17 Things Everyone Should Know About Metabolism
"Calories in, calories out" doesn't even begin to cover it.
1. "Improving" your metabolism isn't necessarily as simple as working out more or eating specific foods less.
2. You really shouldn't compare yourself to other people.
3. There are equations and calculators that can give you a general estimate of how many calories you burn every day, but they're not super accurate.
"In general, for most people, if you do one of these online calculators, you're probably going to be within 10% of what it says," Dr. Michael Jensen, endocrinologist, professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic, and body weight regulation and obesity specialist, told BuzzFeed Life for a previous story. "So if it says 1,600 calories a day, it could be 160 in either direction."
And that's for people who fall within a standard and predictable metabolic range. "About 10% of people will have a metabolic rate substantially higher than you would predict, and another 10% of people are going to be quite a bit lower than you predict," Jensen said. "It might be about 20% less or 20% more."
4. Your sleep habits may have just as much of an effect on your metabolism as what you eat and how much you work out.
5. Stress can also be a factor!
6. You may have heard about basal metabolic rate, or BMR. That refers to the energy your body uses just by existing, when you're doing nothing at all.
7. You can figure out the TOTAL number of calories you use each day by looking at your BMR combined with all your activities (like working out, moving around, and so on).
8. Your BMR tends to go down as you get older.
9. Muscles really do burn more calories than fat.
10. Eating protein will help you build muscles; eating fewer carbs will help you burn fat more quickly.
11. And eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet will be good for your metabolism (and general health) in other ways, too.
12. Working out is super-important for your metabolism (and also your general health). And interval training and resistance training are the best.
13. Fun tip: If you drink coffee before a workout, that can help you burn more fat.
14. And eating protein within half an hour after working out will help you build more muscles.
15. Instead of obsessing over random specific foods or supplements that supposedly MIGHT increase your metabolism, you'd get more payoff by just...walking more.
"I think the thing that people don't understand about metabolism is that just really simple stuff like walking is a much better way to burn calories than trying to take foods or supplements or things to manipulate your metabolic rate," Jensen says. "In terms of bang for your buck, as opposed to wasting a lot of time trying to manipulate your food [...] if you just walk an hour a day you'll get a way bigger effect. I think that's what people don't appreciate about metabolism. That movement, just moving that weight of your body around, can burn a fair amount of calories."