Dr. Sarah Penney, ND, MSc
Metabolism Myths - Can These Tricks Help You 'Slash Fat'?
Many of us know metabolism as an invisible force that is the answer to our weight loss woes. It is the process by which our body converts food and calories to energy, so the more efficient this process is (the higher our metabolism) the less calories stick around to get stored as fat. Metabolism is no doubt part of the big picture when it comes to weight loss, but how much it plays a role may differ between individuals. It is often only solely responsible for significant weight gain in conditions like hypothyroidism and other endocrine disorders.
Weight management is certainly more complicated than simply targeting your metabolism, and depends on lots of other factors like hormone balance, sleep management, stress levels and of course nutritional factors. Often times as a naturopathic doctor I find that one of more of these factors is preventing a patient from losing weight, and the answer is not always metabolism. A few things you CAN do to boost your metabolism if you want to give it a try is simply move more (get up and walk around at work, take the stairs when you can, exc) and do exercise that builds muscle. Strength training and these types of exercise can help because muscle burns more calories than fat in a resting state.
In the mean time there are lots of rumors, products, magic tricks and home remedies that are said to help flick your metabolic switch. Lets have a look at a few you should steer clear of believing.
Myth #1 – People who are overweight have a slow metabolism.
A large part of our day-to-day metabolism depends on our basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of calories our body has to burn while resting (reading this article, sleeping, exc) to keep us alert and alive. Studies show that a larger body mass actually demands a higher metabolism to keep functioning and to move, so the answer is not that easy.
Myth #2 - Taking Dr. Oz’s favorite new berry of the month will SLASH FAT *cue flashing lights*
My attitude regarding most of these health trends is that they will likely not hurt you (although some certainly do come with risks) but more importantly they are also not likely to help you. There is often little to no good quality research to support these products when they hit the heath market, including green coffee bean extract, raspberry keytones or garcinia cambogia, and yet people are willing to spend hundreds of dollars to try out these newfound magical cures. Additionally if they do help boost metabolism, it is very unlikely to be significant enough to cause weight loss. The only time I find these supplements helpful is when they motivate people to make other changes while they are taking them.
Myth #3 – You should stay away from all supplement.
As a follow up after Myth #2 not all supplements are useless when it comes to metabolism, but I find better results from the treatments that target issues cortisol levels, sleeping patterns and hormone balance than I do those that are marketed to boost metabolism directly. By targeting the factors that naturally supress metabolism, you are freeing up the body's ability to move back into a place of balance. Treatment from this respect needs to be much more individualized and identify your underlying barriers to weight loss.
Myth #4 – Eating 6 times per day will boost your metabolism.
The theory behind this idea is that if you keep eating you will never let your metabolism slow down, but research has not supported this recommendation. No difference in weight loss has been shown when participants eat six meals instead of three, and the most important factor still seems to be caloric intake.
Myth #5 – Eating at night will lead to weight gain because your metabolism is slower.
This is not entirely true, but eating at night is can be counterproductive for weight management for other reasons that have to do with blood sugar balance and portion control. Often times in the evening we reach for high sugar and carbohydrate foods that are not ideal at any point in the day, and we struggle with limiting our servings. If you are hungry in the evening, re-evaluate what you are having at dinner (increase your protein and fiber ideally), choose something high in protein to snack on and pay attention to portion control so you are not doubling your daily calorie intake with your evening snack.
- Dr. Sarah Penney, ND, MSc