One quick look on the internet reveals millions of tips and advice on how to speed up your metabolism so that you can lose weight and have more energy. I bet you did some research too on that at some point, didn’t you?
We grow up believing all sorts of things, we learn all sorts of things and we hear all sorts of things when it comes to our metabolism and most often it is confusing and not helping.
If you have ever embarked on a metabolic journey, meaning trying to lose weight, getting more energy, preventing diabetes or improving heart health you know what I mean. Was there anything that made a difference for you?
If you said no, or not sure, I have some myths for you that I want to debunk today to help you gain clarity on this subject.
Exercise boosts your metabolism
How many times have you heard that? The fitness industry uses this all the time to get you as a client and it works too. Unfortunately it is a myth, that you can boost your metabolism through exercise. Let me explain why.
Recently researcher have launched a study with the Hudza tribe called “Hudza Study Energetics Project”. The Hudza is a remote tribe in Tanzania, who live in their traditional way. These remote tribes are interesting to compare to our modern civilization when it comes to health and wellbeing. This project found that Hudza people are active about 2 hours/day and walk between 13,000–19,000 steps each day.
If we think that exercise boosts our metabolism, these people should have a very fast metabolism because they are so active each day. But guess what…there was NO DIFFERENCE in daily energy expenditure in the Hudza and in people of the modern world. Those findings were also observed in animal studies. The conclusion was that metabolism is dynamic. It adjusts, depending on your activity level to keep your daily expenditure in check.
So it doesn’t matter how much you exercise, you will hit this plateau and after that your metabolic speed will not increase. Humans adapt to their environment.
Exercise is a great way to lose weight
That would be nice but actually there are about 63 studies that showed that the longer you exercise, the less weight you lose. Again here is the principle of metabolic adjustment.
It does not mean however that you should not exercise, let’s explore myth #3.
Exercise isn’t working if you don’t lose weight
This is not true. Exercise is good for you.
BUT if you only exercise to lose weight, that’s not what it is for. Exercise is very good to improver overall health. Exercise decreases inflammation — it has shown to lower C reactive protein, it helps with stress management, exercise can lower cortisol and epinephrine by 30%, it helps with hormonal balance and increases testosterone in men and it has clearly shown to help in reproductive cancer prevention. So don’t exercise for weight loss only. Do it for your overall health, rather than to lose weight.
Calories don’t matter
This is something that we often like to believe and sometimes also communicate, especially in my field of business. But if we think of the mechanism of the metabolism, it is like a combustion engine. Meaning, how much we put in, does matter from a physiological standpoint.
What we often fail to realize is however, how much we actually eat. We often resort to high-density, nutrient devoid foods for taste and convenience which provide a ton of calories that we eat mindlessly and forget about. If we were to count all those calories we consume during the day, we would see that we most often underestimate how many calories we eat.
So, for metabolism calories matter, and where the calories come from does not matter, BUT…
For your health and how well your body works, the quality of the calories DO matter.
Human hunter/gatherer evolved by eating a “paleo” style diet
Looking at the history at early ancient diets, research has clearly shown that hunter/gatherer diets had a huge plant food component. Meat wasn’t always available, whereas plant food was. There were a lot of fiber/starches in those early diets, from roots, tubers, beans, legumes etc. which are all rich in carbohydrates. A good portion of the diet consisted of wild berries, tubers and honey even.
Also, there are many different styles of diets, depending on location of the tribes. Traditional diets consisted of a VARIETY OF FOODS and many were carbohydrate heavy. Diversity is really the key here, when it comes to diet.
A slow metabolism dooms you to obesity
Actually, if your metabolism is slow or fast, it has NO RELATION to weight gain. Burning more calories on a daily basis does not mean that you are slimmer than someone who burns slower. The metabolism does not determine your weight!
Your weight is more associated with gene expression, how your brain is wired and how diverse your microbes are in your gut.
So if we want to look at weight loss, let’s start looking in the right places and doing the right things instead of mindless and counterproductive activities that we thought to be true in the past.
Obesity is a sign of personal failure
Obesity is not just related to willpower and conviction contrary to popular belief.
Obesity rather is linked to cheap, energy-dense, ultra-processed foods that lead us to overeat and gain weight.
Hence calories do matter and behaviour around food even more. Recent studies have found that our current diet in North America (US + Canada) accounts for 54–58% of calories coming from these processed sources. So, clearly what and how we eat has a lot to do with obesity.
In conclusion, our metabolism is clever and dynamic by evolution. We could have not survived if our metabolism wasn’t adaptable.
In order for us to maintain optimal weight, we have to be active every day (to stay healthy) and watch our diet (to keep the weight)
Having debunked these myths, however, metabolism plays a huge role in energy production. If you struggle with fatigue, you feel you are unproductive and use artificial stimulants, such as coffee, sugar and energy drinks often to get through the day, you might want to check out my recent webinar, where I show you what’s necessary to reclaim your energy using the foundation of the principles I described here today.
The misunderstood science of metabolism with Herman Pontzer “new scientist webinar series”