How can Aunt Cindy scarf down three pieces of cake in one sitting but still fit into her old high-school track uniform? It’s all about metabolism—but while it’s a word that’s thrown around a lot, it’s not entirely clear how much control we have over it. So we checked in with Samantha Cassetty, RD, the chief nutrition officer for magnesium brand OMG! Nutrition for some of the most common misconceptions—including whether or not you can speed yours up.
Myth: There’s Nothing You Can Do to Change Your Metabolism
While genetics and certain medical conditions (like thyroid issues) do play an important role in determining metabolism, there actually are steps you can take to optimize yours, like diet and exercise. “Exercise accounts for up to 30 percent of the calories you burn,” Cassetty tells us, “and if your exercise involves strength training, that extra muscle mass will give you a small but meaningful metabolic boost.” On top of that, certain foods and nutrients can help give you a slight edge.” What kinds of foods? Cassetty points to studies (like this one from Tufts University) that found consuming whole foods instead of processed ones like sweets and refined grains can help keep your metabolism moving.
Myth: Thin People Have Faster Metabolisms Than Overweight People
Actually, the reverse is true. “Your metabolism is a function of all the processes your body undergoes to keep you alive (breathing, sleeping, regulating your heart beat and so on) along with what you need to move,” Cassetty told us. “Therefore, people carrying more weight require more calories to move about because it’s more demanding to carry around more mass.”
Myth: As Long as You Eat Well and Work Out, Your Metabolism Will Be Fine
Yes, diet and exercise are important when it comes to metabolism, but Cassetty points to another factor—sleep—which could work against you, metabolism-wise. “Sleep deprivation has a profound impact on your body’s internal metabolic processes, and shortchanging your sleep for even just one night can disrupt your hormones and increase your appetite,” she says. “A week of sleep deprivation can alter your metabolism in other ways, and if you sustain poor sleep habits over time, it ups the chance of weight problems and other health concerns.” Time to recalculate our sleep opportunity.