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Blaming weight gain or difficulty with weight loss on a slow metabolism is a common catch cry from many trying to lose weight. In reality, majority of people should rather be blaming the food they’re eating, or the exercise they’re not doing as the real culprit.

When most people refer to their ‘metabolism’,  they are really referring to their metabolic rate. This is the energy a person expends over the course of a day just to keep the body functioning (maintaining blood pressure, breathing, repairing cells etc). Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the absolute minimum amount of energy you need to simply survive. Your BMR is largely influenced by body composition (muscle mass), as well as height, growth, fever/stress, caffeine and environmental temperatures.

Can a slow metabolism be blamed for weight gain? With the exception of endocrine disorders, such as hypothyroidism, the answer is essentially no. However, it should be noted that metabolism is adaptive. Increasing your calorie intake, over time, in a controlled manner will allow you to consume more, without weight gain. Similarly, a reduced calorie intake over time will result in adaptation and will require a further reduction at some point to continue weight loss.

Is it possible to speed up metabolism? There are many pills, supplements and foods which claim to boost the metabolism and assist with burning fat, however most of these claims are unproven. Caffeine has in fact been proved to elicit a small effect, however should not be seen as a shortcut to weight loss.

In summary, if you’re struggling to lose weight, it’s probably time to reassess your diet and exercise levels rather than looking for a ‘slow metabolism’ hack.

Author:  Ally Smith (Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD), Sports Dietitian, Personal Trainer and Online Coach)

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