Have you struggled for years to keep your weight in check? Have you noticed extra pounds adding up since you reached middle age? If either scenario applies to you, it is likely that metabolism is playing a major role in your “weighty” issues. Metabolism is simply the process by which the body makes and uses energy. This process is vital for cells to function while we sleep, as well as for strenuous activity like running a marathon.
Many of my patients point to a “slow metabolism” as the cause of their struggles with weight. While it’s true that some people burn calories for energy at a faster rate than others, metabolism needn’t dictate your jeans size. When I explain to patients how they can positively impact metabolism, they finally realize they have the power to change their bodies and end their struggles with weight. If you are committed to these solutions, you too can speed up your metabolism, fight the effects of aging and burn more calories everyday.
Experts say that your level of muscle mass is the greatest indicator of how efficiently metabolism works and how many calories you burn. The reason nearly all of us gradually gain weight after age 40 is because metabolism slows by roughly five percent with each passing decade. This is due in large part to the loss of muscle that naturally accompanies aging.
Fortunately, you do not need to sit by while you lose muscle and gain pounds. You can counteract muscle loss through weight training. Studies show that lifting weights for twelve weeks will rebuild enough lean muscle to result in a 10 percent increase in metabolism. To maintain the lean muscle you have, two total-body strength workouts per week may stave off muscle loss.
The more lean muscle you build, the more calories you’ll burn when sitting still. In fact, one pound of muscle burns 35 calories per day, while a pound of fat burns just two calories per day. Furthermore, in the hours following a strength-training workout, your metabolism remains elevated, bumping up calorie burn in the short term. You can strength train with dumbbells, resistance bands or weight machines, as long as you “feel the burn” in your muscles. If you are new to strength training, hire a trainer for one or two sessions to familiarize yourself with the equipment at the gym and develop a routine to get you started.
While regular strength training will have a great impact on raising metabolism, there are even more small changes that can make a big difference. My next solution often comes as a shock, especially to lifelong dieters. In order to keep metabolism humming, you may need to eat more. If you consume too few calories, your body goes into “starvation” mode, conserving the precious calories it has and slowing down metabolism. If your goal is to maximize your metabolism, try eating more often. Eating a small meal or snack every three to four hours ensures your metabolism will run at steady rate. It also prevents you from getting so hungry that you overeat at your next meal.
If you think skipping breakfast is helping to save calories, change your habits right now. Breakfast eaters are less likely to be overweight than those who skip. Your metabolism slows while you sleep, so the morning meal is essential for getting it going again. Studies also show that people who eat breakfast consume fewer calories at lunch and dinner.
There are more tricks for kicking up metabolism. The caffeine in coffee and green tea provides a small, temporary metabolic boost. These beverages are also rich in beneficial antioxidants. If you like spicy food, you’re in luck. The heat in Chile peppers is known to cause a small jump in calorie burn. Finally, simply moving more throughout the day helps your metabolism run efficiently. Take the stairs, walk to a co-worker’s office or do a couple sets of lunges every hour while working at your desk or watching TV.
You do not have to make all these changes at once. After checking in with your doctor, start a weight-training regimen and build more small bursts of activity into your day. Eat the same amount of food each day, but try spreading it out so you go no longer than four hours without a meal or snack. Every person has the ability to make over their metabolism and fight the effects of aging.