Boost Your Metabolism

Burn more calories with these metabolism-enhancing tips

"The more muscle you work, the faster you'll lose your gut," says Carter Hays, CSCS.

Boost Your Metabolism

"I have a slow metabolism."
That's the refrain of many of us battling our weight. We see friends who eat truckloads of food yet stay wiry and lean, eating an amount that would cause us to gain 30 pounds in a year. What gives? It must be their metabolism—the total number of calories the body burns on a daily basis—right?

No, and yes. It's easy to exaggerate the amount that a lean person eats. We may see them consume a monster lunch in the work cafeteria, but they could be eating much less during the rest of the day, when we're eating our biggest meals. Their alleged fast metabolism isn't saving them from obesity; it's their lower caloric intake, possibly mixed in with more exercise.

In fact, you may have a higher metabolism than your colleague; overweight people typically burn more calories per hour at rest than thinner people do, in the same way your refrigerator eats more power per minute than your digital clock.

Most men (skinny ones included) will lose 1 percent of muscle mass every year after age 25, and since muscle burns calories at rest, that lowers metabolism. A chief mission for losing weight and maintaining health is to stop this decline and keep your hard-earned muscle through resistance exercise and increasing your level of overall physical activity. This won't just boost your metabolism, but it also will burn calories in the process.

"The more muscle you work, the faster you'll lose your gut," says Carter Hays, CSCS, a lifestyle and weight management consultant in Houston. The largest muscles in your upper body are your chest and back. The biggest in your lower body are your gluteals (your butt muscles), quadriceps and hamstrings.

"Involve your core muscles [in your hips, back and abdominals] and legs in every workout," advises Hays. To gain muscle, do basic compound exercises that will train several muscles at once, such as dumbbell squats and lunges, and push-ups, doing at least one set of 12 to 20 repetitions. More moves can be found in our Exercise demos.

Here are four key tips to increase your metabolism in order to help you lose weight—and keep it off permanently.

Key Tips
1 Preserve lean muscle mass.
This will help you keep your metabolism higher while your body is trying to lower it. Why? Losing weight naturally slows your metabolism a bit, because:
  • a smaller body burns fewer calories to move it around
  • a lower calorie intake means it takes less calories to digest and absorb food
The best way to counteract this dip is to preserve more lean muscle mass in your body, and to do that, you must do resistance training. Once your weight is stable, regular resistance training can increase muscle mass and boost your metabolism.

For every pound of muscle you build, your body must burn additional calories just to sustain itself. Add 10 pounds of muscle and that amount increases tenfold.
2 Recruit more muscle. The more muscle you put to work, the more calories you'll burn. Your biggest muscles are in your lower body. Choose from a variety of aerobic activities that use the back, hips and legs such as walking, jogging, cycling or the elliptical trainer. Stoke the furnace even more by adding in your arms, back and chest muscles—rowing, swimming and cross-country skiing do that.
3 Don’t Skip Meals. Severely restricting the amount of food you eat lowers your metabolism. This can slow down the "rate" or the speed of your weight loss, making it take longer to reach your weight-loss goals.
4 Don’t Lose Weight Rapidly You'll lose muscle tissue, which lowers your metabolism. To increase your metabolism, focus on preserving your lean muscle.
About the Writer
Ron Geraci has written for GQ and Men's Health, and is a co-author of You: The Smart Patient (Free Press, 2006).

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