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Why can one person eat like a growing teenager and not gain a pound, while another person’s every indulgence shows up on the scale? The answer is metabolism. Metabolism is the process by which our bodies convert what we eat into the energy we need to survive and function. It powers every function of our body. If you are lucky and have a fast metabolism it means that you can burn through calories more quickly compared to someone with a slow metabolism. In this week’s article learn about some of the most common misconceptions and myths about metabolism!

Claim: Our metabolic rates can’t change.

The truth: Yes, genetics help determine our metabolic rates. In fact, gender also plays an important role. For example, because of their greater amount of muscle and larger organs, men have higher basal metabolic rates than women. However, we can boost metabolism by increasing lean muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories per hour than fat, which means that people with lean, muscular bodies need more calories to function than people with a higher percentage of body fat.

Inevitably, muscle mass decreases with age. Therefore the metabolic rate slows down by 2 to 8 percent per decade. But you can counteract this process by increasing weight training. Having good muscle mass, especially towards your 40s and 50s, is important. Of course, if you start with a good baseline, your metabolism isn’t going to decrease as much compared to sedentary individuals.

Claim: just eating low-fat foods is key to a successful diet.

Truth: Cutting your fat intake comes with numerous benefits. Saturated fat and trans fat are risk factors for heart disease. And fat has more than twice as many calories per ounce as carbohydrates and protein. But in order to lose weight you still have to reduce your overall caloric intake. Gorging on low-fat snacks won’t make you slim. The best advice as always is a well-balanced portion-controlled diet including lots of fruits and vegetables. Include carbohydrate, protein, and a small amount of healthy fat in each meal or snack for energy throughout the day. Drink water or low-calorie beverages and limit sugary, high-fat products.

Claim: Eating late at night slows metabolism.

The truth: No. It’s the extra calories – not when you eat them – that cause weight gain. There is little scientific evidence to support the fact that eating after 8 p.m. causes weight gain. However, people are more likely to snack mindlessly in the evenings while watching television for example. So, the calories in these snacks add up, and that can cause weight gain if the calorie intake is higher than the energy expenditure of the person.

Claim: A diet of green tea and chilli peppers will boost metabolism.

The truth: Unfortunately, there are no magic foods that will speed up metabolism. Some studies have shown that green tea and hot chillies temporarily boost metabolic rates, but the effect is isn’t enough to offset consuming excess calories. In order to achieve and sustain a healthy weight loss portion control and a balanced diet filled with nutrient-rich foods is the key, not through a diet full of chilli peppers.

Claim: Very low calorie diets and skipping meals can jumpstart weight loss.

The truth: Weight loss is achieved when you successfully create an energy deficit – ingesting fewer calories than your body expends each day. However, creating too large of a calorie deficit can have a negative effect. Our bodies are smart, and programmed for survival. Severely limiting calories can make your body think it’s entering a famine, and that it needs to do more with fewer calories. Therefore, your metabolic rate slows down as a defence mechanism. In other words, your body adapts to the restricted caloric intake, and uses fewer calories to perform the same tasks.

By Kleio Bathrellou
Associate Nutritionist

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