By Justin Lyons, Senior Health & Wellness Director, Spartan Stores YMCA
Every summer the same stories seem to repeat themselves. Talk about losing weight resonates among family and friends. Topics on aging and how metabolism is affected pop up. Theories on what foods “might” speed up your metabolism are established, and questions of what working out does to a person’s metabolism are debated.
As you listen to comments made by family and friends, you realize that there are many myths regarding metabolism. I felt it was time to clear the air about the common myths surrounding metabolism.
Donald Hensrud, M.D. puts it this way; “Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. Even when you’re at rest, your body needs energy for functions such as breathing, circulating blood and repairing cells. The number of calories your body uses for these basic functions is known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR).”
A common myth is that being overweight is due to a slow metabolism. In some very rare cases this is true, but usually it’s a matter of diet and exercise.
Factors more likely to contribute to weight gain include:
- Eating too many calories
- Getting too little exercise
- Genetics and family history
- Certain medications
Then there is the myth that morning exercise burns the most calories. The research shows there have been some very minor differences when looking at the amount of calories burned during morning hours versus night time exercise. It makes no difference when you work out. Exercise results in calorie expenditure (calories burned turns into weight loss).
Here’s the scoop with aging and metabolism. Typically, the older you get the slower your metabolic rate. This is usually due to a loss in muscle mass. Muscle mass is metabolically active tissue and requires delivery of oxygen and blood. This process takes energy and energy is created by burning calories (end result is weight loss). On the flip side, fat mass is inactive tissue and therefore does not require energy expenditure. This translates into less calories being burned over the course of the day (end result is weight gain). As one ages, the best way to maintain your metabolic rate is to incorporate some form of weight training along with an aerobic exercise routine a few times per week.