Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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A few more myths about metabolism


A little bit more on metabolism…

After writing my OptiMYz edits last week a friend alerted me to an article on their website listing 7 Easy Ways to Boost Your Metabolism. I just want to address a few of the claims the author (for whom I can find no online footprint, by the way) makes.

1. Weight lifting builds muscle and the more muscle, the more calories burned. Research found that those who did resistance training burned an extra 100 calories each day, whether they exercised or not. Strength training causes micro trauma to muscles, and your body will attempt to rebuild the tissue by burning protein and carbs.

Yes, exercise is probably one of the best ways to increase your metabolism. That being said, it’s pretty damn hard to increase your metabolism and the effects of increased muscle mass tend to be grossly overstated. As Tim Caulfield states in his excellent book The Cure for Everything: If you were to gain 10 lbs of muscle you would then burn an extra 60 calories a day. “In cookie terminology, that’s one Oreo. Live it up”.

3. Adding spice to meals can boosts your metabolism by 20% to 25%. Cinnamon, cayenne and mustard seed promotes fat burning and increased the effectiveness of your metabolism.

Again, adding spice to meals can boost your metabolism. However, the effects tend to be much less than this and quite short-lived. An article in the NY Times gets at the truth of this claim: “Generally, studies have shown that on average a meal containing a spicy dish, like a bowl of chili, can temporarily increase metabolism by about 8 percent over a person’s normal rate, an amount considered fairly negligible.”

7. The Yoga position ‘downward-facing dog’ gets your metabolism going. Those who participated in a 50 minute yoga session saw a drop in the stress hormone cortisol, known to block fat burning.

I suppose it’s plausible that yoga might reduce cortisol levels by alleviating stress. It’s highly unlikely that downward-facing dog is going to get your metabolism going. Yoga tends to burn very few calories.

All of these things are great for you and I don’t want to discourage anyone from lifting weights, doing yoga, or eating spicy foods; I certainly do all of these things (yoga less than the others because I find it simultaneously boring and hard). I just hate seeing false claims about huge metabolism-boosting effects.

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Book review: The Cure for Everything by @CaulfieldTim

I finally finished reading The Cure for Everything by Timothy Caulfield recently. I loved that it was an approachable read. Timothy’s writing style and self-revelations made it accessible to lay readers (even those without the slightest scientific inclination), entertaining for science geeks, and informative for all.

I was surprised to learn the importance of lifting heavy weights to fitness. I am also still reluctant to accept that stretching is unnecessary. I agree that stretching doesn’t prevent injuries and I don’t generally stretch pre-workout. However, I think that there are benefits to stretching after exercise or as exercise (e.g. yoga). When I first starting seriously exercising over 12  years ago I had major cramps in my calves due to lactic acid build-up from failing to stretch. Once I started adding a few stretches into my routine the pain went away. Plus, if you want to be remotely flexible, I’m not sure how you’re going to achieve that without stretching. Anyway… this was really my only issue with the book.

It was refreshing to read a chapter on nutrition in which I couldn’t find anything to majorly disagree with. Personally, I don’t go in for calorie counting as I think more focus needs to be placed on developing a healthy relationship with food and finding pleasure in healthy choices. However, I can’t say that no one should calorie count and for some people it is a useful technique in weight management.

While reading the book I was feeling so smug that I believe in science. Then I got to the final chapters… I know that there can be major ethical conflicts with published research but somehow I had managed to push out of my mind how pervasive it can be. My smugness quickly vanished. I consoled myself with the knowledge that good science is still good but homeopathy is pretty much always a sham.

I recommend that everyone read this book. Health care professionals should read it as both a reminder and a source of information on other areas of the industry. Everyone else should read it to help them extract the truth from the many conflicting and misleading messages about health that are constantly inundating us through the media and friends.