If you’ve ever tried to work on your health and fitness actively, you may also have heard about various tips and hacks to help you achieve this goal. Many of them promise less effort, even passive benefits.
Who doesn’t fancy the idea of earning passive income? What homeowner wouldn’t appreciate saving energy through insulated roof panels or passive solar design? The ability to get added value or cost reduction without doing anything is always appealing, especially when applied to something as fickle and complex as our bodies.
Metabolism has been touted as one such way through which we can all slim down and get fitter, faster, without having to sweat it out so much. It definitely affects our ability to stay healthy. But the real benefits of trying to improve your metabolism may come from changing your mindset.
The effect of metabolism
The short definition of metabolism is the body’s daily energy expenditure. This can be broken down into three major components.
The first one is the resting metabolic rate (RMR), or how much energy your body expends while at rest. This is the energy used to sustain major bodily functions.
The second form of metabolism is called thermic effect of feeding (TEF). It represents the amount of energy you need to consume and digest food, breaking it down into useful nutrition.
The third metabolic component is thermic effect of activity (TEA). It’s the most variable since it’s determined by your level of physical activity, including any intentional efforts to exercise.
Intrinsic factors, such as heredity, gender, and age-related differences, can cause significant variations in metabolism. But what we eat and how active we are also make a difference through TEF and TEA. And through diet and exercise, you can decrease body fat levels and build up lean muscle mass, increasing RMR.
A deceptive promise
Metabolism has an undeniable effect on our ability to get and stay healthy. It is, after all, how we end up making use of all those calories we consume. But the study of metabolism is a lot more complicated than that.
It takes a strictly controlled environment and highly specific measurements of energy intake, respiration, and activity levels to develop reliable individual metrics of metabolism. Few people even have access to such facilities and instruments.
Moreover, the effect of RMR tends to be far greater, accounting for 60-75% of energy expenditure. TEF is a modest 10%, and even TEA is only 15-30%.
In short, any hack that promises to help you boost metabolism passively is only going to have a marginal effect. That’s assuming they actually work in the first place.
A lesson in mindset
The real takeaway is that knowing the effects of metabolism is supposed to be enlightening, not discouraging. Instead of searching for silver-bullet solutions to lose weight quickly and become lean, you have to embrace that they don’t exist.
Our bodies are excellent at adapting to changing conditions and needs. Our minds tend to lag far behind. It’s worth remembering as you strive to keep track of all those calories.
There are little sips, bites, and other indulgences we don’t count, but they all add up over time. Working out by following the same routine will eventually lead to plateaus and diminishing returns because your muscles have acclimatized.
Knowing that it’s your metabolism you have to deal with should fuel a change in mindset. This is not an immovable object but a dynamic system. You have to maintain good nutrition and a baseline of activity while being open to changing tactics and finding what works for you, instead of buying products with empty promises.