Pilates Style|July - August 2020

According to the internets, there are a thousand and one ways to boost your metabolism. Most of them may be wrong, however. We separate fact from fiction.
Leah McLaughlin

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT, SO THE SAYING GOES … BUT NOT SO FAST. Technically, you are your metabolism. Strictly speaking, your metabolism is what determines your mood, energy level, fitness capability and weight. It’s also what makes your hair shiny and your skin glow. It’s what makes your heart, lungs, brain and immune system function. Your metabolism is what makes you you. “It’s the sum total of all of the chemical processes that are taking place in the human body to be able to break down fuel and use fuel,” explains Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP, FACSM, author of The Hunger Fix.

But when most people talk about metabolism, they’re also more specifically referring to the total number of calories you use daily to perform everything from breathing and blinking your eyes to polishing off a set of Hundreds. Often, we talk about metabolism needing a “boost” or our “engines” needing to “fire up.” In fact, most of us have a wellfunctioning metabolism that isn’t too fast or too slow, but is just right for our body height and weight. “There are a few outliers, depending on your genetics, any medications you may be taking and other factors,” says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, a virtual sports and performance nutritionist. But for the most part, your metabolism is what it is, depending on your gender, body size, age and physical activity.

Try telling that to the various “experts” on the internet touting this or that “metabolism breakthrough.” While there are legitimate ways to improve the efficiency of your metabolism, and there are ways to burn more calories during the day, there are no miracle booster fixes. Here, we sort through some of the most common metabolism misconceptions.


Not necessarily. The single biggest factor in metabolism is body size—and those with bigger bodies generally have more active metabolisms. A morbidly obese person will burn more calories per day than an underweight person, simply because there are many more chemical processes required to keep a large body functioning normally than a small body. But even two people of the same age, same weight, same body fat percentage can vary quite a bit in their metabolism—a couple of hundred calories per day or more, explains Herman Pontzer, PhD, a metabolism researcher at Duke University. “If you're larger, and especially if you carry more lean mass, with a lower body fat percentage, you will tend to burn more calories per day than a smaller person or someone who weighs the same but has a higher body fat percentage.”


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July - August 2020