If you are carrying some extra pounds (and having a hard time losing them), it’s tempting to put the blame on a sluggish metabolism. But is your metabolism really the reason it’s often so hard to lose weight? And, more important, is there anything you can do about it?
What is Metabolism?
Your metabolism involves a complex network of hormones and enzymes that not only convert food into fuel but also affects how efficiently you burn that fuel.
The process of metabolism establishes the rate at which we burn our calories and ultimately how quickly we gain weight or lose it. Not everyone burns calories at the same rate.
Your metabolism is influenced by your age (metabolism naturally slows about 5% per decade after age 40); your sex (men generally burn more calories at rest than women); and proportion of lean body mass (the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate tends to be). And yes, heredity makes a difference.
And here’s a fact that may surprise you: the more weight you carry, the faster your metabolism is likely running. The simple fact is that the extra weight causes your body to work harder just to sustain itself at rest, so in most instances, the metabolism is always running a bit faster. That’s one of the reasons it is almost always easiest to lose weight at the start of a diet and harder later on.
When you are very overweight your metabolism is already running so high that any small cut in calories will result in an immediate loss. Then, when you lose significant amounts of body fat and muscle, your body needs fewer calories to sustain itself. That helps explain why it is so easy to regain weight after you lose it.
Though some of the factors affecting metabolic rate can’t be changed, happily, there are ways to maximize the metabolism you are born with – even when you are dieting.
Among the best ways is exercise! This includes aerobic workouts to burn more calories in the short term and weight training to build the muscles that will boost your metabolism in the long run. Since muscle burns more calories than fat, even while at rest, the more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate, which means the more calories your body will be burning just to sustain you.
What really works?
Eat more often and you will lose more weight. Small but frequent meals help keep your metabolism in high gear and that means you will burn more calories overall. When you put too many hours between meals, your metabolism actually slows down to compensate. Then when you eat a large meal – at the same time that your metabolism is functioning as if you are starving – your body wants to hold on to every calorie. While this won’t make much difference on an occasional basis, make it a way of life and it can get harder to lose or maintain weight.
How many calories?
A useful measure is your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). You use energy no matter what you are doing, even when sleeping. Calculate your BMR to determine the number of calories you would burn if you stayed in bed all day! Once you know your BMR you can calculate your Daily Calorie Needs based on your activity level using the Harris Benedict Equation.
Try this link: http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/
A female, 54 years old, 5’4” tall and weighing 135 lbs has a BMR of 1289 calories.
If she is moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week), then the Calorie Calculation is BMR X 1.55 or 1289 X 1.55 = 1997 calories. So, she needs 2000 calories/day to maintain weight. Less than 2000 calories/day to lose.
ONE POUND = 3500 calories. She could reduce her calorie intake to 1500 calories/day. And safely lose about ONE pound/week. It is really that simple.
I recommend downloading MyFitnessPal for your iPhone or iPad or go to http://www.myfitnesspal.com/. This is a very helpful tool for tracking your food, nutrients, calories and weight loss. And it’s fun!
Your best bet for keeping metabolism revved: Build muscles, snack on low-calorie, high protein foods, and keep moving!
You have to pay attention to get results. You can do it!
Input from Colette Bouchez of WebMD, Robert Yanagisawa, Mount Sinai Medical Center, Barrie Wolfe-Radbill, NYU Medical Center, Molly Kimball, Oscher Clinic Elmwood Fitness Center. Thanks guys.