Debunking Metabolism Myths

May 5, 2022

Taylor Erholtz

Hello Western Racquet members! My name is Taylor Erholtz, a Dietetic Intern through the University of Wisconsin- Green Bay. Upon completion of my internship at Western in May, I will be able to take the Registered Dietitian Exam and become a Licensed Registered Dietitian. I love all things nutrition and hope to make an influence in whatever route I take in my future career in nutrition. I have had the amazing opportunity to intern at Western for 4 weeks. By the time you read this post I will be gone, however I hope my time there was as influential for you as it was for me. The atmosphere here is inspiring, not only because of the family-like culture, but because of the strong passion and commitment each member and staff has here.

During my time, I had a discussion with someone regarding their metabolism. Now I know, the word metabolism can be a troubling issue for people. I think in today’s wellness world it is constantly thrown around, when in reality so many people do not even know what our metabolism is and how it is affected by so many things throughout our life. So, I wanted to take this chance to talk about what our metabolism is and how it functions, some of the most common metabolism myths, and what are ways to improve its capacity.

“Metabolism refers to a series of chemical reactions that occur in a living organism to sustain life”. When we eat carbohydrates, protein, and fats, our body converts that food into energy (measured in calories). The energy through food helps support daily life functions and physical activity in addition to digesting food, breathing, eliminating waste from your body, building muscle, and providing nutrients to cells. Our metabolism is what breaks down or builds up the energy given to us through two ways: catabolism and anabolism. Catabolism involves breaking down larger molecules into smaller ones, releasing energy. Anabolism involves building up or synthesizing compounds, requiring energy. The rate at which we burn calories (or energy) is called your metabolic rate. Metabolic rate is what most people think of when references their metabolism. Two numbers that are important are Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), the number of calories required to sustain essential body function, and Active Calories, the calories burned during physical activity.

Myth 1: Our metabolisms are permanent

Our metabolism can be affected by many different factors like activity level, hormones, muscle mass, body temperature, food intake, and body size.

Myth 2: Our metabolisms worsens as we age

There is minimal impact on metabolism as we age. I know I have heard many times that someone’s metabolism is slowing down because they are getting older. That is not most likely the case since our calorie needs do not start to change until we are in our 60s, and even then there is not a big change.

Myth 3: Someone with more body fat has a slower metabolism than those who have less body fat.

The larger the body, the more energy it typically takes to support movement and basic functions. To understand, if two people are doing the same exercise, the person with more body mass with most likely burn more calories, in turn increasing their metabolic rate.

Myth 4: Eating breakfast increases my metabolism

Although breakfast is important to start your day with energy, breakfast itself does not increase your metabolism. Your metabolism is more affected by the total amount of food a person eats through the day than by the time those calories are eaten.

With all of this in mind, who do we improve our metabolism?

1. Exercise: Exercising increases the number of calories you burn, thus improving your metabolism. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week (30 min/day), or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week (15 min/day).

2. Eat your protein: Protein has the highest thermic effect of food which refers to the increase in your metabolism after eating. For basic protein needs, we recommend 0.8 grams protein/kilogram of body weight. 1.2-2 grams of protein/kilogram is ideal for recovery and muscle building.

3. Build muscle: Exercise that includes strength-training increases muscle mass which can improve the metabolism. Muscle requires calories to function properly.

4. Improve daily activity: Exercise and physical activity are different. If you find it hard to fit exercise into your day, try to increase the number of daily activities throughout your day like doing chores, walking the dog, laundry, going up and down the stairs, and making your bed.

5. Get more sleep: probably the most underrated aspect is lack of sleep and its negative impact on your metabolism. Lack of sleep is also related to increased blood sugar levels. Try to aim for the recommended 8 hours of sleep, however find what amount works best for your body.

With anything in life, it is always sensible to consult with a professional to help your diet and lifestyle, especially with a certified dietitian. Setting goals will help improve so many aspects of our lives. I hope the information I provided gave you even a tidbit information to help adapt into your life today. Best of luck in your nutrition journey!

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