You may have heard that "boosting your metabolism" can help you lose weight. But is it really possible to increase your metabolic rate? We take a look at some of the facts, and myths, surrounding this important bodily process, including the impact diet and exercise may have on your basal (or resting) metabolic rate.
Myth: Overweight people have a slower metabolism than thin people.
Fact: It's a common misconception that thinner people burn more calories than heavier people. According to research reported by the BBC, the opposite is true. The BBC reports that studies consistently reveal that overweight people actually burn more calories than their trimmer friends do. This is because their bodies are larger and require more energy to maintain. Even while sitting or sleeping, heavier people are burning more total calories.
So does this mean that a heavy person has a higher metabolism than a skinny person? Nope. The BBC notes that once researchers accounted for different body sizes, thin and obese people were found to have similar metabolic rates. This means that if you're overweight, it's not likely due to your metabolism.
Myth: You can use "quick fixes" to speed up your metabolism.
Fact: No single drug, nutritional supplement, food, or chemical can help you reduce body fat without your own effort to reduce calorie consumption. Many manufacturers offer products that they claim have "fat burning" properties to speed up metabolism. According to research reported by the BBC, the majority of such claims are simply unfounded.
It's true that some substances may cause a small increase in your metabolism, such as caffeine and nicotine. But because these chemicals come with side effects, including an increased heart rate and increased risk of developing conditions like cancer and heart disease, these substances shouldn't be used to combat the bulge.
Myth: You can figure out exactly how many calories to eat per day based on your metabolism.
Fact: Although scientists are able to calculate someone's resting metabolic rate by measuring oxygen inhaled and carbon dioxide exhaled, this doesn't solve the problem of determining a person's calorie needs.
The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) reports that resting metabolic rate only accounts for approximately 70 percent of total energy expenditure. There are a number of other factors that affect calorie needs, including your digestive process and your level of physical activity. Because physical activity includes more than just exercise, it's very difficult to calculate precisely what your caloric intake should be.
Myth: If you overeat one day, exercising more is the only way to make up for it.
Fact: The URMC notes that physical activity includes many aspects of life, including your occupation, fidgeting, and even sleep. Sedentary desk jobs will result in burning fewer calories than a job that requires standing. Adding a small amount of physical activity to your day, such as adding a walk to your lunch hour, may help you burn more calories. And those calories add up over time.
The URMC recommends making changes to your daily routines to help counteract overindulgences. Stand up instead of sitting while talking on the phone, park further from your destination when driving to errands, and walk up the escalator rather than letting it transport you to the top. And since sleep deprivation has been linked to obesity, aim to get eight hours of shut-eye per night.
HealthAhead Hint: Know the Truth
Making choices based on myths is no way to lose weight and stay healthy. Congratulate yourself for taking the time to learn more about how your metabolism really works. Now you're in a much better position to make healthy choices about how to manage your weight. If you've been searching in vain for a way to speed up your metabolism, maybe it's time to set a more realistic goal. Start tracking how much you eat every day, and make a plan to cut back. Even cutting out just one cookie could make a difference over time.