Special Report

The Worst Myths About Boosting Metabolism That Just Won't Go Away

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Metabolism is genetic and you can’t do anything about it

This is mostly false, Nadler explained. While it’s true that genetics are a factor in one’s metabolic rate, a person can boost it by — in addition to staying active and eating a healthy diet — building muscle, Nadler added.

Many factors influence the metabolic rate, including age, gender, amount of physical activity, and hormone function. Muscle mass is a huge factor, too. “Muscle burns more energy than fat.” This means that people with more muscle need more energy to function than those with less muscle mass, thus their metabolism tends to be faster.

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Thin people have faster metabolisms

The claim that slim people have faster metabolism is a stubborn myth. People repeat it over and over again, but that doesn’t make it true. “A thinner body means less weight, which means the body needs less energy to function,” Nadler said.

In other words, larger bodies have higher resting metabolic rates because they need more energy to carry out basic functions. Body composition plays a big role in how fast metabolism is. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat. People who weigh more tend to have faster metabolism because part of the extra weight is muscle.

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Eating small but frequent meals is better than eating fewer larger meals

The idea that eating smaller meals more frequently speeds up one’s metabolic rate is one of the most persistent myths about metabolism. “Technically, there is some truth to that because digesting a meal requires energy,” Nadler said. But it’s the total number of calories consumed that determines how much energy is used by the body to break down food. “If one person has a sugary snack every hour and another has a veggie snack every hour, the latter would have better metabolism because vegetables take more time and energy to digest,” Nadler explained.

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Spicy food helps boost metabolism

A person would have to be eating spicy food all day long to make a difference when it comes to boosting one’s metabolism, Nadler explained. A lot of research has been done investigating if a spicy dish can increase metabolism. The result is that while a bowl of chilli can temporarily boost the metabolic rate, it is by about 8% above the normal rate, which is considered insignificant.

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Green tea helps boost metabolism

Green tea has many health benefits because of its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, according to Nadler. Increasing the metabolic rate, however, is not really one of them. Research published by the Cochrane Review in 2012 has found that green tea may just slightly — as in statistically insignificant — increase one’s metabolism. The difference is so small that it won’t have a lasting effect in the long run. The meta-analysis showed that regular consumption of green tea did not help people keep weight off.

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