What Are the Biggest Myths and Truths About Metabolism? Dietician Lauren Hubert Breaks Them Down
When it comes to eating right and staying healthy, there is a lot of misinformation out there, and sometimes, it can be so prevalent that people simply accept it as truth.
People may tout things like fasting and cleanses as surefire paths to health, when they're not actually backed by science. We were curious about our metabolisms—and the sometimes contradictory information we receive about how they work—so we reached out to an expert to get the real truth.
Registered dietician Lauren Hubert, also known as the @sorority.nutritionist, knows a thing or two about health and nutrition, and we got the opportunity to ask her all of our most burning questions on the topic of metabolisms. Here's what she had to say.
Sweety High: What exactly is a metabolism?
Lauren Hubert: Metabolism is a fancy, scientific word to describe the complex process in which our body breaks down and uses the calories in food and drinks we consume for energy/fuel for our bodies! In the media, you'll also see dietitians like myself use this word to refer to our body's metabolic rate (i.e. how many calories we burn per day).
SH: What do you think are the biggest misconceptions people have about their metabolism?
LH: "I'm not losing weight because my metabolism is slow."
I hear many women share this statement when they are frustrated when they aren't seeing results. While some women do have a "slower" metabolism, which basically just means you have slowed down how many calories you burn per day and require less fuel to maintain your weight, many women blame a slow metabolism or their metabolism in general for their inability to lose weight, when in reality, they just don't understand their body.
To lose weight, you have to consume fewer calories than what you burn. While what you eat and how you exercise (especially if you have more muscle mass) do impact your metabolic rate and metabolism, even with a slow metabolism it's possible to boost it back up to help with weight loss and/or lose weight with a slower metabolism through diet, exercise and lifestyle changes.
"Cardio is the best workout for your metabolism."
I hear this all the time! While cardiovascular exercise that gets your heart rate up like jogging, running, swimming and cycling are fabulous for our health and physique, cardio isn't necessarily the best exercise for our metabolism. While we burn more calories in the moment doing cardio as compared to strength training, lifting weights and doing resistance-based exercise is arguably better for our metabolism because you are able to build more muscle (while also sculpting a strong, fit physique) that burns more calories to maintain, aka, boosting our metabolism! We can't build this same muscle with cardio, babes!
SH: Is it possible to boost our metabolisms? How?
LH: Many women slow down their metabolism through years of restrictive dieting and weight cycling (or if you unfortunately have a medical condition like PCOS or hypothyroidism that did it unintentionally)—but the good news is you're not doomed! Just like we can slow it down, we can also boost our metabolism through fueling our body properly, eating the right amount of calories and nutrients and exercising smart. That's because our metabolism is never stagnant; it changes daily and there is so much we can control within our diet and exercise habits that can help us burn more calories and better use those calories for energy in our bodies.
SH: We've heard that everything from certain foods, to eating too late, to certain diets and types of fasting can change metabolism. Is there any credence to this?
LH: Yes! Here's what you need to know:
Certain foods impact our metabolism, however it's always important to remember that your habits around these foods dictate how they impact us. Processed, refined and easily digested foods that lack fiber (think fun foods like cookies, sweets, refined grains with added sugars and chips) don't slow down our metabolism per say—but they don't challenge it. They are easy to break down and can often lead to overeating because they are absorbed and metabolized so easily, not leaving us full for long. That's why eating foods that take more energy to break down (meaning you burn more calories eating them) such as protein-rich foods and carbohydrates that pack fiber are so crucial for our metabolic health and weight.
Eating too late at night is a myth when it comes to weight management and metabolism. While there are women who swear by fasting because it truly fits their lifestyle and preferences, but the truth is calories are calories. Food is food. Whether you eat it spread throughout six meals per day or two to three larger meals, it doesn't impact our metabolism as much as we're told it does.
SH: What do you think is the silliest myth you've heard about metabolisms?
LH: The silliest myths I've consistently heard around metabolism as a dietitian is that certain foods boost it that truly just don't! The worst culprit? Apple cider vinegar (ACV). If there are any foods with scientific-backing that truly do help "increase" how many calories we burn per day, it isn't ACV! Protein has a known, higher thermic effect of food. This basically means these foods take more energy to break down, causing you to burn some of the calories you're actually consuming. To put simply, research shows the thermic effect of food for protein is between 15 to 30%, followed by carbs at 5 to 10% and fat 0 to 3%.
SH: What are the things that we should take away from the whole metabolism discussion?
LH: That our metabolism is a complex process of how our body uses energy for fuel, and is impacted by much more than one meal. How we live our lifestyle around food, exercise, activity and our collective habits are what help or hinder our metabolism, daily calories burned and effectively—our health and weight!
Want to learn more about prevalent food and health myths? Click HERE to find out a nutritionist's expert opinion on whether hair and nail vitamins really work.