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Mythbustin’ #1 - Metabolism, is it slowing your weight loss?

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to say that my Photoshop skills have developed over the years to be halfway decent, having to make T-Shirt designs for myself, but I can unequivocally say that I have outdone myself with the logo of the show.



“Mythbustin’” will be a semi regular segment on the Made To Excel Fitness Podcast where I confirm or dispel different fitness facts from around the social media stratosphere. The first “Mythbustin’” segment can be found in episode 10 of the podcast if it tickles your fancy to give it a listen.


Anywho, you’re here now, let’s get this party started!


Metabolism.


Odds are you’ve blamed your metabolism for something before. Either it’s the reason you can’t lose weight, or you can’t gain weight.


Coaches all along the internet as well, gaslight the idea of metabolism having a profound effect on the way we manage weight. Trainers promote “Metabolic Workouts” that’ll help you burn more calories than normal. And one trainer in particular (I ain’t gonna name names, but you’ve probably seen him before), with a huge audience claims that there is one secret food you’ve never heard of can BOOST your metabolism and help you reclaim the body you’ve always wanted.

Interesting claims.


Let’s dive right in.


“Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. During this complex biomechanical process, calories in food and beverage are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function.” - Mayoclinic

Essentially your body will use what you consume as energy for your body to be fueled. How much “fuel” you need will vary from person to person.


Classically, people will look at cases like Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, who ate 8-10k calories PER DAY as proof of people having widely varying metabolic needs, and they’re right...to an extent.





Metabolism is technically your BMR. BMR = Basal Metabolic Rate


Your BMR is essentially the amount of calories that your body requires to properly carry out it’s normal, basic functions. So if you wake up on a cold, blustery, and rainy quarantine morning and binge watch Schitt’s Creek for hours on end, only getting up to feed yourself every once in a blue moon, the amount of calories you use doing these activities is your BMR.


But, when talking about metabolism, it’s usually an all encompassing term for the total calories you expend (burn) in a given day. BMR being just one of the four factors.


Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)


When you eat your food, it doesn’t just disappear into the atmosphere, your body has to work to digest your food. This has also been referred to as Diet Induced Thermogenesis (these terms are interchangeable). The idea behind TEF is that the calories that you burn increase for several hours after eating, due to the calories you’re burning through digestion. If you’ve ever heard of the notion of eating small meals more often rather than a few large meals in order to boost your metabolism, it’s due to TEF.


Also if you’ve heard about “negative calorie” foods, *cough cough bullshit* like celery, it’s because some scientists believed that eating a lower calorie food like celery, would use more calories to digest than it did to eat.





But of course that’s not true, but that does not negate the overall effects of TEF.


ACTIVITY CALORIES


Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) and Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT) are both categories of calories that you burn the physical movement.


The only distinguishing factor between the two is one is planned exercise (EAT - going for a walk, hike, playing basketball, lifting weights) and the other is “non” planned exercises (NEAT - doing chores around the house, walking to the grocery store because your car broke down, etc.).

Whether or not busting out in an impromptu game of Spike Ball on the way back from the grocery store is considered NEAT or EAT, is up for intense debate with the great philosophers on the planet.


Regardless of what category they fall under, it is calories you burn through exercise, so NEAT and EAT can be more or less lumped together.


These 4 factors together (BMR, TEF, NEAT, and EAT) make up your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), or how many calories you burn in a given day, which most people tend to think of synonymously with Metabolism.


BMR usually accounts for 60-75% of total daily calories

TEF 10% of total daily calories

NEAT & EAT 15-30% of total daily calories


Now that we know these 4 components, we can look at the different factors that could potentially speed up, or slow down the amount of calories that you burn in a given day.


Activity


Dave Bautista is a professional wrestler best known for his time in the WWE, since leaving the ring, he has carved out a meaningful acting career in roles such as Drax in the Guardians of the Galaxy and as a Police Officer alongside fellow newcomer to the fitness nerds club, Kumail Nanjiani. Dave Bautista looks like this.





CC Sabathia is a retired 6 time All Star Pitcher who played for the Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Brewers (this one don’t really count), and New York Yankees. He is one of only 17 pitchers on the planet to reach 3,000 strikes in the MLB, and only the third left hander to ever do so. This is what CC Sabathia used to look like (he’s lost weight since).





Both of these athletes have been absolute superstars in their respective fields (regardless of what you think about wrestling). Both are monsters of their industry, and hold respect and admiration amongst these fans.


What you may not know about these guys is that they were virtually the same exact size. Both guys were 6’6”...


Dave Bautista weighs 290 lbs and CC was pushing 300 lbs at his heaviest in the MLB (dude looks low key jacked now since starting quarantine, good for you CC).


How is it possible that two guys that are pretty much the exact same size, could look so different.


Odds are, it’s not their metabolisms, but rather their activity levels.


Say what you want about WWE, those guys are picking up other 300lb guys, doing flips, falls, stunts, etc. etc. they’re working hard.


MLB Pitchers on the other hand, while of course they work out probably just as often as WWE wrestlers probably do, their profession is very much so different in workload.


While Pitchers require great mental toughness and focus, the physicality of their job doesn’t really hold a candle to that of a wrestler. I’d know, I was a Pitcher throughout my youths.

All this to say, activity is probably the biggest factor in how many calories you can burn in a given day.


But take this all with a grain of salt as even the most intense crossfit classes can burn anywhere from 250-500 calories (depending on your weight and fitness level), so in the grand scheme of things, still not a HUGE overall effect to your weight since that amount of calories can be easily outdone with diet.


So, you can speed up the amount of calories you burn per day, but the end result isn’t massive, and it would take a good amount of intense exercise to do so.



CC Sabathia as of May 12 for reference.

Muscle


What if I told you that muscle burns 3x more calories than fat?


Your response would probably be “Holy Shit *insert shocked face emoji here*


Then what if I told you that 3x more really just means that muscle burns 6 calories, and fat likely burns 2 calories.


That statement of,

“mUsCLe bUrNs 3X mORe CAls tHan fAt”


Really just equates to 4 measly calories.


In an extreme situation, let’s say Dave Bautista has 20 more lbs of muscle (this is a complete guess, I really don’t know) than CC Sabathia has, he’s only burning 80 more calories due to his muscle mass.


Even if it’s 30 more lbs of muscle, that only ends up being 120 calories.


Not enough to blame your slow metabolism on lack of muscle.


1 Little Debbie Zebra Cake is 165 calories.





And muscle is very hard to come by, even on a really good weightlifting program, so muscle does help you burn more calories, but not by a lot.


Age




As you get older, your metabolism slows down.

This is a fact.


There’s unfortunately nothing we can do to stop it.


One article I read in preparation for the Podcast suggested it could drop by as much as 30% by the age of 50.


Could you imagine eating ⅓ less calories than you did before to maintain the same weight you are/were in your earlier years?!


Asinine.


But what that article doesn’t take into consideration is that a good majority of this drop in metabolism is also likely due to the fact that your activity levels and ability to retain muscle has dropped significantly.


Yes, your metabolism will slow down as you age. But if you compound that with throwing your running sneakers into the abyss of your closet, and throwing your weight lifting gloves into the trash, the results will be much less in your favor.

Slow down the slow down. Keep active.


Sex


Males typically have more muscle than females which = slightly more calories burned.


But as discussed above, muscle doesn’t have the profound effect some may have thought before.


Nutrition


Protein takes up to 4x the amount of calories to digest than carbs and fats that you consume.

So in theory, eating a high protein diet can lead you to burn more calories throughout the day.

But in reality this would just be adding to the amount of calories you burn through TEF, which we know only accounts for 10% of total calories burned per day.


So even if we could bump that number by a few percentage points, it would not result in any profound weight loss effects.


Sleep




Most people should be sleeping a minimum of 6 hours per day. Closer to 8 hours if we’re being real with ourselves.


Some studies suggest that getting insufficient amounts of sleep could result in a decrease of metabolism by as much as 2.6%.


If you burn an average of 2,000 calories per day, on your really sleep deprived days, you could possibly be burning 52 less calories on that day.

Or in other words, a handful of M&Ms.


Conclusion


The fitness industry is so massive ($100 Billion Globally), due to company's and individual’s abilities to sell you products.


Advertising is no doubt another behemoth of an engine that is created to get you to buy.


Tactics such as buzzwords like “metabolism”, “muscle burns 3x more than fat”, “protein requires 4x more calories to burn than carbs and fats”, are all cherry picked words and statistics aimed to garner the interest of consumers.


But these cherry picked stats don’t tell the whole truth.


The whole truth is that there are tons of factors (more than I even mentioned in this article) that affect your metabolism in either a positive or negative manner. But the actual amount that it changes in either direction, is not a large one.


If you are a person who has crash dieted (eating an extremely low amount of calories in order to lose weight), for an extended period of time, you may have experienced something called Metabolic Damage. People in this scenario could have possibly done significant enough damage to their ability to burn sufficient calories, that would make their progress significantly more difficult. But this is a different subset of people and a different topic altogether.


But for the rest of you, blaming your metabolism on your inability to make fitness progress when only Pepperidge Farms remembers the last time you worked out or ate a salad, is a little bit of gap in logic.





And that’s okay, because that is what the fitness industry has groomed you to believe in order to buy their metabolism boosting pills, or hire them as a coach to tell you the secret food you’ve never heard of that will get you “jacked.”


But at the end of the day, the real culprit is likely underestimating the amount of calories you’re consuming, overestimating the amount of calories you burn, or a combination of both.


Or maybe it’s just time to take a closer look at your fitness program in general, since metabolism has long just been a crutch to use.


Regardless, looking elsewhere will lead to real results that you can be proud of over time.


There’s no easy way out, or quick fix, no matter what anybody tells you.


Let’s consider this, Myth Busted!


-Mark

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