Boosting Metabolism

 

Can You Make Your Metabolism Better?

Boosting metabolism is the holy grail of weight watchers everywhere, but how fast your body burns calories depends on several things. Some people inherit a speedy metabolism. Men tend to burn more calories than women, even while resting. And for most people, metabolism slows steadily after age 40. Although you can't control your age, gender, or genetics, there are other ways to improve your metabolism. Here are 10 of them.

Build Muscle

Your body constantly burns calories, even when you're doing nothing. This resting metabolic rate is much higher in people with more muscle. Every pound of muscle uses about 6 calories a day just to sustain itself, while each pound of fat burns only 2 calories daily. That small difference can add up over time. After a session of strength training, muscles are activated all over your body, raising your average daily metabolic rate.

Step Up Your Workout

Aerobic exercise may not build big muscles, but it can rev up your metabolism in the hours after a workout. The key is to push yourself. High-intensity exercise delivers a bigger, longer rise in resting metabolic rate than low- or moderate-intensity workouts. To get the benefits, try a more intense class at the gym or include short bursts of jogging during your regular walk.

Fuel Up With Water

Your body needs water to process calories. If you are even mildly dehydrated, your metabolism may slow down. In one study, adults who drank eight or more glasses of water a day burned more calories than those who drank four. To stay hydrated, drink a glass of water or other unsweetened beverage before every meal and snack. Also, snack on fresh fruits and vegetables, which naturally contain water, rather than pretzels or chips.

Should You Try Energy Drinks?

Some ingredients in energy drinks can give your metabolism a boost. They're full of caffeine, which increases the amount of energy your body uses. They sometimes have taurine, an amino acid. Taurine can speed up your metabolism and may help burn fat. But using these drinks can cause problems like high blood pressure, anxiety, and sleep issues for some people. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend them for kids and teens.

Snack Smart

Eating more often can help you lose weight. When you eat large meals with many hours in between, your metabolism slows down between meals. Having a small meal or snack every 3 to 4 hours keeps your metabolism cranking, so you burn more calories over the course of a day. Several studies have also shown that people who snack regularly eat less at mealtime.

Spice Up Your Meals

Spicy foods have natural chemicals that can kick your metabolism into a higher gear. Cooking foods with a tablespoon of chopped red or green chili pepper can boost your metabolic rate. The effect is probably temporary, but if you eat spicy foods often, the benefits may add up. For a quick boost, spice up pasta dishes, chili, and stews with red pepper flakes.

Power Up With Protein

Your body burns many more calories digesting protein than it does eating fat or carbohydrates. As part of a balanced diet, replacing some carbs with lean, protein-rich foods can boost metabolism at mealtime. Good sources of protein include lean beef, turkey, fish, white meat chicken, tofu, nuts, beans, eggs, and low-fat dairy products.

Sip Some Black Coffee

If you're a coffee drinker, you probably enjoy the energy and concentration perks. Taken in moderation, one of coffee's benefits may be a short-term rise in your metabolic rate. Caffeine can help you feel less tired and even increase your endurance while you exercise.

Recharge With Green Tea

Drinking green tea or oolong tea offers the combined benefits of caffeine and catechins, substances shown to rev up the metabolism for a couple of hours. Research suggests that drinking 2 to 4 cups of either tea may push the body to burn 17% more calories during moderately intense exercise for a short time.

Avoid Crash Diets

Crash diets -- those involving eating fewer than 1,200 (if you're a woman) or 1,800 (if you're a man) calories a day -- are bad for anyone hoping to quicken their metabolism. Although these diets may help you drop pounds, that comes at the expense of good nutrition. Plus, it backfires, since you can lose muscle, which in turn slows your metabolism. The final result is your body burns fewer calories and gains weight faster than before the diet.

What a 5% Weight Loss Can Do for Your Health

What Can 5% Do for You?

You don’t have to slim down to your high school size to get real health benefits. Losing just a few pounds makes a big difference. Five percent of your body weight -- 10 pounds for a 200-pound person -- can improve all kinds of health problems, and make you feel better, too. Talk to your doctor about whether it might help you.

Ease Up on Joints

Just 10 extra pounds add 40 pounds of pressure on your knees and other lower body joints. That can wear them out quicker. Extra fat can also cause inflammation -- when chemicals in your body damage your own tissues over time, including your joints. Losing even a little weight can ease these effects. If you keep it off, you’re much less likely to get arthritis later in life.

Cut Your Chances of Cancer

One study showed that older women who lost at least 5% of their body weight lowered their chances of breast cancer by 12%. There’s no such clear proof that losing weight protects you from other types, but some changes that happen when you shed pounds hint that it might. For example, overweight people who slim down have lower levels of some hormones linked to cancer, like estrogens, insulin, and androgens.

Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

If you’re more likely to get the condition, weight loss is one of two ways to prevent or delay it. The other is moderate exercise -- 30 minutes on 5 days a week. If you weigh 160 pounds, you could lose just 8-12 of them to get the benefit. If you already have diabetes, losing that weight can help you take less medication, keep control of your blood sugar, and lower the odds that the condition will cause other health problems.

A “Good” Cholesterol Bump

You can lower your LDL or “bad” cholesterol with healthier food and medications. But it’s harder to raise levels of the “good” kind of cholesterol, HDL. That’s the type that clears bad LDL from your blood, so the more you have, the better. Exercise and losing body fat can get you into the ideal HDL range: above 60 mg/dl, which lowers your odds of having heart disease.

Bring Down Triglycerides

They’re particles in your body that transport fat for storage and energy. High levels (more than 200 mg/dl) mean you’re more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. You can get closer to healthy levels (around 150 mg/dl) if you slim down a little. 

Ease High Blood Pressure

Extra body weight makes your blood push harder against your artery walls. That makes your heart work harder, too. You can lower the pressure by about 5 points if you trim 5% from that number on the scale. Cut your salt and eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy, and you may lower it even more.

Stop Sleep Apnea

People who are overweight gain extra tissue in the back of their throat. When your body relaxes when you sleep, that tissue can drop down and block your airway. It makes you stop breathing over and over all night, which causes all kinds of health problems, especially for your heart. Slimming down a little can often help with sleep apnea -- sometimes enough that you can stop using the bulky breathing devices that treat it.

Reverse Insulin Resistance

Body fat, especially in your belly area, gives off chemicals that make your body stop reacting to the effects of insulin, a hormone that keeps the level of sugar in your blood normal. Even though your pancreas works harder to make more insulin, your blood sugar can get too high. A little bit of weight loss can help reverse this effect.

Sleep Longer and Better

Some studies have shown that not getting enough ZZZs can make you more likely to be obese. Others show that losing at least 5% of excess weight can lead to better sleep. But don’t overdo it. Sleeping too much isn’t good for your weight or your health.

A Better Mood

Weight loss may help chase your blues away. Scientists are still trying to work out why, but better body image and improved sleep may be part of the reason. In one study, depressed people who were very overweight felt better after they lost an average of 8% of their body weight. Other research shows you’ll continue to feel better, even after 2 years -- as long as you keep the weight off.

Bring Down Inflammation

Fat cells, especially those around the belly, can release chemicals that irritate and inflame tissues all over the body. This is linked to health problems like arthritis, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Work toward a 10% weight loss goal, and you can lower the amount of these substances and cut your chances of having a serious illness.

Have More Sex

When you’re overweight, you typically have less sex. It might be because you just don’t feel good about your body. But it also may be that you have less desire and that even when you’re in the mood, your body doesn’t respond as well. Shed a few pounds and you’ll not only feel better about yourself, but you may also be in the mood more often, too.

Lose the Weight: Diet

There’s no one perfect diet to help you slim down, but there are some basic rules. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Keep your protein lean and unprocessed: Choose meats trimmed of fat, and eat seafood, beans, nuts, and seeds. Replace refined grains like white bread and white rice with whole grains like multigrain bread, brown rice, and oatmeal. Special weight loss surgery may be an option if you are seriously overweight.

Lose the Weight: Exercise

You should be getting 30 minutes of moderate activity -- a bike ride or brisk walk -- on at least 5 days a week simply to stay in good health. To lose weight and keep it off, you may need more than that. Also include moves to strengthen your muscles, like pushups or lightweight training. Check with your doctor about the healthiest ways for you to work out, especially if you haven’t done it in a while.