protein is likely to give you the largest metabolic boost compared to foods rich in carbohydrates or fats. Protein also ensures that you can maintain and build muscle mass.
FALSE: Eating food after 9 pm turns into fat
This myth is based on the idea that if you’re sleeping, you’re not burning calories, and thus you are gaining weight. This is NOT true! It’s all about calories IN and calories OUT. If you’re eating 1500 calories a day, it does not matter what time of day you eat them! Although it’s true that your metabolism slows down while you sleep, it never STOPS working.
For some people, not eating past a certain time prevents them from going over their calorie limit or snacking on sugary treats late at night. If this sounds like you, then by all means, keep following that rule! For the rest of us, however, it’s not necessary to stop eating at 9:01.
FALSE: Eat one big meal a day to boost your metabolism
Skipping meals or not eating during the day will SLOW DOWN your metabolic rate! Plus, you need LOTS of vitamins and nutrients throughout the day to function. If you lack these nutrients, your cells start to function with less energy, which can only happen by STORING MORE FAT! By eating proper portions during the morning, afternoon, and evening, you will keep your blood sugar stable and reduce cravings.
Men have more lean muscle mass naturally than women, as well as larger organs. This means that a man’s muscles are working to burn more calories while resting than a woman’s. However, there is a common misconception that men can lose weight more easily and keep it off for longer BECAUSE of their metabolism. Both men and women have to work hard by eating right and exercising to keep off the pounds.