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Boosting metabolism

If only we could boost our metabolism, we say to ourselves. After all, doesn’t slow metabolism keep us from losing weight? Knowing this thinking, marketers of weight loss products offer ways to boost metabolism and melt away pounds.

But are their claims true? How much can you really speed up metabolism?

First, some basics about metabolism: Metabolism refers to the way the body uses energy that is measured in calories. The body uses calories in three ways. First, calories sustain vital body functions: breathing, heart rate, waste removal, cell growth and repair. This takes about 75 percent of our calories. Secondly, we use calories for physical activity (15 percent). Third, we use calories for digestion and absorption of food (about 10 percent).



The speed at which we burn calories at rest is called the resting metabolic rate (RMR). Everyone’s RMR varies and may in part be genetically determined. Some lucky people really do have higher metabolic rates than others and burn more calories doing nothing.

Cutting calories below your RMR is not smart because your body shifts into starvation mode. Because you’re eating less, your body fights to conserve the energy it has stored in fat, making it harder to lose weight. So what are the safe ways?




1) Stay away from supplements. They work by stimulating the nervous system, e.g., increasing the heart rate. There’s scant evidence that any of them have any significant impact on metabolism although there is evidence of their unpleasant side effects (insomnia, anxiety, heart palpitations, and elevated blood pressure).

2) Exercise at least 30 minutes a day with brisk walking, biking or dancing. Burn calories and get your heart pumping.

3) Get enough sleep. Sufficient sleep regulates hormones that regulate appetite and body weight. People who sleep less weigh more. With insufficient sleep, the appetite increases and the person is too fatigued to exercise.

4) Strength train at least three times a week to increase lean muscle and the rate at which your body burns calories.

5) Eat every four hours; don’t go over five except at night. Skipping meals slows metabolism and deprives the body of needed energy.

6) Eat breakfast to wake up your metabolism, give you energy, and help you avoid overeating at the next meal.

Source: Adrienne Forman, M.S., registered dietitian, Environmental Nutrition, January 2006


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