Busting Metabolism-Boosting Myths

Lila Bruk

Lila Bruk is a registered dietician and nutritional consultant in... read more

There is so much conflicting advice given on how to boost your metabolism. This article sifts through this info to debunk metabolism myths.

tl;dr - click to read summary
 The following are fallacies about metabolism: there’s nothing you can do to speed up a slow metabolism; certain foods have negative calories; and weight loss can boost your metabolism.  The facts about metabolism on the other hand are the following: Drinking water can increase metabolism and prevent overeating; there are no foods with “negative calories” but foods high in fiber and water content increase metabolism – same for fruits and vegetables; keeping meals small and frequent is essential for revved metabolism; and high physical activity increases metabolic rate. 

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Fact or Fallacy: There’s Nothing You Can Do to Speed up a Slow Metabolism

Fallacy. Whereas many women may have a sluggish metabolism due to hormonal problems, many others tend to use this as an excuse for not losing weight. Either way, you can speed up your metabolism by following the “Facts” in this article.

Fact or Fallacy: Drinking Water Can Boost Your Metabolism

Fact. Yes, you’ve probably heard this one before, but drinking more of the translucent stuff is definitely worth your while. The reasons for this are two-fold. Firstly, water is essential for many of the metabolic processes that take place within the body, so it therefore makes sense that if you don’t drink enough, your metabolism cannot function optimally. Secondly, often one mistakes thirst for hunger, leading you to eat when actually your body is just dehydrated. Therefore by drinking enough water, you’re also preventing yourself from overeating. So try to drink at least 2 to 2.5l of water per day.

Fact or Fallacy: Certain Foods Have “Negative Calories”

Fallacy. The concept of “negative calories” is based on the premise that certain foods (e.g. celery, cucumber and lettuce) are so low in calories that you burn more calories by simply digesting those foods.  This would be great if it were true, but unfortunately the idea of negative calories is indeed a myth. These foods are great, however, for providing fibre and they also have high water content, but they won’t significantly boost your metabolism.

Fact or Fallacy: Eating Six Small Meals a Day Has a Metabolism-Boosting Effects

Fact. Keeping your meals small and frequent is essential for a revved metabolism. Many people skip meals as a weight-loss strategy, figuring the less food they eat, the more weight they’ll lose. This is, however, not the case. By skipping meals, it causes your body to go for long stretches without food. This is turn results in your body going into starvation mode. In other words, your body is not able to rely on a constant food source, and therefore it needs to conserve energy and store any food it does get. The result is a decrease in metabolism and an increase in fat storage. Therefore, by having small regular meals that are well-balanced in protein, slow-release carbohydrates, and small quantities of healthy fats, you can be assured that your metabolism will be constantly fuelled. Small regular meals will also keep your energy levels up throughout the day, which in turn will enable you to perform at your peak.

Fact or Fallacy: Increasing Your Physical Activity Can Increase Your Metabolic Rate

increase-physical-activity

Fact. High physical activity levels are an invaluable component of getting your metabolism going. Even if you already diligently follow a formal exercise program, it is not good enough to sit at a desk the entire day.  It is better if you go to gym for an hour and then sit in front of the TV for the rest of the evening. Increasing physical activity means adding more movement to your entire day. For example, do calf raises while brushing your teeth, take the stairs not the lift, do bicep curls with 1.5l bottles of water while watching TV, tap your foot while at your desk, or bounce around to the radio during rush-hour traffic. Warning: observers may think you’re off your rocker, but at least you know you’re giving your metabolism a boost!

Fact or Fallacy: You Can Boost Your Metabolism by Increasing Your Intake of Fruits and Vegetables

Fact. You have already had to begrudgingly admit that your mother was right about your last boyfriend being hopelessly wrong for you and eating undercooked chicken gives you food poisoning. Unfortunately, there’s yet another thing she was right about: You have to eat your vegetables. You most likely are already aware that fruits and vegetables are the ideal low-calorie food – they’re virtually fat-free and high in fibre. Very importantly however, fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals, which your metabolism needs to function properly. It therefore goes without saying that if you don’t get enough of these nutrients, your metabolism will be affected. If you’re not a fruit and veggie fan, there are many easy ways to add them to your diet without you even noticing.

Fruit: Most fruits are quite portable and therefore make the ideal snack. You can also chop up fruit and add it to your breakfast cereal, or throw some fruit and yogurt into the blender for a quick nutrient-rich smoothie.

Vegetables: In the cold winter months, there is nothing better than a warm, wholesome vegetable soup. Experiment with different vegetables to find the combinations of veggies you prefer. Stir-fries are a great, quick way to get in your vegetables. Also, try to cut-up raw vegetables as crudités and some fat-free cottage cheese as a dip. Then of course, there’s always the good ol’ faithful salads, which you can spice up by adding different vegetables and proteins. For example, try a grilled fresh tuna salad, or a chickpea and feta salad.

Fact or Fallacy: Don’t Be Afraid to Build Muscle to Boost Your Metabolism

Fact. Many women shy away from weight-training as they are afraid of building big bulky muscles. However, women are not hormonally-wired to build muscle in this way. Testosterone is responsible for this kind of muscle development, and women do not have significant amounts of this hormone, which would precipitate excessive muscle development. Rather, weight-training will help you to increase your muscle mass resulting in a more lean, toned and defined appearance. Also, muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue, so it burns more calories even at rest. Therefore, building muscle will in turn boost your metabolism.

metabolism boosting workout

Fact or Fallacy: Weight Loss Can Boost Your Metabolism

Fallacy. Weight loss can actually lower your metabolic rate – especially if you resort to crash diets or other extreme measures in order to lose weight. This is due to the fact that crash diets can cause one to lose muscle in addition to fat. As mentioned above, having a good muscle mass increases your metabolic rate, therefore losing muscle will decrease your metabolic rate. It is important therefore to avoid crash diets or any diets offering rapid weight loss and rather aim for eating plans offering safer and sustainable weight loss (i.e. a loss of 0.5 to 1 kg per week) while keeping up a regular exercise routine.

By following the above tips, you’ll find your metabolism is boosted while increasing your energy levels and leaving those with their “sluggish” metabolisms behind in your dust!

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