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By Rebecca Stetzer, RD, Gundersen Nutrition Therapy

"Metabolism" is a popular buzzword— especially when it comes to talking about body weight. I frequently hear misconceptions about what metabolism is and the belief that "mine must be broken" if you are attempting to change your weight. A thin person is assumed to naturally have a fast metabolism, while an overweight person must have a slower metabolism. But is this the case?

Before I debunk some common myths about metabolism, let me define it for you: metabolism is the process by which our bodies convert the calories we consume into energy to function. Think of it like a furnace that powers everything we require in order to survive.

Now, here are the facts to three common myths about metabolism:

Myth #1: I can't change my metabolism

Fact: Genetics do largely play a role in determining our metabolic rates, but so do eating and exercise habits. Eating in a structured manner by spacing meals and snacks out about every 3-5 hours throughout your day supports a healthier metabolism. The opposite is also true: skipping meals, especially breakfast, means a slower metabolism.

Muscle mass has higher metabolic activity compared to fat mass. While you certainly need both muscle and fat for good health, regularly incorporating exercise and strength training into your routine can help support and a healthier metabolism. 

Myth #2: I can eat certain foods or take a supplement to speed up my metabolism

Fact: I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no magical food or supplement that will speed up metabolism. There have been studies that show green tea and spicy peppers may temporarily boost metabolic rates, but the difference is pretty insignificant. Eating food every morning shortly after waking will fire up your metabolism for the day, and eating a structured and balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, proteins and whole grains is the key to keeping that "fire" burning throughout the day.

There isn't any evidence supporting the use of supplements to boost metabolism either. These products aren't FDA-regulated, so you never know what you're ingesting. Save your money and don't take the risk of adverse side effects.

Myth #3: Eating past 7 p.m. will ruin my metabolism

Fact: Eating a snack at 7:01 p.m. will not ruin your metabolism. However, eating throughout the evening hours when not physically hungry will likely result in a large number of calories consumed when your body did not ask for it. 

If you go to sleep around 9 p.m., not eating past 7:00 may be a good idea to reduce the incidence of reflux and help you sleep comfortably. But if you go to bed at midnight, chances are you will be going to bed hungry if you don't eat past 7:00.

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