Nutrition Articles

Expert Solutions: Metabolism Mistakes

SparkPeople experts and coaches weigh in on the top 4 metabolism mistakes even smart dieters make

Mistake #3: Exercising in the “Fat Burning Zone”
Another common myth is that it is good to exercise at lower intensities so that you are in the "fat burning zone".  I have even heard people say that their personal trainers told them to work out this way, which is another reason people shouldn't believe everything they hear!  A lot of cardio machines also have the picture of the "fat burning zone" on the machine, or have "weight loss" programs, which most people figure is what they need.  Then they get frustrated because their progress is so slow and don't understand why.
Mistake #4: Focusing on One Thing at a Time
JOE (SparkPeople Fitness Coach)
Metabolism includes many different variables: sleep, nutrition, fitness, stress management, etc., all of which work together to help the body function at a higher level. There seems to be a tendency to work on one thing at a time, with the idea that once you’ve "mastered" that one thing, you can move on to the next one. Unfortunately, losing sight of the importance of the “other” areas keeps you from seeing improvements. We may fall into this trap because of things we were taught at a young age—to focus on one thing at a time. 
DEAN (Behavioral Psychology & Stress Management Expert)
Speaking of sleep, there is a large and growing body of research showing that even mild sleep deprivation has adverse effects on metabolism. There are several pathways involved here, but one of the main mechanisms appears to involve leptin and insulin (hormones associated with appetite). Apparently sleep deprivation generates the same biological state as sustained calorie deprivation: high night-time cortisol levels, which in turn leads to insulin resistance and decreased concentrations of leptin (the appetite-suppressing hormone released by body fat). In effect, your brain starts thinking you're in the middle of a food scarcity situation, and turns your appetite up several notches, and reduces your need for sleep even more so you have more time for foraging.
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Member Comments

    The only issue I have is sleep deprivation. I haven't sleep well for 25 years. I don't think that's going to change. And there isn't really anything I can do about it. - 10/8/2014 9:26:49 AM
    Why Shouldn't I exercise in the fat burning zone? - 9/14/2014 12:22:51 PM
  • It just kills me that people still fall for the diet pill trap. I would love to have the pounds melt off fast too but even I won't go that route. It's too bad that they aren't regulated.
    - 3/2/2013 4:14:03 PM
  • Good grief! I've broken every "rule" in the book. Is it any wonder I'm fat! ACK! - 11/21/2012 11:20:51 PM
  • My metabolism is almost non-existent. No wonder ,.. Unfortunately, I've spent a lifetime breaking all the rules. - 6/26/2012 7:16:28 PM
    I love the SP program and I really appreciate the time and energy devoted to providing good information to the members so my comments are about content and not about the good people that contributed to this article.

    I strongly agree with three of the four mistakes. I do take exception with the blanket comment that exercising in the fat burning zone is a mistake. When I walk I cannot walk fast enough to get my pulse above the fat burning zone due to a surgically repaired left knee. I've dealt with it since 1963 and have finally reached the point where I can no longer run due to the knee. I'm 70.

    I understand that I cannot get the speed to raise my pulse but can walk hilly routes and keep increasing the incline on the treadmill to get the best workout I can. I know it takes longer to burn calories at my speed but it works for me and I know there are other Sparkpeople who have to do the same thing.

    I would agree with you that working out in the fat burning zone isn't ideal but I strongly disagree that it is a mistake for all people.

    Lew - 6/26/2012 5:22:29 PM
  • That is SO true about diet pills. They killed my mother. She was on that Dexatrim, and it gave her a stroke. So I don't go near that aisle in the store. - 6/26/2012 12:30:38 PM
    I once took a college level Biology class from a Prof. who had been a coroner. The things he told us about necrotic tissue in the liver caused by taking diet pills stopped me from ever wanting to take them. - 6/26/2012 10:14:39 AM
  • Skipping strength training is a huge mistake too. Excessive cardio with no muscle building/preserva
    tion is a recipe for weight regain. Muscle is much more metabolically active than fat. - 6/26/2012 8:30:02 AM
  • This article was not helpful. It offered problems but not solutions, and it was scattered. - 6/26/2012 7:09:57 AM
  • I have a big problem making sure I drink water or eat even one meal a day. My metabolisim died so that with no exercise has turned my body into a marshmellow! - 6/26/2012 1:09:43 AM
  • Now, my question is how to gradually get out of the restricting-too-m
    uch trap. Shifting from one thing right into the other appears not so wise as you said your metabolism adopts to the low intake. So is there any guideline for a gradual shift (like a 10% increase-rule or something, I'm just guessing here...)?
    How long does it take your body to re-adapt to a good calorie intake? Any suggestions?
    (Yeah, as you can see, that one's my favourite trap... =((( ) - 6/26/2012 12:46:27 AM
  • I found alot of good guidelines to try out. The article on metabolism was quite enlightning..I was told that if you stop smoking that this slows your metabolism down? Is this true? I stopped smoking 1 month ago.... yeah me :)
    It is taking me a while to eat enough daily, but I am getting there....exercise dancing, marching, jogging, walking and some from your circuit are great..I feel sluggish if I don't do something...
    I am so glad I was guided to Sparks
    Maryhigo - 4/19/2012 10:02:52 PM
  • Jen said in the first paragraph about diet pills "I get a lot of "Ask the Expert" questions about diet pills. I think most people know that they shouldn't take them long term, but don't really understand why".
    I don't take diet pills because i am not foolish enough to think they will work long term but I read and re-read the section about diet pills and did not see WHY they are bad for me. I know I can get the feeling of fullness by just eating fresh healthy food but I would have liked getting the information as to what is specificly bad about diet pills other then messing up your metabolism because poor eating can do that too. - 1/20/2012 8:54:00 AM
  • I tried diet pills one time. I was going to start eating better and exercising more, but I thought it might help me start losing weight faster. I would not recommend them at all. They are not cheap for one thing. The store brand had caffeine, so my heart would beat too fast when I worked out and I had trouble sleeping. They also gave me bad diarrhea. I didn't notice my appetitte changing that much. I don't think I ever finished the bottle. But I know that I would never use them again. - 7/18/2011 12:52:17 PM

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