PHOTOGRAPH BY MITCH MANDEL
The truth: While “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” may have been drilled into you by everyone from the media to your mother, this (debatable) fact doesn’t have anything to do with speeding up your metabolism, says Mike Deibler, a personal trainer in San Diego, and a professor of exercisephysiology at San Diego Miramar College. “When you eat breakfast—or any meal—there is something called a ‘thermic effect of food,’ which is the result of the calories your body expends actually breaking down the food you eat,” he says. “However, this only accounts for about 10 to 15% of total metabolism.” The bottom line, says Deibler: Eat when it works best for your schedule and lifestyle.
The truth: Not only does this not rev metabolism, but it may actually lead to overeating since many people can have a hard time keeping portion sizes in check, says Deibler. Rachael Link, MS, RD, a dietitian in New York City agrees, adding that her clients who do lose weight thanks to this style of eating can chalk it up to the fact that it’s helping them curb cravings and prevent grazing. “That’s what leads to weight loss—not a faster metabolism,” she says. So, if you’re eating multiple meals for the sole purpose of stoking your metabolism, you’re probably not getting that effect. However, if you’re eating multiple small meals a day and it’s keeping your energy high and weight stable, stick with it.
The truth: While this style of exercise does increase calorie burn, that doesn’t necessarily translate to a faster metabolism, says Rachel Straub, MS, an exercisephysiologist and author of Weight Training Without Injury. “Metabolism is directly influenced by your amount of muscle mass, and higher muscle mass equates to a higher metabolic rate,” says Straub. She points to one recent studypublished in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise that found resistance training increases muscle while reducing fat, while cardiovascularexercise reduces fat alone. “This is proof that if your aim is to speed up your metabolism, resistance training is key,” she says.
Lisa Nordquist, an ACE-certified personal trainer and health coach adds that while cardiovascular exercise will increase metabolism for 1 to 2 hours after you’re done, strength training can keep your metabolism revved for up to 24 hours. “Strength training builds muscle, which needs to be fed calories,” says Nordquist. “That requires your body to turn on its engine—aka your metabolism—to maintain that muscle mass.”
The truth: While drinking caffeinated beverages or eating spices can produce a small bump in energy expenditure and internal heat production (two metabolism boosters), the bump you get isn’t going to result in a significant increase in metabolism, says Edwina Clark, senior manager of nutrition and wellness at Yummly, a recipe app and website.
The truth: A slower metabolism as you age isn’t a given, says personal trainer Casey Miller. “Your metabolism will slow down as you get older only if you become less active,” she says. So, be sure to stick to your exercise routine, and add strength training if you’re not already doing it, says Miller, as it’s proven to stoke metabolism.
The truth: One missed meal every now and then doesn’t have much effect on your metabolism, says Link. “You’d have to sustain a very low calorie diet over a long period of time in order to send your body into starvation mode, which would slow your metabolism,” she says. Link says the more important thing to think about if you’re skipping meals is the weight gain it’s likely to cause over the long haul. “There’s a good chance missing meals will cause cravings and a risk of overeating later in the day,” she says.