Can we really fire up metabolism as so many diet pills claim? What is “metabolism”? We use it as an excuse; We blame it on our genes; It’s the subject of diet pills and fad diets…metabolism is made out to be the magic short-cut that we’ve been looking for. But what is it really??
By definition, metabolism is the rate at which our body converts the nutrients in the food we eat to the energy that we need. Faster metabolisms have been associated with skinny people that can eat whatever they want. The rest of us complain that we walk by a bakery and gain weight?! But is there any merit in this theory that genetic metabolism is to blame? Most doctors and dieticians would say, NO! There are some simple principals about metabolism that can help us harness and use it to our advantage. While some may naturally have a higher BMR (basal metabolic rate) than others, this will not make you skinny or fat. Our eating and exercise habits have a far greater impact on our metabolism, than the factors that we can’t control.
One way to fire up metabolism is to increase our muscle mass. A pound of muscle is estimated to burn between 10-20 times as many calories per day as a pound of fat. That’s significant. With an exercise program you’ll not only raise your metabolism through the exercise itself, but your metabolism will remain in high gear for a couple of hours afterward. And while you rest, the muscles that you stressed will be re-strengthening and re-building, creating additional muscle fiber which will burn additional calories around the clock!
What & how much we eat affects our metabolism. Our metabolism elevates when our bodies process foods. If we want to take advantage of this to fire up metabolism, it’s better to eat 5-6 smaller snack-sized meals than it is to eat 3 large meals a day. The key for an effective diet is to restrict caloric intake to your activity level, allowing for a moderate deficiency. For example, if your BMR is 2000 calories per day and you run 3 miles (300 calories burned), you could eat approximately 2300 calories without gaining or losing a pound. If you eat 1800 calories you’ll lose 1/7 of a pound or one pound in a week (1 pound of fat = 3,500 calories). Check out this BMR calculator to estimate your metabolic rate.
Not eating enough will lower your metabolism. A goal of 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week is a sustainable and healthy goal. If you restrict your calorie intake much lower than 800 calories per day, your ever-efficient body will reduce your metabolism by 10% or more as it goes into self-preservation mode. In addition, at just 800 calories per day you’ll feel pretty sluggish and will probably forego exercising and any other unnecessary movements…further decreasing your calories burned!
So what’s the bottom line? Metabolism is important and can help your health & fitness pursuits, but it should not be the focal point. Eating chilly peppers, citric pills, and other diet hoaxes are a sham. They might raise your body temperature ever so slightly, which in turn will faintly elevate your metabolism for 15-30 minutes. But these effects are negligible when compared to the effects of a good diet and exercise program. Use these fitness tools to stay on track. Best of luck!!
You can find this article and other motivational fitness information in the May 2008 article of The Bullhorn. You can sign up for this free monthly e-zine below.