Metabolism: You’re Being Lied To

TL;DR – Fast/slow metabolisms, in otherwise healthy individuals, do not exist. Your metabolism is defined by your resting metabolic rate (general body maintenance i.e. organs ), your general activity level (walking, standing, general moving around), additional exercise (running, jogging, weight lifting, sports, etc.) and to a much lesser extent, the thermal effect of eating (how much energy it takes to breakdown the food you eat). If you’re having trouble losing or gaining weight, you can adjust the latter three options accordingly.

First thing’s first: if you are a healthy individual with no specific biological issues, you do not have a slow or fast metabolism. You’ve been fed this line of bullshit for a while now, because fake supplement companies and other snake oil vendors make money off of making you feel helpless while simultaneously offering you a miracle pill, wrap, or drug that will fix your problems. You don’t need a miracle wrap (seriously, this is probably in my top 3 most ridiculous weight loss trends). You need a food scale, and either an app or a pencil and pad to track your calories.

This is going to be a bit of a longer post, but there’s a great video here if you prefer to watch. I’ll be covering the same information, but on a more basic level with less terminology.

There’s four levels of your metabolism.

  1. Basal Metabolic Rate
    This is the amount of energy you expend simply by existing. Your liver, lungs, heart, eyes, etc. In addition to these is the amount of fat mass and muscle mass your body sustains. You can only sort of modify this by changing your body composition, but the change is still only minor. Fat mass burns 10kcal per day per pound, whereas lean mass (muscle) burns 30kcal per day per pound.
  2. General Activity Levels
    This energy expenditure occurs from simple every day tasks: walking around, standing, fidgeting, etc. Any physical action you take contributes to this. These vary vastly depending on what you find yourself doing during the day. A person who works construction is going to have a much higher expenditure than someone who, like me, generally has lightly physical jobs and enjoys gaming as a hobby outside of the gym. This has a high degree of variance and, as touched on in the video, can be influenced by your calorie intake. If you’re losing weight, chances are you’re going to intuitively be less active: not walking as much, sitting instead of standing, etc. Similarly if you’re eating more, you’re more likely to be more active due to having more energy. Thus, both losing and gaining weight can become marginally harder just by trying to do either.
  3. Exercise Induced Energy Expenditure
    This is fairly straightforward – if you exercise, you will necessarily expend energy. This can make up for good share of your energy expenditure. You won’t be burning thousands of calories per workout, but it will make up a noticeable chunk in regards to gaining or losing weight and must be taken into account.
  4. Energy expended while eating
    This is negligible, but it’s interesting nonetheless. The only thing worth noting is that our bodies spend much more energy breaking down protein, so much so that it’s roughly 3kcal per gram of protein for a net value.

The main issues that people struggle with when trying to alter their weight is simple: they’re misjudging what they’re actually doing. You most likely do not adequately judge your caloric intake or your activity level. As for your resting metabolic rate, you can find those within a 10-20% margin of error by using a simple calorie calculator (set your activity level as basal metabolic rate to get this). After you get that, download an app like MyFitnessPal to adequately track what you eat. This also requires accurate measurement of servings – something America in particular seems to have a large problem with. Get a food scale, weigh everything, and eventually learn to eye it if you don’t want to continue using a scale. It takes an extra 10-15 minutes per day max, and will save you years of trouble.

If you’re interested in studies concerning this topic, check the description in the YouTube video linked at the beginning of the post. It goes into great detail, more than the scope of this blog.

And remember, I don’t care if you lie to me or anyone else, it’s not my body nor my goals. You can argue with the science all you want, but at the end of the day, thermodynamics apply to all of us and if you want to achieve your goals then you will have to learn to be honest with yourself and not blame the mythological “fast/slow metabolism.” Remember, this is aimed at healthy individuals, not at people that legitimately have medically diagnosed issues.

Slight Rant:

I’ve seen so many advertisements for things like fat burning pills (called Fat fighters) and some other bullshit pill that supposedly absorbs carbs. Not only does this appeal to people who have no background in science or how energy works (or know what a carbohydrate even is), but it preys on them while knowing better. Even more so, it generally goes after people in rough circumstances who are looking for answers out of desperation. It blows my mind that these aren’t pegged at false advertisements. The workaround is that they don’t go through FDA approval, so they can add things like “varies from customer to customer” and be covered without ever having to prove that it works. Then, you get documentaries that demonize a particular market in order to make their own product seem more appealing, and the marketing continues.

There is no pill that will block carbs (which would be an awful idea anyways) unless that pill makes you vomit violently, displacing all your sustenance outside of your body.

And most of all, putting a plastic wrap around your mid section just makes you look like a dumbass. You lost weight because you were sweating out water weight. I can fluctuate almost 3 lbs on demand based on how I decide to feed myself one day versus the next because I can manipulate my water intake and retention. Don’t fall prey to snake oil. If you want results, it takes honest, hard work. And if you spend half the time putting in hard work that you otherwise would searching for miracle supplements, you would be much closer to your goal.

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