Coffee boosts metabolism. So do nicotine, exercise, eating small and frequent meals, green tea and a plethora of diet pills. But why the obsession anyway? Why is everyone so gung ho on speeding up their metabolism? I think it’s because of a gross misunderstandig of what our metabolism is and does in the first place….
What Does Metabolism Mean?
The Greek ‘metabole’ stands for change. Metabolism is the name for all chemical processes that take place in all living organisms, and is what sustains life. Metabolism utilizes calories to make and break down compounds in our bodies, and the metabolic rate refers to the speed with which this happens. The basic metabolic rate refers to the amount of calories one needs/burns at the very minimum, to sustain all these processes (not including energy needed for movement, exercise, digesting food, stress/illness, etc). These metabolic processes include growth, reproduction, regeneration (healing) and many, many others.
So ehm, basically this. And yes I’ve had to study all of this and woke up screaming a few night with nightmares of ATP and acetyl CoA dancing around in my head…
Does A Slow Metabolism Make You Fat?
That was fairly simple right? To be a little more specific; unless you have a thyroid condition, no.
Fast or slow metabolism isn’t what makes us slim or fat. It’s also a myth that overweight people have a slower metabolism than skinny people. In fact, the heavier you are, the faster your basic metabolic rate becomes. Why? Well the more weight you carry around, the heavier the burden on your body and the more cells there are to sustain. Of course, the basic metabolic rate does not include activity and exercise so by the end of the day the slimmer, more active person will still have burnt more calories, but it’s not due to a fast metabolism or lack thereof.
Then how come you have at least two skinny-as-hell-friends who eat as much as you do, more even, yet never seem to gain an ounce of fat? Or perhaps it’s the other way around, you’ve tried everything you can to gain some curves here and there, but to no avail. Again, this has very very little to do with metabolism, and all the more to do with your genes. Some people just have DNA that is predispositioned to store fat more easily while others don’t. Think about it: if your metabolism was that much slower than that of your friend, you would also be less hungry and eat less. People with a higher metabolism also eat more because they get hungry more. Doh.
And it’s not always what you think. People who seem naturally very skinny probably have their genes going for them, but that’s not all. The percentage of people eating 174397141341932 calories a day and maintaining a size 00 is very slim (why yes, pun intended). What’s actually the case is that most slender people simply don’t eat as much as you think. Really. Healthy and balanced eating habits can include having two pieces of pie at a birthday party, or pigging out on nuts at the bar. It doesn’t mean this happens all day, every day, and is just a tiny fraction of their total diets, and can paint a picture that jus’t doesn’t quite add up for those struggling to maintain or lose weight.
The Backdraw Of A Fast Metabolism
Now we get to the good part. I think it’s funny in this day and age we’re all still so obsessed with speeding up our metabolisms. As I explained above, it’s not that big a deal. But the real kicker? A fast metabolism isn’t exactly healthy either! All the processes that take place by the means of our metabolism, leave an acidic waste and create free radicals in our body! Both key factors in accelerated aging and increased risk for chronic illness. Say what?
To me the whole obsession with speeding up metabolism is like the obsession with protein. It’s based on incorrect assumptions that stem from the time our understanding of nutrition was still very premature (proteins are the master nutrient. proteins make you buff (for the men)/ skinny (for the women). you need meat/eggs/dairy for protein. you should speed up your metabolism to lose weight. I could go on really…). This obsession with both proteins and a fast metabolism are not only based on BS, they also disregard health in favor of looks. But the jokes ultimately on us again, as striving towards good looks by means of disregarding health will only make you lose your good looks that much faster.
Both excessive amounts of protein and a fast metabolism accelerate aging (think: fine lines, wrinkles, grey hair, dull skin, stiff joints, etc). Perhaps more importantly, they increase your risk of chronic illnesses like cancer, vasculair disease, hart disease, by creating free radicals in the body (like smoking and drugs do!). All metabolic processes also create acids, and an acidic body is not a healthy body ! This is also why women live longer than men, we have slower metabolic rates!
This is why I’ve stopped obsessing over fast metabolism ages ago and roll my eyes whenever I hear someone talk about the importance of boosting your metabolism, or read the 1987198th women’s health article about it (well, just the headline that I get in my inbox. I don’t actually read the stuff of course. I have more important things to read, like Donald Duck). In fact, nowadays I find it much more interesting to find out things that slow down your metabolic rate, which to me sounds like some sort of preservation techniquefor the body (for those of you who are familiair with it: chronic caloric restriction (CR) is based on this principal and has been proved to increase health and longevity. Interesting stuff).
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not afraid of the process of aging, getting cute wrinkles and foxy silver hair at all. But I support the notion that everyone in Western society is aging way too quickly and at an unnaturally young age. That includes wrinkles and greying hair, as well as early onset of chronic and fatal diseases. I think because of that it is interesting to know how things like fasting and raw foods slow down metabolism, and to realize this is a good, not a bad thing! And these obsessions with todays society with protein and metabolism definitely explain (semi)global troubles with premature aging….
I hope this article has cleared up some of the misconceptions around metabolism for you and made you open your eyes to other possibilities! ;)