Metabolism is the internal process by which your body expends energy and burns calories. It runs 24/7 to keep your body moving, even when you’re resting or sleeping. Your body is continually converting the food you consume into the energy it needs to perform various functions such as breathing, digestion, circulation of blood, and activities of daily living. While it may be tempting to blame weight gain on a slow, or slowing, metabolism, your diet and lifestyle play a bigger role. There are, however, ways to support a good metabolism and maintain a healthy weight.
Claim: Our metabolic rates can’t change.
Fact: While it is true that our genes play a role in determining our metabolic rates, it is not the sole determinant. You can boost your metabolism by increasing lean muscle mass. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat. This means that you will burn more calories at rest the more muscle mass you possess.
Our muscle mass naturally decreases with age, which contributes to a slowing metabolic rate. You can counteract this process by performing weight-bearing (or weight-lifting) activities 2-3 times per week. Or you can switch things up by adding some high-intensity interval training to your regular routine. As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of some form of physical activity daily. Too busy for 30 minutes? Try 10 minute chunks of activity throughout the day.
Claim: A diet of green tea and chili peppers will boost metabolism.
Fact: There is no magic pill or food that will speed up your metabolism. The temporary boost in metabolic rate provided by green tea or spicy foods is insignificant. Avoid looking to dietary supplements and quick fixes for weight loss. Products that claim to speed up your metabolism are more harmful than helpful and may even cause dangerous side effects. Supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so there is no proof that they are safe or even effective.
The best way to ensure healthy weight loss and lifestyle changes is to eat a balanced diet filled with nutrient-dense foods in their whole, natural state. This includes a diet heavy in fruits, veggies, whole-grains, lean protein, dairy, and nuts and seeds. Enjoy everything in moderation and be sure to drink plenty of water. Safe weight loss should be slow and steady so stick with the healthy choices and physical activity and watch your efforts pay off.
Claim: Eating late at night slows metabolism.
Fact: There is little evidence to support the claim that eating after 8 p.m. leads to weight gain. You may, however, be more likely to mindlessly snack at night while distracted by your phone or television. To prevent extreme swings in hunger and fullness, try eating regularly scheduled meals and snacks throughout the day. If your schedule forces you to eat later in the evening, do so mindfully. This means your full attention is on your meal and environment. Put away any electronics, sit at the table, and enjoy the moment. Eat until you are satisfied, not until you are full.
Claim: Very low calorie diets and skipping meals can jumpstart weight loss.
Fact: Creating too large of a calorie deficit when trying to lose weight will backfire. Our bodies are built for survival. When we regularly consume too few calories, our bodies go into starvation mode. This means that it adapts to the restricted caloric intake and uses fewer calories to perform the same daily tasks. You will then hold on to fat easier, the opposite of what you intended.
Avoid the urge to ‘diet’ and instead focus on healthy, whole foods like fruits, veggies, legumes, lean protein and whole grains. Add in physical activities that you enjoy. Try incorporating more stress management techniques and put a priority on proper sleep. When combined, these healthy lifestyle behaviors contribute to overall well-being and a greater chance of successful, long-term weight loss/management.
If you want to boost your metabolism or lose weight, come see me for a FREE nutrition consultation! We’ll examine your current habits, go over your goals, and determine the best course of action to achieve them.Schedule a Nutrition Consultation
Written by Sarah Brunner, RDN, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Registered Dietitian
Sarah is certified in food allergies/intolerances and nutritional counseling, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; has a certificate in Dietetics from Mount Mary University; and a BA in Education and Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.