Have you ever wondered why some people eat whatever they want, never say no to desserts, rarely if ever exercise, and never appear to gain weight? On the other hand, you do all the right things and keep putting on pounds.
Suzanne Somers sums up the problem: “Around age 40, I put on 20 pounds. I had always had a perfect metabolism. But my metabolism betrayed me as it does most people, except for a very rare few, who will always be thin.”
Why does this happen? A report from Johns Hopkins confirms the answer rests in your metabolism. It determines how your body converts what you eat or drink into either energy or stored fat. The good news is that regardless of your age or weight, there are ways to speed up metabolic rate and burn more calories.
Everyone has a “resting metabolic rate.” It’s the metabolic furnace that burns up calories while we’re sleeping, reading, or watching television. Every 24 hours, as our hearts beat 100,000 times, calories are required to keep us alive. These everyday functions require 65 to 75 percent of the total number of calories we receive from eating and drinking.
Energy for physical activity requires between 15 to 30 percent of the total. The remaining 5 to 10 percent of calories is burned in digesting food and moving it through the digestive tract.
So how can you kick-start your metabolism and speed it up to burn more calories? A good start is to build up more muscle but not to run the four-minute mile. Rather, each pound of muscle burns up six calories a day compared to a mere two calories a day for fat.
This means if you are able to exchange five pounds of fat for five pounds of muscle, you’ll burn an extra 20 calories a day. Burning 7,300 calories a year results in a loss of two pounds. Not much, you say? But carried on for 10 years you’re 20 pounds lighter. It’s the old story that a trip of a thousand miles begins with the first step!
To build more muscle and get your metabolism moving, start a moderate exercise program. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise five times a week burns up 1,000 calories. This means you’ve lost another 15 pounds a year. Add resistance exercises, such as lifting weights or doing sit-ups to retain muscle we all lose by aging.
Don’t skip breakfast. This will decrease the desire to snack on a Danish later on.
Get your sleep. If you’re not getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night, the level of the hormone ghrelin increases, which slows metabolism and increases appetite. In one study, those who only had five and a half hours of sleep a night lost half as much weight as those who slept eight hours a night.
Be sure you consume enough protein. Carmen Roberts, a dietician at Johns Hopkins, says protein is the toughest food source to break down, so its digestion requires more calories. Moreover, it means any weight you lose will come from fat and not muscle.
Drink plenty of water, as it’s your best calorie-free drink. Studies show that drinking two cups of water speeds metabolism by 40 percent during the next 30 minutes. Part of this is caused by the body having to warm the water from room temperature to body temperature.
This winter, during difficult financial times, you can save money and increase metabolism by turning down the heat in your home. Earlier generations burned up more calories just trying to keep warm. Exercising outside in cold weather achieves the same effect.
Are you getting sleepy reading this column? If that’s the case, try pouring yourself a cup of tea or coffee. This leads to a boost in metabolism and speeds up the heart rate.
Chili peppers also increase the metabolic rate. But it’s prudent not to overdo caffeine or make the meal too spicy just to lose weight.
Remember, the first step is the hardest one to take. But be wise and take it.
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