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A Touch of Wellbeing
A Wellness Blog for Busy People

Kick Start Metabolism to Lose Weight Naturally

Our metabolism consists of a complex network of hormones and enzymes that not only converts food into fuel but also affects how efficiently we burn that fuel. Metabolism establishes the rate we burn calories and, ultimately, how quickly we gain weight or how easily we lose it according to Robert Yanagisawa, MD, director of the Medically Supervised Weight Management Program at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.

Our metabolism is influenced by age (metabolism naturally slows about 5% per decade after age 40); sex (men generally burn more calories at rest than women); and proportion of lean body mass (the more muscle the higher the metabolic rate tends to be). It can also be affected by the health of our thyroid, the number of medications we take and our history of weight gain/weight loss. So essentially, we are born burning machines but turn ourselves into storage machines by participating in multiple fad diets, the yo-yo type weight loss weight gain cycle, and taking numerous medicines that affect metabolism--most notably antidepressants, muscle relaxants and pain medications.

One key to weight loss is to kick start the metabolism and get back into a natural burning pattern for slow, accepted weight loss. We do not believe in nor do we teach forced weight loss. When we try to force weight loss, the brain intervenes. The brain does not like weight loss, especially rapid weight loss. And if weight is coming off faster than a couple pounds per week or about 5-10% of your current weight every six (6) months, the brain thinks we are starving and works to store calories.

One of the most effective interventions for kick starting the metabolism is exercise. Please do not think of exercise just to lose weight. More importantly, it is a way to be healthy. It plays a wonderful role in revving up the metabolism but is most effective in maintaining the weight loss. Look at exercise as a step toward healthier weight management and achieving a comfortable weight.

Our exercise regimen should include 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 muscles you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate, which means the more calories your body will be burning just to sustain you," says Molly Kimball, RD, sports and lifestyle nutritionist at the Ochsner Clinic's Elmwood Fitness Center. Personal fitness trainer Kelli Calabrese MS, CSCS, ACE, notes that every pound of muscle in our bodies burns 35 calories a day, while each pound of fat burns just 2 calories per day. The third part of the regimen is stretching and flexibility exercises to round out the program.

Next, the small, frequent meal is of utmost importance. That means no crash dieting. But it is difficult to eat one portion from each food group as a meal unless we use snacks to control hunger. That snack should be a carbohydrate and a protein. Many health professionals believe, including myself, that we need a little more than the standard six ounces per day of protein (the minimum daily requirement) to have weight loss. Protein burns more slowly than carbohydrates, and it helps create a feeling of fullness to manage intake. Include a source of protein with each meal and snack.

There have been numerous other suggestions like drinking more water, drinking cold beverages, drinking green tea, drinking black coffee, eating hot peppers and very spicy food, none of which have been proven to affect metabolism for any length of time to actually make a difference. We do believe all these ideas are good practices and have health benefits, although drinking cold beverages and eating spicy foods have no benefit of which I am aware. Feel free to practice any of them. Lastly, please forget about all the supplements now on the market touting their ability to speed up metabolism. They are most likely scams and may be dangerous!

We remain convinced that building more muscle, eating a serving of protein with each of the three meals and three snacks, and increasing exercise, physical activity and just plain daily movement are still the most effective interventions for kick starting a depressed metabolism. We want to add that drinking more water from 64 oz to half your weight in ounces (one source said 96 oz) and getting a consistent 8 hours of sleep each night are beneficial to speeding up metabolism. So, what are you waiting for? Begin to kick start your metabolism today!

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