Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

How not to boost your metabolism

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Thank goodness for Chatelaine and Dr Oz when I’m running low on ideas for the blog. A recent online article in Chatelaine boasted about how to boost your metabolism. Unfortunately, it’s not easy, nor even always possible, to “boost” your metabolism. The tips provided in the article certainly aren’t going to have much, if any, effect on your metabolism.

The first tip was to choose thermogenic foods. Thermogenesis is just heat production through food consumption. It accounts for very little caloric expenditure. The article suggests consuming more protein as it has the highest thermogenic effect of the macronutrients. However, this higher level of thermogenesis is already accounted for in determining the calories in protein-rich foods so unless you consume fewer overall calories you’re not going to see weight loss using this method. Indeed, the highest rates of thermogenesis are seen when large quantities of food are consumed in a sitting. Certainly not a great weight loss strategy. Now, there is a little truth in what they’re saying, protein is likely to provide greater satiety than carbohydrates. If you are looking to feel more satisfied you should ensure that you consume protein at all meals and snacks. Unfortunately, that’s not the point the article made. It’s bottom line was to consume more broccoli and spicy foods to increase thermogenesis.

The article makes two more good suggestions: One, going to the gym. Yes, this will burn more calories and may boost your metabolism. The problem is that most of us end-up over-compensating with the calories we consume after we exercise. Two, eating regularly. While I don’t think this actually has any effect on the thermogenic effect of food as they claim, it’s still good for you to eat regularly to avoid binges and unhealthy food choices.

Aside from these somewhat decent suggestions, the article appears to be pretty out to lunch. The author claims that we can boost our internal thermostats through consumption of certain thyroid boosting nutrients. While hypothyroidism can most definitely lead to weight gain only about 2% of all Canadians are affected by this condition (1). Also, as far as I’m aware, contrary to what the article claims, nutrient deficiency does not cause hypothyroidism (2).

The final point made in the article: keep your liver happy. Supposedly the liver burns more fat than your muscles. This is news to me. Yes, the liver plays a role in fat metabolism but it’s to produce bile which helps to digest fats (which actually increases their absorption) and to help with their transportation throughout the body (3). Poor liver function is actually one of the reasons that many alcoholics are deficient in the fat-soluble vitamins and can be quite thin. Yes, being kind to your liver by not consuming alcohol to excess is a great suggestion but not to boost your metabolism and the suggestions by the author to consume supplements such as milk thistle and artichoke extract are unlikely to have any benefit either to your liver health or to your metabolism.

As always, there are no magic tricks to reaching or maintaining a healthy weight.

 

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

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