It’s a common misconception some people are just born with a high metabolism and there’s no way to change a lower metabolic rate. The truth of the matter is there’s a lot that can be done to increase metabolism to shed extra fat and keep weight in a healthy range.
Metabolism is an internal mechanism that determines the efficiency at which food is used as an energy source. It’s roughly equivalent to the rate of oxygen consumption by the body. Therefore, the faster one's metabolic rate, the more calories they will burn, whether they’re performing a physical activity, sitting down or even sleeping.
The Role of Exercise
If the goal is to lose weight, there’s no way to get around exercise. Regular physical activity will do wonders for increasing the metabolism. However, many exercise programs are often focused on simply burning calories during activity and overlook the importance of working to increase the metabolic rate.
Burning an extra 500 calories three times a week while exercising is nothing to shake a stick at. But consider this: A modest ten percent increase in one's metabolic rate from 1,500 calories to 1,650 calories will result in burning more than 1,000 extra calories a week, without having to lift a finger.
In order to increase the metabolic rate, it’s essential to build lean muscle mass, as muscle tissue is very energetically demanding, even at rest. Aerobic exercise aimed at increasing VO2 (or oxygen capacity) is important as well. But don’t overdo it. Too much aerobic exercise can actually result in a loss of muscle mass, which will lower the metabolic rate and make it more difficult to keep weight off in the long term.
Diet and Metabolism
In terms of weight maintenance, short-term diets never work. Trust me on this one. A “starvation diet” may help someone lose weight for a week or two, but the weight will inevitably come back and typically with a few extra pounds on top of it. Why? Eating less calories than necessary to meet the body's metabolic rate will subsequently slow down the metabolic rate to account for the drastic reduction in food intake. The body goes into survival mode.
A much better approach is to follow a healthy nutrition plan based on making permanent lifestyle changes. Start slow and make only one or two changes at a time, waiting for them to become habit before moving on to the next thing. Attempting to drastically alter one's eating patterns overnight is typically a recipe for failure.
Next, focus on eating for increased nutrition rather than cutting calories. Concentrating on getting the most nutrients per calorie will naturally lead to choosing healthier foods. Placing too much emphasis on calorie cutting often leads one in the wrong direction, down the road of more processed foods, artificial sweeteners and fad diet products.
In addition, make a commitment to yourself to drop the excuses. Eating an extra “little treat” every day, or planning to “cheat” on the weekends can easily double the time it takes to meet a reasonable weight loss goal. This tends to result in greater frustration or giving up altogether. Making “exceptions” for holidays, birthdays, game days and other special occasions also usually means one will end up spending more days off the plan, than on the plan. This is a surefire way to set oneself up for disappointment.
Another great tip is to take notice of how different foods make you feel. Poor food choices and sensitivities can often be identified by paying attention to how one feels after eating. If certain foods leave one feeling lethargic or grumpy, it might be time to strongly consider walking away from them for good. Keeping a food journal can help with this process, especially when considering that negative effects from food sensitivities can take up to 72 hours to develop. The ability to make the connection in your mind between what actually feels good to the body, rather than merely what tastes good to the tongue, can be a critical factor in being successful when implementing permanent lifestyle changes. Seek to become your own expert, rather than relying on others determine what’s good and bad. Every body is different.
Metabolism isn’t set in stone. Set a course for long-term success through healthy living and worry about metabolism no more!
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