How to Critically Consider Metabolism Myths – Part 3


As our discussion on metabolism continues, today we explore the third metabolism myth and how this belief has influenced individuals engaged in specific fitness programs that are designed for fat loss.

Before we debunk this myth, we feel the need to preface this conversation with a few words on the importance of exercise. While at times, it might seem that we’re casting a negative light on physical exercise, nothing could be further from the truth.

Exercise has untold benefits including weight control, disease control, strengthening of the bones and muscles, improved mental health and mood, and life longevity just to name a few. Unfortunately though, exercise does little to nothing in speeding up metabolism.

Myth #3: Getting in Shape Elevates Metabolism

Man pulling a sledOne of the most popular and ongoing myths about metabolism is that by regularly engaging in exercise and losing body fat, you’ll increase your metabolism and be able to eat more. According to legend, the harder you push your body, the more metabolism increases.

This myth stems from a view that individuals get fat because they have a sluggish metabolism, caused by overeating and laziness.

Make no mistake – overeating and neglecting physical exercise is going to lead to obesity but this has nothing to do with metabolism. Quite the opposite actually.

A person’s resting metabolic rate will always be higher when weighing more, and it doesn’t matter if the weight is in the form of muscle or fat. The body requires far more energy when it needs to work harder and more body mass guarantees a greater workload.

As proof of concept, consider an obese man that finally makes the decision to get in shape. He heads out to jog a mile on his first day and on finishing, he’s sweating profusely, his lungs are on fire and he can barely breathe. Even 30 minutes later, his breathing rate is still elevated.

By contrast, consider the athletic man who runs everyday and he runs a quick mile to warm up. He’s barely breathing, if at all, and his heart rate returns to normal within minutes of finishing his mile.

Which man burned the most calories?

It’s no contest. The overweight individual worked far harder and he’s burning far more calories while running and after the run, due to EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), as his body works to restore oxygen to blood and tissues and meet the oxygen requirements of the heart rate, which is still elevated.

As you drop weight further and as you get in better shape, your metabolism becomes far more efficient and every activity you do burns fewer calories.

This is actually the perfect design, if we are to critically examine what’s happening. If a 150 pound man burned the same amount of calories as a 300 pound man, he would have to continue eating thousands of calories a day or he would wither away to 100 pounds in no time at all. While the thought of eating those thousands of calories every day might sound ultra-appealing, our bodies would have no defense against famine. Thankfully, metabolism takes over and slows down as we progress with our fat loss goals and transition into becoming better athletes.

Your body has a specific point for burning calories that is individual to you only. Metabolism differs for everyone. Two men can weigh the same amount and have the same amount of body fat and they can differ in the amount of daily energy required by a thousand calories. Genetics can be a real bitch sometimes but no amount of racing up hills and pushing your heart rate to the max is going to allow you to eat more without adding body fat.

The Metabolic Damage Exception

It should now be understood that as we lose weight, we must continue to eat less – but don’t go too low because metabolic damage does occur and it can take months to restore metabolism back to proper levels if you’ve become victim to a metabolism that seems barely able to provide enough energy to get you through the day.

Metabolic damage is the “exception to the rule” and for those with this issue, the approach to diet and exercise must be different – until this problem is corrected.

Metabolic damage is the result of severe stress on the body most often caused by an over-abundance of exercise in conjunction with a prolonged severe caloric deficit.

A common scenario is an individual who hires a personal trainer and is encouraged to eat less and less while training more and more. Unfortunately, there are a lot of mis-guided trainers in the fitness industry who firmly believe that more is better and if reducing calories works to drop body weight then reducing calories further will give even better results.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The above results in a hormonal profile that is severely stressed and a metabolism that is fighting the effects of severe famine. Metabolism will drop well beyond normal baseline and you’ll be tired while even doing the most mundane of daily activities. Sex drive is diminished and brain fog frequently sets in. It’s not a fun way to go through every day in life. To add to the list of problems, when you return to eating at normal levels again, body fat will result because your metabolism is not optimum and evolved to not expect a constant surplus of calories.

If you’re suffering from metabolic damage, reverse dieting is optimal for countering the problem. Take a full week or two off from exercise and very slowly increase calories every few days until getting back to baseline. Slowly introduce workouts again and do more weight-resistance type workouts and far fewer long, boring cardio sessions – since metabolic adaption can occur with these types of workouts.

Individuals who are suffering from metabolic damage will most definitely see an increase in metabolism after returning to a less restrictive amount of calories and a healthy exercise regimen, though it can take weeks to many months for levels to restore to normal.

In Summary

Don’t tailor a workout program for raising metabolism. It’s a time-waster and there are more important aspect of both diet and fitness to be focused on.

The most optimal way to lose weight is eating an ample amount of food and burning excess calories through exercise. In doing this, your hormones will be supplied with the necessary energy to fully perform their functions.

Eat more and workout harder. It’s what we should all be doing.

You won’t raise your metabolism but the good news is that you don’t need to raise your metabolism to lose weight, burn fat or even get the body of your dreams. You just need to be in a slight calorie deficit by day’s end and you do this by enjoying food, exercising regularly and sticking to your routine.

Previous How to Critically Consider Metabolism Myths – Part 2
Next How to Critically Consider Metabolism Myths – Part 4