The hard truth about losing weight — why speeding up your metabolism for weight loss is a myth
- The part of your
metabolismthat burns calories throughout the day is called your basal metabolic rate (BMR).
- There's little you can do to speed up your BMR to lose weight.
- In order to lose weight, you must consume fewer calories than you burn each day through a combination of diet, exercise, and BMR processes that are mostly out of your control.
- As you age, your metabolism will slow down but studies show that staying active can help.
- This article was medically reviewed by Mir Ali, MD, bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical
Weight LossCenter at Orange Coast Medical Center.
Metabolism is the set of chemical reactions that break down the food we eat into energy and muscle.
Though many people think that they will lose weight if they speed up their metabolism, this isn't necessarily true. Here's what you need to know about the complicated relationship between metabolism and weight-loss.
Popular myths about metabolism and weight lossWhen people refer to metabolism being "fast" or "slow" what they are really referring to is a measure of Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). BMR determines the number of passive calories that you burn — these are the calories that your body uses up while at rest.
There is evidence that cardiovascular exercise can help boost your metabolism for a short period after you work out, but this effect only lasts for an hour or so and is not usually enough to cause significant weight loss.There's also the myth that eating certain foods will speed up your metabolism. But the reality is that even if certain foods can affect your BMR it's not nearly enough to make a noticeable difference in your weight. In order to lose weight, you must create a deficit between the calories you consume through food and the calories you burn through a combination of diet, physical activity, and passive metabolic processes that are largely out of your control.
Genetics play a key role in your BMR
The sad truth is that it's hard to change your BMR in any significant way. The fact that some people naturally have a faster BMR than others is largely due to genetics.A review, published in 2011 in Molecular Genetics and Metabolism, that examined 9 twin studies and 19 family studies found that metabolic syndrome — and some of the symptoms associated with it including obesity, high cholesterol, and insulin resistance — are common among families, suggesting a significant heritability factor. The exception to this rule comes up only for rare illnesses like Cushing's syndrome or hypothyroidism, which both slow metabolism.
Aging and your BMR
As you age, your metabolism becomes less efficient, or what we think of as "slowing down," says Heather Seid, a registered dietician and Bionutrition Program Manager at Columbia University.
There are many reasons your metabolism slows down, including losing muscle mass and changes in your cells. But the main reason for metabolism change is that people become less active as they get older.Unfortunately, you can't completely stop your metabolism from slowing down as you age but exercise may give you a boost. Studies show that keeping active as you grow older can help curb a metabolism slowdown.
Related stories about popular diets and weight loss:
- What the different types of carbs are and how they can affect your health
- Everything you need to know about carb cycling
- Does intermittent fasting work? Research doesn't have a definite answer for its long-term effects
- Why the Mediterranean diet is touted as one of the best by dietitians
- What a full day of eating looks like on the Mediterranean diet, according to nutritionists
- Why the Noom diet is proven to help people lose weight
- Everything you need to know about the keto diet
- Insurance regulatory IRDAI gives in-principle approval for Bharti AXA-ICICI Lombard merger deal
- Arecibo Observatory is shutting down — here are some of the most groundbreaking discoveries it inspired, including one that led to a Nobel Prize
- PM to visit 3 vaccine centres in Ahmedabad, Pune & Hyderabad on Sat (Ld)
- India's GDP shrunk 7.5% in July-September — markets had feared much worse
- Oppo ColorOS 11 review — faster, lighter, better, but is it enough?