11 Metabolism Myths That Might Be Ruining Your Weight Loss
Once you know the truth behind these common myths, you’ll be able to boost your metabolism and get your weight loss on track.
Don’t fall for these metabolism myths
If you’re struggling to lose weight, it could be because you’ve been thinking about your metabolism all wrong. (Maybe you’re guilty of these everyday habits that secretly slow your metabolism.) Experts set the facts straight on the following common metabolism myths.
Myth: Fasting amps up metabolism
Sure, you can lose weight by following any of the hundreds of fad diets out there but studies show the results will be short-lived. “Drastic diets don’t work and lead to weight gain, not loss, and can decrease your metabolism,” says Ellen Albertson, PhD, of South Burlington, Vermont. In addition, Albertson cautions that dieting increases stress and the hormone cortisol, which is associated with weight gain around the belly. (Learn about 50 easy ways to lose weight naturally.)
Myth: Metabolism slows down at night
Sounds logical. After all, your body isn’t doing much, right? Turns out there is no truth to the rumor, says Marc Leavey, MD, a primary care specialist in Lutherville, Maryland. “It turns out that the way your body handles the food and the calories contained within that food has a lot to do with what you’re eating, your body’s own unique physiology, and your level of activity,” says Dr. Leavey. Still, Leavey says chowing down on fatty food isn’t a good idea before bedtime.
Myth: Superfoods boost metabolism
Superfoods have loads of healthy benefits for overall health, but boosting metabolism isn’t necessarily one of them. Eating too much of any food, super or not, could mean excess calories that aren’t being used for immediate energy and end up as stored fat. “The secret for is successful weight management is calorie restriction without hunger or fatigue,” says Barry Sears, PhD, author of The Mediterranean Zone. “That is achieved by hormonal balance created by the ratio of carbs and protein at every meal and doing moderate exercise for the rest of your life.”
Myth: You have no control over your metabolism
In fact you do, says Carolyn Dean, MD, of drcarolyndean.com. “What you eat, how you exercise along with mineral stores in your body has a lot to do with how efficiently your metabolism functions,” says Dr. Dean. One of those important minerals is magnesium. “Magnesium is required for the body to produce and store energy and yet 75 percent of Americans do not get their dietary reference intake (DRI) of this important metabolism-boosting mineral,” says Dr. Dean. Unfortunately, not all forms of magnesium are easily absorbed in the body. She recommends a magnesium citrate powder that can be mixed with water to sip during the day. That said, there are medical causes of a slow metabolism.
Myth: Eating six meals a day keeps metabolism-revving
Eating frequent meals is a great way to prevent hunger and avoid binging later in the day but the quantity of food consumed in six meals is something to keep any eye on. “Eating frequent meals without looking into the total caloric consumption may lead to weight gain instead of weight loss,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Karen Lau, in Boston. (Here are the foods that mess with your metabolism.)
Myth: Coffee with coconut oil stokes metabolism
Drinking this concoction (especially instead of eating a nutrient-dense breakfast) is not a good way to start your day or stoke metabolism. “Women in particular need to begin their day with a blood sugar-stabilizing meal with protein, vegetables, and healthy fats in order to have a healthy balance of hormones throughout their monthly cycle,” says Keesha Ewers, PhD, ARNP, and master of Ayurvedic medicine, and the founder and host Healthy You! Radio Network. (But there is one ingredient you can add to your coffee that really could boost your metabolism.)
Myth: Metabolism levels don’t change with age
The calories we need on a daily basis do, in fact, decrease as we age. “For example, a 55-year-old sedentary woman needs to consume about 600 calories less per day to maintain a steady weight compared to when she was moderately active at 25 years of age,” says Matilde Parente, MD, of Indian Wells, California. “You simply don’t need as many calories when you get older as you did when you were younger and more active.” (Check out these 12 tips to get the metabolism of a 25-year-old.)
Myth: Detox cleanses reset your metabolism
Detox diets don’t work because your metabolism is mainly determined by your body composition; the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day. “When you lose weight quickly, your body is breaking down its muscle mass,” says registered dietitian Susan Berkman, at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “When you resume eating normally, your metabolism is slower than when you started the plan because you have less muscle,” she explains. End result, you gain fat. (Instead, try these 30 tiny diet changes that can help you lose weight.)
Myth: A slow metabolism runs in your family
This myth may have been passed down since your great-great uncle took the boat over from Italy, but it’s not true according to registered dietitian Mandy Unanski Enright, in Red Bank, New Jersey. “While some people may be born with a slower or quicker metabolic rate, it is the lifestyle we lead that can impact metabolic function,” says Enright. A well-balanced diet and staying active every day rules over genes. “The more demand we put on our body for energy, the more our metabolism is stimulated,” says Enright. (Try these other 14 ways to jump-start your metabolism.)
Myth: Dieting changes your metabolism forever
Will you forever have to consume significantly fewer calories the rest of your life after losing weight? The short answer is no. According to registered dietitian Cari Coulter, nutrition director at Wellspring Camps, your metabolism will decrease when you hit your goal weight and it takes fewer calories to sustain itself. “Some studies have shown a small penalty of a couple hundred calories that may also be temporary but it is not nearly as drastic as most people think,” says Coulter. She encourages following a sensible weight loss plan, lifting weights, and making time for other weight-bearing activities to help set off a decrease in your metabolism.
Myth: Yo-yo diets destroy your metabolism
Don’t be discouraged by your last failed diet attempt. According to Niket Sonpal, MD, an assistant professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harlem. “You can lose weight and gain it often, and your metabolism will rev up and down according to how you prime it,” says Dr. Sonpal. He points to a 2013 study in Metabolism that found people who cycled weight up and down three or more times were still able to lose weight, shed body fat, and gain lean muscles as those who didn’t yo-yo diet. Next, check out the 50 simple ways to boost your metabolism.
- Ellen Albertson, PhD, of South Burlington, Vermont
- Marc Leavey, MD, a primary care specialist in Lutherville, Maryland
- Barry Sears, PhD, author of The Mediterranean Zone
- Carolyn Dean, MD, of drcarolyndean.com
- Karen Lau, RD, in Boston
- Keesha Ewers, PhD, ARNP, and master of Ayurvedic medicine, and the founder and host Healthy You! Radio Network
- Matilde Parente, MD, of Indian Wells, California
- Susan Berkman, RD, at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
- Mandy Unanski Enright, RD, in Red Bank, New Jersey
- Cari Coulter, RD, nutrition director at Wellspring Camps
- Niket Sonpal, MD, an assistant professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harlem
- Metabolism: "History of weight cycling does not impede future weight loss or metabolic improvements in postmenopausal women"