womenTALK: Blog

Friday, Feb 25th 2011

Easy Ways to Rev up Your Metabolism

authored by Sheryl Kraft

While out to dinner with my friend N. the other night, she eyed me as I read the menu.  "I'm not ordering until you do," she said, leaning back while crossing her arms and leaving her menu untouched. Something was strange about that; N. being a person who always tore into a menu with enthusiasm and gusto. But this time was different. Borrowing a line from When Harry Met Sally, N. told the waitress, "I'll have what she's having."

"So…what's up with that?" I asked. N. had always ordered what she wanted, not concerned with details like salt content or calorie counts. And she never had to be concerned: she's the friend I wrote about who still fit into the jeans she wore all those years ago, back in high school

N. stared at me, her face serious. "I have never been this heavy in my life," she said. She took a gulp of water. "Except when I was pregnant.  I just hate getting older."

"Didn't you tell me you recently joined a gym?" I remembered her enthusiasm, telling me about how she had been going four to five days each week.  "Are you still going?"

"Of course!" she answered. "I work out so much. I get home and I'm absolutely famished."

"What do you eat after you exercise?"

"I usually stop for a bagel and cream cheese and when I get home I pour myself a big glass of orange juice. That's healthy…isn’t it?"

It's a common misconception that we can eat whatever we want since we'll burn it off exercising. The painful truth is this: You don't burn as many calories as you think from exercise. In other words, just because you are sweating and working hard, it doesn't give you free license to eat whatever you want. (click here for a chart of different activities and an estimated total of what your body burns). Simply put, eat more than you burn off, and the weight will follow.

Another part of the puzzle: As you age, metabolism gradually becomes more sluggish with each decade after age 20. You don't suddenly wake up and poof- you're 10 pounds heavier. It happens slowly, over time. Compared to age 25, at 35 you burn about 100 fewer calories a day. At 45, that number becomes 200 fewer…you get the picture.

You might be tempted now to throw in the towel at this news-not so fast!  There are ways to fight this slowdown:

Change your fitness routine. It's easy to get complacent, bored, comfortable with the second-treadmill-from–the-right-with-the-best-view in the gym. But when you get used to a certain routine, it's likely that you'll forget to work hard. You'll go through the motions, just to get it over with; familiarity at the gym breeds less challenge. Don't forget to have fun and let your inner energy emerge: push yourself and try other fitness options like spin, Zumba, kickboxing or whatever else is new and exciting. If you walk, intersperse it with short bouts of jogging; if you like to bike, alternate easy pedaling with more resistance.  

Add some peppers to your diet. Capsaicin, the chemical compound in chile peppers that gives them their heat, can also rev up your metabolism. Although studies show the effects are fleeting, it can add up over a long period of time, especially if you love eating spicy foods. You can add red pepper flakes to so many foods: pastas, stews, chilis, pizza…breakfast cereal (?).

Pick up some weights. People whose bodies have more muscle have more efficient metabolisms; that's because each pound of muscle uses about 6 calories a day as opposed to each pound of fat, which burns about 2 calories a day. Over time, it all adds up.

Drink more water. Your body needs water to burn calories. One study found that adults who drank eight or more glasses a day burned more calories than those who drank just four. Another found that cold water, as opposed to room temperature water, raises your resting metabolism by as much as 50 calories a day. Iced tea or iced coffee (with lots of ice cubes) will do the trick, too (provided you don't load it up with cream and sugar!)

Eat more often. (not MORE, but more OFTEN).  That's because eating small meals or snacks every 3 or 4 hours keeps your metabolism churning as opposed to eating large meals with many hours in between. And some studies support this concept further by finding that people who snack regularly eat smaller amounts at mealtime.

Pick protein. The body works harder if you eat protein: it burns up to twice as many calories digesting it as it does digesting carbohydrates or fat. To keep your diet balanced, don't eliminate carbs entirely. Instead, try replacing some carbs with lean, protein-rich foods.

Don't crash (diet). Severely cutting your calories may peel off the pounds, but it does that by taking it off your muscle. And remember: the lower your muscle mass, the slower your metabolism. Your new, thinner body won't stay that way for long, unfortunately. Its metabolism will now be even slower than before, so chances are good that you'll gain back the weight – and then some.

Want to learn more about metabolism? Click here and here.

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Comments

Jul 24, 2011 21:Jul 9 | resume help said

Comment

Very interesting article and it includes useful advices. Everybody should try it. Thank you.

Mar 09, 2011 22:Mar 10 | Wyla Thomas said

Interesting.

These are some really good tips!

Mar 01, 2011 12:Mar 12 | Jennifer Margulis said

I'm fascinated by this.

I'm fascinated by this. Especially the advice to eat more peppers! I love spicy peppers. Who knew they can also help your metabolism? Very cool.

Feb 28, 2011 19:Feb 7 | Alisa Bowman said

I need to do something. I

I need to do something. I just keep gaining weight...and I know why. If I keep this up, well, let's not even think about it.

Feb 27, 2011 16:Feb 4 | Casey said

In addition to eating smaller

In addition to eating smaller snacks more frequently, I've been making my midday meal the largest of the day. Swear it's been working, though I refuse to weigh myself. :)

Feb 25, 2011 22:Feb 10 | Alexandra said

Interesting to know that

Interesting to know that eating more often helps, also about water. With each decade, I seem to have less of a waist. What you say about protein is true. I am almost a vegetarian, but ate a piece of meat the other day. It took me forever to digest it.

Feb 25, 2011 18:Feb 6 | Kris said

I SO need this information

I SO need this information right now!

Feb 25, 2011 17:Feb 5 | Jane Boursaw said

Thanks for this. I've had to

Thanks for this. I've had to start paying more attention to my metabolism over the past few years. But I'm still in denial that I don't have the same body I had 20 years ago!

Feb 25, 2011 17:Feb 5 | NoPotCooking said

I hate how exercise makes you

I hate how exercise makes you SOO hungry, like your friend. Yet it doesn't burn as many calories as you want to eat! I can't tolerate hot peppers so I guess I won't get the benefits of that one, but I do drink tons of water. Thanks for the tips.

Feb 25, 2011 16:Feb 4 | Merr said

The water, the protein and

The water, the protein and the not dieting. These are so important to me. Also, being aware of what I put into my body - I'm trying to go for more whole foods, less processed all around. I honestly find my body wants less, likely b/c my body is getting nutrients from the whole foods.

Feb 25, 2011 16:Feb 4 | Kristen said

I'm always famished after I

I'm always famished after I work out too. Lately I've been treating myself to skim milk with a little chocolate syrup and that seems to help (must be the calcium and protein, right?). But it's true that you need to switch up your routine or else it's gets old.

Feb 25, 2011 12:Feb 12 | sarah henry said

Thanks for these tips,

Thanks for these tips, timely, and I'm going to take them on board. I think I need to give my exercise regimen, which I love, a bit of a makeover, maybe add some weight training in the mix.

Mar 05, 2011 10:Mar 10 | sally filkin said

metabolism

I have hear that weight training is more for body bucking instead of weight loss. Is this true?

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