The Truth About Your Metabolism

Metabolism. The beloved scapegoat in the quest to lose weight. “I just have a slow metabolism.” It’s easy to blame. But is your metabolism really the villain? And what can you actually do to boost yours (yes, there are ways!)? Let’s take a look:

What is metabolism?

Metabolism is a serious of chemical reactions in the body that convert food to fuel. It is a complex process involving enzymes, hormones, and biochemical processes that helps support day to day bodily functions. From blood flow to breathing to cell growth and repair, your metabolism is responsible for maintaining the most basic and important of your body’s functions. When most people think of metabolism we tend to only focus on the rate at which this occurs; not the actual release of energy. After all, the faster you burn through those calories, the easier it is to maintain a healthy weight.

So what actually affects your metabolic rate?

Since the metabolic process is a complex one, it’s no surprise that there are a ton of factors that can affect it. The first being age. Our metabolic rates decreases about 5% per decade once we reach 40. Sex is also a factor. Men tend to have a high metabolic rate than women. This is mainly because men naturally tend to have more muscle than women. And surprisingly, your weight also affects your metabolic rate. And not in the way you might think. The heavier you are, the faster you burn calories. That’s right! FASTER! The extra weight you are carrying causes your body to work harder to support daily functions, thus revving up your metabolism. So overweight people will actually burn calories faster than thinner people. This is extremely important to remember when it comes to weight loss. Once you lose weight, your metabolism actually slows to match your new, slimmer frame. This is one reason why it’s so easy to regain weight if you slip back into old, less healthy habits.

Now what can you really do to boost yours?

It is true we can’t change some factors – unfortunately we all age! However there are some proven ways to boost your metabolism. And the good news is that they are things that we should already be doing to support a healthy lifestyle! Here they are:

Exercise – Exercise is not only important for burning extra calories, but it can also help rev your metabolism. Since muscle burns more calories than fat, the more muscle you have, the faster you burn calories. Even at rest. That’s why strength training is equally as important as cardio when it comes to exercise. Want to boost your metabolism? Hit the gym!

Don’t Skip Meals –Your metabolism is much smarter than you might think. When you put too many hours between meals, your metabolism will actually slow down to compensate. It will hang on to those calories for dear life, unsure of when its next meal may be. Eating consistent meals let’s your body know that food is always coming, thus keeping your metabolism elevated. That’s one explanation as to why people who skip meals tend to weight more.

Drink Water – Many people forget that water is an essential nutrient. And a vital part of the metabolic process. Maintaining proper hydration will not only help stop food cravings (dehydration is often confused with hunger) but it can even help boost the rate at which we burn calories. So drink water. And if you exercise drink even more water.

So truth be told, weight gain is most commonly a result of exercising too little and eating too much. Not a slow metabolism. By focusing on healthful ways to rev yours, you can ditch the excuse and reach your goals once and for all.

Nutrition Myths Debunked

Last week we talked facts. This week we’re talking myths. Here are some of my favorite nutrition myths debunked once and for all:

Myth#1: There is a magical list of foods that will save your life – Superfoods. We all come across them but just how super are they? Yes, blueberries are linked to brain function. And tart cherry juice may reduce inflammation. But while these foods do have health benefits, no one food will save your life. Especially if it’s masked by fat, sugar and calories. Blueberries buried beneath a calorie and fat laden muffin isn’t going to save your life. But a balanced, healthy diet rich in whole foods just might!

Myth #2: Fad diets work -Our bodies compensate for extreme dieting with extreme hunger. Although we hate to hear that word “moderation,” it is key when it comes to eating. If it’s not a balanced approach that you can and will stick to for a lifetime, it’s not gonna last. And neither will the weight loss. Just remember – the slower it comes off, the more likely you are to keep it off. Most importantly, if you’ve gone on a diet more than once, it doesn’t work. A healthy diet is one that you eat forever. There’s no going on and off.

Myth #3: To eat healthfully, I must eliminate an entire food group – Whether it’s sugar, gluten, fat, or carbs it seems there is always a new culprit in the war on weight. But giving up an entire group of foods is a surefire way to crave it. It can also deprive you of important vitamins and minerals. Unless you have a food allergy or medical condition, eliminating something completely from your diet is simply another fad diet masked in depravity.

Myth #4: Natural or herbal weight loss products are safe and effective- Be careful as these products are not usually scientifically tested to prove that they are safe or that the work. Don’t mistake natural with healthy. And more importantly, don’t mistake it for safe. Consult your doctor before using any of these products.

Myth #5: I heard it on TV, it must be true! If it sounds too good to be true, it is! Most of the claims for these “miracle” products (yes, I’m talking about you raspberry ketones) are unsubstantiated and based on very small studies – many of which are done on mice, not humans. It’s easy to twist the science into nice little sound bites. But seeing actual results is a different story. What does show results? A diet rich and fruits and veggies! How’s that for your nice little sound bite?

Nutrition Facts!

Happy January! As we head into a New Year, I thought it might be helpful to review some of the basics. Here are my favorite nutrition facts to keep in mind as you commit to another year of healthy living:

Fact #1: All carbohydrates are not created equally – Fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains are all healthy carbohydrates that belong in our diet. Want to try a low carb diet? Opt for a low refined carb diet (think white flour and sugary drinks) – these are the main culprits when it comes to weight gain to disease development.

Fact #2: Fat does not make you fat – Eating the right kind of fat is just as important as the amount. Focus on heart-healthy fats like olive oil and canola oil and limit saturated fats. Avoid anything hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated – this means dangerous trans fat.

Fact #3: There is more to cholesterol than cholesterol – While there is cholesterol in the foods we eat, it turns out that foods high in saturated and trans fat have a much greater impact on our cholesterol levels as do lifestyle factors like inactivity and weight gain.

Fact #4: More protein is not always better – Eating too much of anything will lead to weight gain. Even protein.

Fact #5: There is room for our favorites - Cutting out foods completely can leave us feeling deprived. Learning to enjoy them in moderation and as part of a balanced diet is the key to success. If 80% of your diet is healthy and balanced, that leaves 20% of the time to enjoy some other foods you love!

 Fact #6: Alcohol has calories! Remember a margarita can have more calories than a Big Mac, large fries, or a personal pepperoni pizza. Just because it’s liquid, doesn’t mean it is calorie-free.

Fact #7: Whole foods are the best sources of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants –They also offer the most nutritional bang for our calorie buck.

Happy, Healthy New Year!

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