Q Is there such a thing as a naturally high metabolism, where you
can eat whatever you like without gaining weight? Or is that just a myth?
A Sara Stanner writes
We probably all know someone who can eat like a horse without ever putting on
weight. Our ‘basal metabolic rate’ (the number of calories we need just to
stay alive) determines 60-75% of the total energy we expend, although, by
being physically active you can increase the number of extra calories you
burn. The body uses calories for all the processes that are going on
constantly, even at rest, such as breathing, pumping blood around the body
and processing waste products. A very large proportion of our basal
metabolic rate is taken up by 4 major organs – the brain, the liver, the
heart and the kidneys, which make up two thirds of our metabolic rate each
day, even though they only account for 5% of body weight. This means that
small differences in sizes of these organs can affect basal metabolic rate.
These differences may be small but, because basal metabolic rate is going on
for every minute of every day, they can add up and lead to significant
differences in the number of calories different individuals need. For
someone with a slightly higher metabolic rate, this might result in being
able to consume relatively more calories without putting on weight. Two
people of the same age and weight may also have different metabolic rates if
one is fitter (and has more muscle) than the other. Muscle requires more
energy to function than fat so being active can also increase your metabolic
rate slightly. Some medical conditions also have an influence. For example,
people whose thyroid glands are not working have relatively low basal
metabolic rates, and those with overactive thyroid glands have high basal
metabolic rates. Having said that, for our population as a whole, the big
increase in rates of obesity cannot be put down to changes in metabolic rate
and this still means that many of us need to watch how many calories we
consume and try to burn more by being physically active. Some people who
stay thin despite relatively high calorie diets and a lack of ‘exercise’ may
be more active than they think. Fidgeting for example can burn anywhere
between 300 and 800 calories a day and studies have also found people with
lots of nervous energy to gain less weight on high calorie diets.
A Tony Gallagher writes
It is true that some people have a much higher metabolism than others but it
is probably stretching it a bit to maintain that they can eat as much as
they like without putting on extra weight. These people will still need to
watch the quality of the food they eat as being thin is not necessarily a
good judge of healthiness. In fact, some people with a higher metabolism,
struggle to put on weight even when they want, or need, to do so. An
underactive thyroid, which isn’t necessarily something to seek out, can be a
reason for a fast metabolism too.
Perhaps for a short period in their lives there are people who can eat as much
as they want, and worry little about the weight consequences, but this
rarely lasts throughout a whole lifespan. Naturally, to maintain the
benefits of a higher than normal metabolism in later years, these people
will still need to manage their exercise levels, get adequate sleep, consume
not too much alcohol and avoid smoking cigarettes all together.
Men tend to have more muscle than women and, thus, are likely to have a higher
rate than women. The metabolic rate decreases with age and people lose
¬muscle as they age (in the main quite often because they become less
active). As a rough guide muscle deteriorates at about 5% each decade from
In some cases too it could be that what seem like a natural thin people are
such only because they work at it in that they eat moderately and know when
to stop. In many cases of course eating well and moderately is simply not
enough to be thin. Going on a diet may well slow one’s metabolism down.
Metabolism is not just one process but many that include converting the food
you eat and liquids you drink into energy, absorbing nutrients into cells
and, the major function is of course keeping you alive: this is the basal
metabolic rate (bmr).
Rather than concern oneself about people with, so called, naturally high
metabolisms why not focus on trying to increase one’s own metabolic rate.
To achieve this try and build up your muscle mass. Nothing too drastic but
more muscles means more calories to burn even while resting. You should be
aiming not only to build muscle but maintain it too.
Similarly cardiovascular exercise will help burn calories and both during and
post during activity.
I read with interest your reply to a woman suffering from mouth ulcers. My
late husband was prone to mouth ulcers from childhood. At the age of 51, he
became seriously ill with ulcerative colitis. A life saving ileostomy
operation not only gave him a further 22 years of active life, but he never
suffered from mouth ulcers again. P.R. Hibbert, Manchester
Article source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/9239636/Lifecoach-Why-do-I-get-a-hangover-after-only-two-pints.html