It's a word people love to throw around related to their weight-loss struggles: metabolism. Simply put, metabolism is the way in which your body converts your food consumption into energy, and you should be careful about what you blame (and thank!) your metabolism for. Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D., believes way more people blame their metabolism for their weight struggles than actually should. Here are the myths you might still be holding on to:
1. It Drops at Age 30
If you're dreading the milestone birthday because you hear your metabolism will crash into a wall, there is some good news: You have more time. "I don't know about 30," says Ansel. "I think 40 is more like it. When you get into your forties, you start to lose muscle, and muscle burns more calories than fat." The even better news is that you can take control of this change by exercising to replace the muscle, especially with resistance training.
2. You Either Have a Good Metabolism, or You Don't
"Everyone thinks they have a slow metabolism," says Ansel. It's very easy to blame your weight-loss issues on something that seems like it's beyond your control, but Ansel believes that instead of comparing your metabolism to other people's, you should look at your calorie consumption and your activity level. There is more variation there—and more ability to change your habits for the better.
3. You Can't Change Your Metabolism
Similar to the idea above, you might believe that you were born with a slow metabolism and there is nothing you can do about it. But "if you don't exercise and you have no muscle, yes, you change your metabolism," says Ansel. Making those healthy lifestyle changes can boost your metabolism. "There are some foods that have a teeny advantage, like those you'd see from caffeine or red pepper," says Ansel, but you can't rely on those alone for any major change.
4. Super-Skinny People Must Have a Great Metabolism
Everyone knows someone who is naturally thin and can chow down on whatever she wants. When asked about her secret, she usually shrugs and says, "I have an awesome metabolism."
Eh, not so fast, says Ansel.
"Super-skinny people likely compensate," says Ansel. "If they eat too much at one meal, they eat less later on. They tend to be in tune with their body's cues, and I think that's the key with people who seem naturally thinner."
Those people may not even be aware that they're adjusting their eating patterns or that they're good listeners. But you can still learn from them! Take note of your body's hunger cues, feed it when you notice you need sustenance, and reward it with physical activity. That's how you really make metabolic magic happen.
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