You make sure to head to the gym or go for a run first thing in the morning because you’ve heard that getting in a workout, especially early in the day, revs your metabolism and helps you burn calories for hours after you’ve hit the showers. Is this actually true?
Unfortunately, there are many myths surrounding what does or does not boost your metabolism – and how long any touted benefits last. The problem with thinking that your metabolism is being pushed into high gear when it’s not is that you’re more likely to eat more, believing that your increased metabolic rate can easily handle the higher calorie intake. This misconception may also lead you to think you can lose weight with exercise alone, without having to focus much on the food you eat.
Here are a few misconceptions about how your metabolism is affected by the type of physical activity you do:
MYTH: Metabolism stays elevated for hours after cardio exercise.
It would be nice if this were in fact true, but your metabolism returns to its resting rate shortly after you’re done exercising. While you’re revving your heart rate, such as when running, swimming or biking, you’ll also rev your metabolism and burn more calories. You may also enjoy some added calorie burning effects for about an hour or so, but that’s about it. Research shows you have no more ability to burn fat throughout the 24 hours after you exercise than if you just stayed on the couch. So don’t use your daily workout as an excuse to eat because you think you’re now a calorie-burning machine.
MYTH: Adding muscle will boost your resting metabolism.
You’ve heard it over and over again. Focus on strength-training because having more muscle mass will increase your resting calorie burning potential. Is this for real? Well, it is true that muscle burns more calories than fat. But most people who work out only gain a small amount of muscle. That is not enough to significantly raise your metabolism. And when muscles aren’t being used, they burn very few calories. Therefore, the effect on your metabolism due to your increased muscle mass is minimal.
Most of your calorie burning throughout the day is a result of your body’s routine functioning – breathing, digesting, etc. In fact, 80% of your daily energy expenditure comes from your heart, lungs, kidneys, brain and liver. Any direct effects of physical activity are relatively small when considered in the context of your total daily energy expenditure. So the amount of overall calories you burn in a day will not be dramatically affected throughout the day simply because you’ve been building more muscle.
So What Does This Mean For Your Daily Workout?
While your daily workout may not turn you into a calorie-burning dynamo after you’re done, there are still numerous health benefits of getting more physical activity – from building stronger bones to increasing coordination and boosting heart health. You’ll look better and you’ll feel better when you commit to a regular schedule of physical activity that combines both cardio and strength training.
If you eat the same when you work out as you would if you didn’t work out, it will result in weight loss. But if you work out and eat more, not only won’t you lose weight but you may even gain weight. The important point to remember is that you shouldn’t rely on your trip to the gym as the sole means of losing weight or reward yourself with an all-the-food-you-care-to-eat attitude because you think your body is burning calories in overdrive after your sweat session is finished.