Metabolic Rate Myth – Can You Actually Change Your Metabolism?
I have to admit it, I fell for it too. I fell for all the hype and hoopla that saturates our fitness culture about metabolism. I studied long and hard how to boost it, grow it, speed it up and protect it. It was the focus of any of my weight loss videos and articles and it was of great concern that none of my clients “crash” their metabolism with some stupid diet.
These days things are different. I could care less about my metabolic rate. All of my diet and exercise strategies are done for anything but metabolic benefits. Here’s why:
There Are Actually 2 Types of Metabolism
Actually there are lots of different types of metabolism. There is carbohydrate metabolism, fat metabolism, sugar metabolism and so on. In our fitness culture, we tend to talk about 2 different types: BMR and TM.
BMR is basal metabolic rate and TM is total metabolism. BMR is the total number of calories you burn just to maintain your body as it is, and TM is the total number of calories you burn, period. Neither one is worth losing sleep over.
Total Metabolism Is Quick and Easy To Change
Your total metabolism is really quick and easy to change. It’s like a raging river where the rapids are always changing shape. Just simply stand up right now and do jumping jacks. Your total metabolism just increased! Eat something, anything at all and your total metabolism will also increase. But if you stop moving or eat less, you will burn fewer calories and hence “lower your metabolism”.
All Foods Increase Total Metabolism
All foods increase your total metabolism regardless of what they are. Anything from fried Twinkies to organic salmon requires some sort of energy to digest and thus will “boost your metabolism.” Some foods boost more than others because they require more energy to digest (like salmon) but unless you’re making a radical change in your diet, the differences are nothing to get all excited about.
All Physical Activities Increase Total Metabolism
Do something, anything at all, and you will increase your total metabolism. You can do any activity you like be it cardio, weight training or wrestling in a pool full of Jell-O. The longer or more intense the activity, the more calories you burn and thus the more you “boost your metabolism.”
EPOC Is Hard To Track or Account For
I used to look to certain exercises for the so called “after burn” or what is known as the Excessive Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. There are many factors that influence how long or how intense the E.P.O.C is. It’s a very unreliable calorie burn. Sometimes your E.P.O.C could last for hours and burn hundreds of calories, other times it might last 20 minutes and burn off a few potato chips. I simply figure it’s a bonus burn, but nothing I’m going to count on simply because it’s very hard to track and keep consistent.
Your BMR Isn’t Going Anywhere Anytime Soon
While total metabolism can change at the drop of a hat, your BMR is like a glacier, moving and changing ever so slowly. Plus it’s important to note that most of the factors that determine your BMR are not something you can intentionally change or control. Your age, gender, height, somato-type, and even genetics all account for the lion’s share of what causes your BMR to be where it is.
Muscle Plays a Minor Role In Changes To BMR
It’s true that lean body mass plays a role in influencing your BMR but muscle is only a part of what makes up your lean body mass. In the movie of metabolism, muscle is a bit character. Your organs, blood, water, skin, bones and everything else that’s not fat is a contributing factor. Muscle is just one player on the massive team that makes up your BMR. In the past, I believed that a pound of muscle burned hundreds of calories. Now though, the figures are coming down to as little as 15-20 calories per pound. A few added pounds are hardly anything to get excited about.
You’re Probably Not Going To Change Your Muscle Mass Quickly
Let’s face it, unless you’re a young adult male who has never done any exercise, or someone on drugs, you’re not going to be packing on 30 pounds of muscle this summer. At the same time, unless you are going to starve yourself and give up all activity for 4-5 weeks you’re not going to drop a whole lot of muscle either.
The amount of muscle on the human body is slow to change even with most diet or exercise changes. What this means is that because most of the factors in your BMR can’t be controlled and that the few factors that can, are not going to change very fast, your BMR isn’t gong to go through any big changes anytime soon. It would be like expecting a glacier to come racing through town.
Food Is a Relatively Minor Player in Maintaining BMR
Lots of diet strategy is aimed at boosting or protecting your metabolism. Most of it isn’t really going to do anything. Eating frequent small meals, never skipping meals, and eating at only certain times of the day has little, if any, effect on BMR. It’s like changing the course of that glacier with an ice pick.
Your Metabolism Doesn’t Control Your Weight
Finally we must recognise that either BMR or TM is only half of the weight control equation. They are only focused on the calories going out of the body and while that’s 50% of the game, it’s the relationship between calories out and calories in that makes the difference.
You can have the metabolism of a humming bird and still gain weight. You can have the metabolism of a slug and lose it. Granted it would be easier to be like the humming bird, but a higher BMR or even TM is in no way a guarantee that fat loss will occur.
So that’s why I don’t give a hoot about metabolism any more. Instead, I focus on something that is far more important and influential to weight loss and every fitness goal imaginable. Funny enough, few people never pay much attention to it. I’ll cover that in my next article.
By Matt Schifferle