You might be surprised to see how many people search the internet for metabolism facts, in an effort to make sure theirs is working as quickly as it should.
However, if you consider how many people are dissatisfied with their weight, it might not surprise you as much. According to a 2014 Gallup poll, 51% of Americans want to lose weight!
What does it mean when most of the people of the third largest country in the world believe they weigh too much?
What’s worse is this: according to the same study, 25% of those polled aren’t doing anything to reduce their weight. From the sounds of it, they’ve resigned themselves to being overweight. That’s a sad state of affairs.
I believe that one of the major reasons so many people struggle with losing weight is because they don’t understand why they’re fat in the first place. More specifically, they don’t understand basic metabolism facts.
My purpose is to shine light on these metabolism facts and dispel basic nutrition myths that may be leading you astray. Armed with this knowledge and a fat-burning diet, you can finally strip off those pesky pounds that have been so difficult to get rid of.
The Big 6: Metabolism Facts You Need to Know
1. Your metabolism isn’t what you think it is
Something I have to get out of the way right off the bat: when most people refer to their metabolism, what they’re actually referring to is their basal metabolic rate.
The term metabolism is a blanket statement for the difference between the building-up processes in your body known as anabolism and the breakdown processes called catabolism.
Basal metabolic rate refers to the number of calories your body requires every single day to survive, even if you were just to lie on the couch and do nothing; that’s what we’re talking about here.
The biggest determinant of your basal metabolic rate is muscle; the more of it you have, the more energy (in the form of calories) you need to fuel your body, thus the higher your basal metabolic rate is going to be.
This is of crucial importance because your basal metabolic rate accounts for most of the calories you burn every single day, a whopping 70 percent. Try matching that on a treadmill.
Wouldn’t it make sense to improve your basal metabolic rate?
That’s really the most impactful thing you can do to lose weight and keep it off. The reason most diets don’t work is because they only focus on food and ignore the very thing that gives you long-lasting results: muscle. This is a very core focus in my latest book The All-Day Fat-Burning Diet.
Let’s take an example of someone who’s 200 pounds at ten percent body fat versus someone clocking in at 200 pounds with 20 percent body fat. Based on what I just told you, who’s going to have the higher basal metabolic rate?
If you said the person who has the ten percent body fat, you would be correct.
What that essentially means is that they have more muscle mass. The person who has 20 percent—or 40 pounds—of body fat has significantly less muscle on their body, thus, a lower basal metabolic rate and a much harder time losing weight.
This is why I emphasize resistance training in all of my books and articles.
If you want to lose weight, you simply have to develop lean muscle mass. That goes for women too. It’s not about getting bulky, but engineering toned muscles that work all day long to keep you trim, even if you aren’t working out.
If you follow the conventional “wisdom” and do cardio all day long, you’re not doing anything for your muscle or your basal metabolic rate. Those hours on the treadmill or elliptical machine add up to a short-term investment that’s not going to lead to sustainable weight loss.
2. Anything that harms your thyroid harms your metabolism
Your thyroid is your master metabolism gland. It controls pretty much everything in your body as it pertains to growth and metabolism. So if your thyroid is compromised, then your basal metabolic rate will be as well.
For example, if you suffer with Hashimoto’s, which is a condition related to hypothyroidism, chances are you’re feeling sluggish, your hair is possibly dry and brittle, as well as your skin and nails. If that’s not enough to contend with, you’re probably having a tough time losing weight.
[Related: Not Losing Weight? Low Thyroid Might Be Why]
Those are all hallmark signs and symptoms of low thyroid function. Your thyroid is really like your furnace. It keeps your body and your metabolism burning. Therefore, anything that’s going to hurt your thyroid—heavy metals, mercury, lead—will also impact your basal metabolic weight and your ability to effectively lose weight.
Your liver and gut health are involved in all of this as well.
Did you know that your thyroid produces two very important hormones: T4 and T3? T4 is, for the most part, inactive; it has to be converted to T3, which is the active hormone in your body. A large percentage of that conversion takes place in your liver and your gut.
If your liver is toxic or your gut is unhealthy, you’re not going to be converting T4 and T3 properly. At this point, T3 stops vital communication with your cells which essentially tells them to turn up your metabolism and produce more energy. With that, your metabolism—and your weight loss—is going to grind to a halt.
That’s not all; for as many terrible things you’ve heard about gluten in recent years, you might not know that it has very similar protein structures as your thyroid tissue.
Eat a lot of it, and over time your body can misidentify your thyroid tissue as gluten and can start to attack it. As we’ve seen already, once those dominos start falling, a slugging metabolism and weight loss struggles aren’t far behind.
3. “Diet foods” do little to help you lose weight
For so many people, the idea of being on a diet seems to imply boring meals of lettuce, celery and other negative-calorie foods—and little else. This is rubbish. If you’re a rabbit, fantastic, but if you’re not, these foods aren’t going to help you burn more calories.
Mind you, I’m not saying you shouldn’t eat these foods. They’re absolutely wonderful, but they’re not going to help you lose weight.
One of the most essential metabolism facts you need to know is this: if you want to eat foods that help your metabolism, think about protein.
Protein has a fantastic effect on your metabolism, as it has a high thermic effect in the body. That essentially means that in order for it to be digested, it has to raise your core temperature and metabolism—a very good thing.
These fantastic effects are why so many diets focus on protein. It’s not that protein is in and of itself the answer to miraculous weight loss, but because it actually increases your basal metabolic rate, it will help you burn more calories throughout the day.
That’s why it’s important to have protein with most of your meals. Ideally, you want to aim for about 20 grams at each of your meals.
4. Weighing more to weigh less?
It’s astonishing how often I hear this from people:
“Oh, Yuri, you can eat anything. You’re skinny; you have a high metabolism!”
The reality is that if you’re 300 pounds and double my weight, then your metabolism is actually higher than mine would be, because your body has a lot more mass to fuel.
In essence, the heavier you are, the higher your basal metabolic rate has to be in order to support your body weight.
The more weight you lose, the lower your metabolic rate becomes. This becomes a bit of a catch-22, and that’s why it’s very important to focus on building muscle as your fat decreases.
If you’re slender like me, there are various things you can do to keep your metabolism cranking.
For example, I often throw on a weighted vest when I go for a walk—it makes me 50 pounds heavier. Once I put it on, my body has to work so much harder, and thus, my metabolism has to kick into high gear. Sometimes I even wear it around the house!
If you don’t have a weighted vest—let’s be honest, most people don’t—then you can simply wear a backpack with a bunch of books in it.
If it all sounds entirely too weird for you, just remember this: adding good weight to your body—be it weights or or especially muscle—will help keep the bad weight off.
5. Temperature has a big impact on your metabolism
Any time you increase your core temperature, you’re going to increase your basal metabolic rate as well.
Think about this: when you are sick, what happens? You get a fever, which leads to an increase in temperature. It’s also results in an increase in basal metabolic rate because your body is now working that much harder to get rid of whatever’s going on inside of you.
What’s another way to raise your temperature? Exercise!
Think about it: when you’re getting a good workout going, you start sweating. It’s because you’ve raised your core temperature. That’s why I always say if you’re huffing and puffing, it’s a great indication that you’re revving up your metabolism to burn calories during the workout, as well as afterward.
6. The myth of eating more
You’ll often hear new fitness enthusiasts humble bragging about how much they have to eat each day to keep their metabolism going. If they don’t eat like this, they say, their metabolism is going to shut down.
So many people swear this is one of the essential metabolism facts that you have to account for in your daily life, but it’s just not true; not even slightly.
The reality is that it’s your calorie intake that counts. For example, if you’re eating 2500 calories a day, there’s absolutely no difference between eating two meals a day or six meals a day. Both eating patterns have the same impact on your metabolism and your ability to lose weight.
The simple takeaway? If you don’t feel like having breakfast or a big lunch, then don’t.
This goes back to one of my previous videos where I talked about eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full.
What will affect your metabolic rate is if you’re not eating at all or severely restricting your calories over a certain period of time—several days or even several weeks—or, conversely, if you’re eating too much food. Either approach is going to make your body pack on a little bit of extra unwanted weight.
How to Put these Metabolism Facts to Work for You
I hope these six metabolism facts debunk some of the misconceptions that are out there. If this stuff resonates with you and you want to go deeper and actually reset your metabolism, then I invite you to grab a copy of my brand-new book The All-Day Fat-Burning Diet.
There are so many diets out there. A lot of them are great, but, for the most part, they don’t lead to sustainable change—six months later, you’re overweight again. That’s because they’re not focused on keeping your metabolism churning all day long.
Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.