The Metabolism Myth

The Metabolism Myth

Who would think the humble hummingbird would factor into a weight loss scenario. Why? It has the highest metabolic rate among those in the animal kingdom with a backbone.

That’s because these birds are a bit of like a nervous wreck, beating their wings at 60-80 beats per second and burning off the sugar they ingest from nectar.

In the human world, you may have met someone like that. They are super slim, eat a lot and say it’s because they benefit from a fast metabolism. Or, you’ve met someone overweight and they blame it on a slow metabolism.

But a focus on metabolism alone is not the answer to why you weigh what you do.

In fact, there are a myriad of myths surrounding metabolism; understanding how it really works can help clear up confusion and instead, lead us on the right path to the healthiest weight.

So here goes. The Mayo Clinic ( states that: “metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. During this complex biochemical process, calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function”.

Even when slothing on the sofa, your body needs energy to breathe, circulate blood, adjust hormone levels and grow and repair cells.

The Mayo Clinic goes on to say that the number of calories your body uses to carry out these basic functions is known as your basal metabolic rate — or your metabolism.

Several factors determine your individual basal metabolism, including:

  • Your body size and composition.People who are larger or have more muscle burn more calories, even at rest.
  • Your sex.Men usually have less body fat and more muscle than do women of the same age and weight, which means men burn more calories.
  • Your age.As you get older, the amount of muscle tends to decrease and fat accounts for more of your weight, slowing down calorie burning.


But before you blame a slow basal metabolic rate on weight gain, think again.

The clinic also reports ( that metabolism is linked to weight, “but contrary to common belief, a slow metabolism is rarely the cause of excess weight gain.


“Although your metabolism influences your body’s basic energy needs, how much you eat and drink along with how much physical activity you get are the things that ultimately determine your weight.”


Only in rare cases do you get excessive weight gain from a medical problem that slows metabolism, such as Cushing’s syndrome or having an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism).

Ultimately, your weight gains or losses are complicated, with experts agreeing that it’s likely a blend of genes, hormones, diet and environmental impacts, such as lifestyle choices, including sleep, physical activity and stress.

But essentially, you gain weight when you eat more calories than you burn — or burn fewer calories than you eat, regardless of your basal metabolic rate at the start.

So back to basics. To lose weight, you need to output more energy than you intake. To maintain weight, stick with a regular programme of watching your energy input and output and factoring in lifestyle choices. For example, if you don’t get a lot of sleep and snack into the night, you will likely put on weight. Your metabolism will be affected, but is not the guilty party.


As a rule of thumb, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends cutting calories by 500 to 700 calories a day to lose 1 to 1.5 pounds (0.5 to 0.7 kilograms) a week. Add in more movement and the results should see you soon forgetting all about metabolism.

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