How Does Metabolism Work? | UPMC HealthBeat




When it comes to weight gain and weight loss, many people blame it on one scapegoat: metabolism.

Metabolism is a source of confusion for many, with so many metabolism myths. Is it true that thinner folks have higher, more active metabolisms? Is there anything you can do to speed up or slow down the rate of your metabolism?

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

Defining Metabolism: How Your Body Creates Fuel

Metabolism is the process in which your body converts what you eat and drink into the energy needed to fuel your body. Even when your body is at rest, it needs fuel for all its essential functions, like breathing and circulating blood.

Learn more about how your metabolism functions

RELATED: 6 Tips for Summertime Weight Loss

Your metabolic rate (which is what most people refer to as “metabolism”) is the number of calories (or energy) your body uses to fuel these functions.

Each person’s metabolic rate (MR) is different and dependent on a combination of factors, including:

  • Body size (height, weight)
  • Body composition (fatty tissues vs. muscle)
  • Gender (women’s MR is often lower than men)
  • Genetics (your specific genetic makeup can affect your metabolism)
  • Age (MR tends to slow as you age)
  • Climate (MR tends to be higher for people living in warmer climates)

Each of these variables combined determines your individual metabolic rate. So, while it is not a complete myth that your metabolism is linked to your weight, a slow metabolism is rarely the cause of those pesky extra pounds. Instead, factors like diet and exercise are usually the bigger culprits behind weight gain.

Metabolism Myths and Facts

Here are a few other common metabolism myths, debunked:

Myth: Thin people tend to have higher metabolisms

Body composition is a huge factor in your metabolism, but not the way you might suspect.

Contrary to the popular myth, people who are lean tend to have slower resting metabolisms than their overweight counterparts. Larger people tend to have higher metabolic rates, that is, their bodies burn more calories as they rest.

Myth: Green tea boosts your metabolism

Green tea has often been called a natural metabolism-boosting drink. But can it really make your body burn more calories?

Studies have shown, in fact, that drinking green tea can slightly increase the metabolic rate. But this increase isn’t substantial enough to offset the consumption of extra calories.

The same logic applies to other metabolism-boosting items, like red peppers and coffee. Consuming them does produce a slight bump in metabolic rate, but not enough to create a real impact.

Myth: You have no control over your metabolism

As mentioned above, body composition is a critical factor in determining your metabolism. As your body composition changes, so does your metabolism. A few ways to change your metabolism include:

  • Lifting weights helps build muscle, which is more metabolically active than fat
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Drinking enough water
  • Decreasing stress through relaxation techniques

Learn More Facts About Your Metabolism

Have more questions about health and weight loss? Visit the website for the Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence at UPMC for more.

About UPMC Bariatric Services

UPMC Bariatric Services is here to help if you’re struggling with obesity and want to lose weight. We offer both surgical and nonsurgical weight loss plans and can help you find the right path for a weight-loss journey. We will work with you to discuss your needs and develop and individualized treatment plan. We meet the highest level of national accreditation for bariatric surgery centers, and our team provides complete care. We offer our services at UPMC locations throughout Pennsylvania and New York. Visit our website to find a provider near you.