How to Critically Consider Metabolism Myths – Part 1


The myth of metabolism is at the forefront of many diet and exercise programs, with false claims that it can be greatly increased to assist in developing a muscular, fat-free body composition and allow a person to eat more calories on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, this is largely untrue and in this ten-part study, the Man Guide will delve into the ten most popular myths surrounding metabolism – and destroy them. This is a critical examination of metabolism with an emphasis on how it is affected by diet and exercise.

the open roadBefore we embark on our journey, it’s important to understand that we’re not trying to discourage dieting and exercise – quite the opposite actually. Eating right and exercising regularly are the keys to a shredded physique. We’re simply wanting more people to be aware of the relationship between metabolic function and losing weight so they can let go of misconceptions and focus on the more important aspects of dropping the pounds. Focusing on the wrong things slows progress. Knowledge is power.

Metabolism is a mostly misunderstood physiological process that confuses the majority of individuals new to dieting and fitness. It encompasses all your physiological processes and the sum total of these processes results in a mathematical algorithm like nothing you’ve seen before. Nobody knows this equation but we do know that to the right of the equals sign is your daily caloric intake needed to maintain weight.

Your hormones and cellular activity dictate the formula to the left of the equal sign and your food intake has the greatest effect on the outcome. But this doesn’t mean you can somehow boost your metabolism to a couple thousand calories beyond what your body requires for homeostasis.

There is an important distinction between trying to maximize metabolism and lose weight vs increasing metabolism above baseline – baseline being the normal level at which your body burns calories while resting, for the purposes of our discussion here.

Let’s start myth-busting and by the end of our series, you’ll have a darned-good idea of what it will take for you to reach your fitness goals, without wasting energy in trying to focus on what percent you can raise metabolism.

Myth # 1 – Muscle Burns More Calories than Fat at Rest

man lifting weightsThere’s still a large audience of fitness enthusiasts preaching that the secret to a faster metabolism – and leaner body – is packing on muscle. You’ve likely heard the myth – for every pound of muscle you add, you burn an extra 50 calories (or more), and that’s even while laying on your back in quiet meditation.

Wouldn’t that just be awesome?

The facts tell a different story. Every pound of muscle you have burns anywhere from five to eight calories a day, depending on how fast your metabolism is – and this number is determined almost entirely by your genetics. The average is six.

Let’s consider a guy in his thirties (because late teens or adults in their early twenties can gain muscle substantially faster than older adults), who is focused on adding ten pounds of muscle over the next couple years. If he’s successful, that’s sum total of 60 more calories a day he’ll burn (using the average).

But wait. He’s been lifting weights and eating better while focused on his fitness goals and managed to lose 40 pounds of fat as well. He’s now far more muscular and with far less body fat but guess what?

He now requires less calories than when he started working out. His metabolism has decreased.

A pound of fat burns two to three calories a day (based on metabolism) so the net total of calories burned in a single day is on the negative side.

No amount of eating more or intense exercising will change this. Your body burns a specific amount of calories that is determined by your genetics alone and adding muscle will do little to nothing in influencing that number.

In a PlosOne study that examined the effect of body weight on metabolic rate, it was concluded that daily energy expenditure was the same, regardless of culture and higher activity levels of another culture. The common denominator in metabolic rate was individual body weight.

The more you weigh, the more calories you burn. The less you weigh, the fewer calories you burn. It’s that simple.

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