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Rev Up Your Metabolism

Learn how to burn more calories

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Updated July 30, 2014

How to speed up your metabolism
Betsie Van der Meer Collection/Stone/Getty Images

When it comes to losing weight, metabolism is a key factor in our success. Our bodies need a certain amount of calories to function, but go too far above that and you gain weight. If you go too far below that, you can actually slow the metabolism further as the body goes into starvation mode.

The question is, how much can you change your metabolism and is there some way to speed it up?

Metabolism Basics

Metabolism is just one part of your total energy expenditure each day. Total energy expenditure is made up of different components, including:

Looking at these different areas, can you already see some places where you could increase your metabolism? Below are some ideas for how you can do just that.

How to Rev Up Your Metabolism

  • Eat breakfast - When you wake up in the morning, you haven't eaten in a long time. Skipping this meal means you start your day with a metabolism that's already sluggish.

  • Eat according to your activities - If you do most of your physical activity during the day, make breakfast and lunch your larger meals so you have enough energy to get everything done.

  • Avoid skipping meals - Remember, one part of the metabolism equation is the thermic effect of food. Eating more frequently throughout the day can keep that effect going while keeping your blood sugar at even levels. When you get too hungry, you may overeat out of sheer starvation.

  • Avoid dieting without exercise - Going on a diet may be your first step in losing weight, but dieting without exercise can suppress your metabolism. According to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, restricting food can suppress the metabolism by up to 20%. One theory is that when we diet, we lose muscle as well as fat. Because muscle is more metabolically active, losing that precious tissue can slow metabolism and lead to weight gain. In fact, this is just one more reason to quit dieting forever and focus more on learning how to eat healthy.

  • Do your cardio - Cardio is essential for revving up your metabolism. In one study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, a group of men and women exercised for 3-5 days a week for 20-45 minutes per session, working at a moderate intensity. At the end of the 16-week study, the women increased their metabolism by an average of 129 calories, while the men went up by about 174 calories. Learn more about getting started with cardio.

  • Lift weights - We often rely on cardio for weight loss, but strength training is just as important. Remember, muscle is more active than fat, so the more you have, the higher your metabolism will be. In fact, one study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that older men and women increased their metabolism by about 100 calories after 6 months of strength training. Combine that with your cardio, and you could burn an extra 200-300 calories a day without changing anything else. Learn more about getting started with strength training.

The great news in all of this is that you can change your metabolism. Even small changes -- taking a walk every day, getting up from your desk more often, eating regularly, and introducing a simple strength program -- can make a difference. In fact, it's clear that dieting, the most popular method for losing weight, may be the worst. That means you don't have to spend another day feeling deprived or restricting foods. Free yourself from the diet trap and you may just start losing weight for good.

Sources:

Hill, A.J. Does dieting make you fat? Br J Nutr. 2004 Aug;92 Suppl 1:S15-8.

Hunter, GR, Wetzstein CJ, Fields DA, et al. Resistance training increases total energy expenditure and free-living physical activity in older adults. J Appl Physiol. 2000 Sep;89(3):977-84.

Kravitz, L. Metabolism Make-Over: Fact or Fiction?. IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 8, Number 6.

Potteiger, JA, Kirk EP, Jacobsen DJ, et al. Changes in resting metabolic rate and substrate oxidation after 16 months of exercise training in overweight adults. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2008 Feb;18(1):79-95. , 18, 79–95.

Rosenbaum, M, Leibel, RL. Adaptive thermogenesis in humans. International Journal of Obesity, 34, S47–S55.

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