Metabolism Myths & Truths

By: OnPoint Nutrition

Last newsletter, we discussed the components that make up our metabolism and how complex this calorie-burning system is. As a reminder, metabolism is the process by which our bodies convert what we eat into energy. This energy is used for bodily functions, such as digestion or respiration, or for any kind of movement throughout the day.


Put simply, the components that make up our metabolism are highly variable and individualized. Recently, the internet is all a buzz when it comes to our metabolism. If you consume certain foods or spices, will you boost your metabolism? Can you really slow your metabolism down by adopting certain habits? Practitioners have also seen a rise in individuals without any medical diagnosis blaming a “slow metabolism” for weight issues. Below we’ll discuss a few myths about metabolism, and a few habits we all can adapt to maintain a healthy one.


1. Eating Spicy Foods Boosts Your Metabolism

The Truth: The spiciness you experience when you eat any kind of pepper is from certain phytochemicals called capsaicinoids, which studies have shown to increase your metabolism at a very small degree. The theory is that they increase the heat your body produces, which takes energy to produce and enhances fat breakdown. Additionally, it can be pretty difficult to eat a lot when a dish is heavily spiced, decreasing the amount you’re consuming, and increasing the efficiency of digestion.


Regardless, the path to healthy weight loss is through portion control and a balanced diet filled with nutrient-rich foods, not through a diet doused in chili peppers. This also applies to green tea. While it is true that the antioxidants and caffeine found in green tea can help stimulate the nervous system and increase digestion, it has a very little effect on your overall metabolism. This is even truer if you’re already consuming caffeine throughout the day.


2. Exercise Effects Your Metabolism

The Truth: Exercising can have a huge impact on increasing your metabolism. Regular aerobic exercise (particularly high-intensity interval training / HIIT) not only requires a lot of energy, but creates an after-burn effect (EPOC), increasing your metabolism post-workout. Any kind of movement you can add to your day – going for walks, taking the stairs, or stretching – can help, too.


This also correlates with the myth that metabolic rates can’t change. While it is true that genetics help determine our metabolic rates, we can increase our metabolism by increasing our lean muscle mass. Since muscle is what helps us move, it burns way more calories per hour than fat mass within the body, which means that people with lean, muscular bodies need more calories to function than people with a higher percentage of body fat.


3. Going on a Diet Messes With Your Metabolism

The Truth: A diet that cuts out calories too quickly rarely has any kind of long term benefit. Physiologically speaking, our bodies can’t adapt and change that quickly without consequences. By drastically cutting your calorie intake, you push your body into a “starvation state”, where you’re slowing down natural processes throughout the body to conserve energy. This causes your metabolism to slow down. The energy you’re able to use for any kind of exercise or daily activity is severely diminished, creating a vicious loop of slowing down your metabolism even more.


What Can I Do to Boost My Metabolism?

The best metabolism-boosting strategy involves the habits you’re learning about and practicing right now!


1. Starting your day well rested – Getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night helps manage your hunger and decreases stress

2. Eating protein with almost every meal – to help keep your body working efficiently and repairing itself

3. Drinking enough water throughout the day

4. Eating a few small meals a day – Try not to eat too much during a meal or skip any meals throughout the day. Skipping meals and snacks jumbles your digestive system and glucose levels.


All these habits, along with exercise, can help increase and maintain a healthy, more energy-efficient metabolism.

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