A lot of people blame (or thank) their metabolism – whether slow (or fast) – for their weight gain (or loss) or inability to slim down. They would only be partially right.
The simple truth about losing weight is that it can only happen when you consume fewer calories than you burn. The latter is when this gets complicated, causing a lot of confusion among people who would try anything to boost their metabolism.
We talked to Rebecca Ross, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and founder of Corpo Sano Nutrition, to clear up some of the misconceptions about metabolism so people can stop doing things they don’t like – eating hot sauce much these days? – and not mix facts with fiction.
Myth: Eat breakfast to speed up your metabolism
“I wouldn’t say it quite like that,” Ross says. “Breakfast is very individual.” It’s important to get enough nutrients, enough calories and enough high-quality food. A study from last year even suggests that breakfast has no effect on losing weight. People on a diet who ate breakfast lost no more weight than those who skipped it. So don’t eat first thing in the morning if you’re not hungry. If you are, keep it light and stay away from foods rich on carbs. If you postpone eating carbs, your body will burn its sugar reserves and then the fat.
Myth: Energy drinks are good for your metabolism
They contain caffeine, which is a stimulant, so it may speed it up, but that doesn’t mean it’s a positive thing, according to Ross. If you are under stress, consuming caffeine in any form may be counterproductive. Every energy drink that has a lot of synthetic ingredients is a bad idea. Also, energy drinks have a lot of sugar.
Myth: You should eat every few hours to keep your metabolism going
“It’s important to give your digestive system a rest between meals,” Ross says. But, like everything else, this is very individual, she warns. Some people need to eat more often and consume 5,000 calories a day. It may even be a requirement for athletes in certain sports. But that is not you. Don’t give yourself an excuse to eat small meals many times a day because you may end up overeating and consume a lot of calories. It all depends on how a person’s body metabolizes food, she adds.
Myth: Hot sauce helps you burn fat
If you don’t like hot sauce or any other spicy food, don’t force yourself. Mild peppers can boost your metabolism, too, according a new research has suggested.
Myth: Skipping lunch slows the metabolism down
This only causes stress to your body, according to Ross. Erratic eating patterns can cause hormonal problems. A healthy person can handle skipping a meal every once in a blue moon but making it a habit is a bad idea. For your body to burn calories efficiently, you need to put it through low-calorie diet for a long time. Skipping a single meal won’t do anything except maybe make you extra hungry causing you to overeat during dinner.
Myth: Skinny people have fast metabolism and heavy people have slow metabolism
“You don’t know what else is going on,” Ross says. A person can have a problem with their thyroid gland and that can cause them to lose a lot of weight, gain it, or have trouble slimming down. There are too many variable that affect a person’s body burning food into energy. Many skinny people actually have lower metabolism because their bodies literally have less fat to burn while at rest. Muscle, too, has a lot to do with the process. People with more muscle usually have higher metabolism.
Myth: Consuming fewer than 1,000 calories a day will help me lose weight
This is not only false but a very dangerous idea, Ross warns. Fewer calories mean fewer nutrients which will cause nutrient deficiency (malnutrition). The effect on your metabolism by slowing it down is among the many reasons why you should never do that. Consuming so few calories puts a lot of stress on your body. “It then thinks ‘Oh, no, this is a dangerous world for me’ and your body responds by holding on to fat because that is its energy,” Ross says.
Myth: All of the food eaten late at night turns into fat
Eating a lot at night is a bad idea in general but don’t panic, please. How it’s going to be processed depends on what you are during the day, according to Ross. If you had enough nutrients and high-quality food, and avoid going to bed until about an hour or two after you stopped overindulging, you are going to be OK.
Myth: Losing weight fast speeds up the metabolism
This goes back to the previous myth and why you should not eat fewer than 1,000 calories a day. Such an extreme form of starvation makes your metabolism slow down because your body’s automatic response is to store fat because it will need that energy later.
Myth: You can’t do anything about your metabolism; it is what it is
“All foods have a different metabolic effect,” Ross says. Some will increase it, other won’t. There is no magic food out there. “People need to eat real food” is Ross’ overall message. Clean up your diet from all the junk you are consuming and enjoy life. Work out to build more muscle. It helps with preventing the small decline in metabolism that naturally occurs with age. Getting enough sleep is important, too, according to some studies. If you’re tired, your body’s ability to manage blood sugar levels is decreased and that can make you hungrier.