A source of confusion for some and a scapegoat for extra weight around the midsection for others, metabolism has long been a topic of hot conversation. Without it, we would lack the energy to get out of bed in the morning, let alone burn calories all day long. However, even with its numerous benefits, metabolism often gets the brunt of the blame with weight gain. With all of the fad diets and special tricks meant to speed up one’s metabolism (hot sauce anyone?), the facts often get blurred with fiction. To help clear up the confusion, we uncovered the truth behind the top five metabolism myths.
Myth #1: Skinnier individuals have a higher metabolism.
Some thinner folks appear to eat whatever they want with seemingly no consequence. Surely, they have a faster metabolism than the average Joe, right? Not so fast. Metabolism actually has quite a bit to do with body size, but not in the way many think. According to Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, Assistant Professor at the University of Ottawa, “Skinny individuals almost invariably have slower resting metabolisms; there is literally less of them to burn while at rest.” As a result, larger individuals usually have a higher metabolism (that is they burn more calories at rest) than their thinner counterparts.
But don’t rejoice just yet. It’s not just any additional weight that boosts metabolism. Muscle, in particular, has a huge effect on the amount of overall calories someone burns throughout the day. Comparing two individuals of similar weight, the person with the larger amount of muscle will generally have the faster metabolism. This is just one of the reasons it’s important to pair any weight loss program with a proper strength training plan. Research has found the extra muscle can help accelerate weight loss much faster than a diet-only plan.
Truth: While body size does factor in, body composition has a far greater effect on metabolism.
Myth #2: Skipping a meal slows down your metabolism.
Anyone looking to drop a few pounds better be grazing on frequent meals and snacks throughout the day right? Turns out the old notion of eating a meal every three to four hours to ramp up one’s metabolism wasn’t exactly perfect advice. In fact, how frequently someone eats has little to do with the speed of their metabolism. Dr. Freedhoff explains, “Eating every four hours is popular because eating frequently, for many, helps them to keep a lid on both stomach hunger as well as cravings.” That, in turn, allows for better portion and choice control, Freedhoff says.
Certain individuals (those prone to cravings or with special dietary needs) may benefit from consuming multiple meals through the day. However, for the rest of us, the most important factors to consider are the quantity and quality of the food we consume. Whether you eat 2,000 calories of rice in one sitting or spread it out throughout the day, it still has a similar effect, Freedhoff says. Instead, it might be best to focus on eating quality food in a timeframe that fits your individual schedule.
Truth: Quality and quantity of foods have greater bearing on metabolism than how often you eat.