Your Metabolic Rate
it: You can't change your genes,
your age or your gender, so there are some parts of the metabolic equation that
will stay constant no matter what you do. But with a few changes in your
exercise and eating habits, you can boost your metabolism by up to 10 percent,
according to researcher R. Scott Van Zant, Ph.D., of Northern Arizona
University's Department of Health, Physical Education, Exercise Science and
If that doesn't seem
like much, consider this: If a 150-pound woman changed her exercise habits and
converted 10 percent of her body fat to muscle, she would be able to consume
300 extra calories a day without gaining weight. Looked at another way, the
right change in your metabolism could mean you can eat three chocolate chip
cookies every day, without gaining weight.
The best way to
increase your metabolic rate is to decrease the amount of FAT you're carrying
and replace it with muscle, which means a combination of heart-pumping aerobic
activity and muscle-building weight workouts. burn calories
Aerobic activity can
be anything from a session on a Stairmaster to a pickup game of basketball. The
point is to have fun and get your heart pumping for at least 20 minutes, at
least three times a week. Strength training requires a little more care and
planning, and should be done on days when you're not doing a full-scale aerobic
workout (a ten-minute warmup before weight training is fine).
A great way to lose
weight and burn calories is to use a
heart rate monitor. A heartmonitor helps you
exercise at the optimum heart rate to burn calorie and bodyfat.
If you've never tried
weight training, here are a few tips to get you started.
- Get some
help: Basic weight training isn't hard, but even a
single one-on-one session with an exercise physiologist/trainer can help make
your workout safer and more efficient. Most YMCAs have staff trainers with
reliable credentials. Or if you prefer working out at home, get a basic
weight-training book, such as Strong Women Stay Young, by Miriam Nelson,
Ph.D. (Bantam Books), or an instructional videotape.
small: The goal of weight training is to gently
put stress on your muscles, not tear them to shreds. Start with weights that
you can lift easily, without having to contort yourself into strange and
potentially dangerous positions. Increase weight only when you can easily do 12
repetitions in good form, and then only in small (such as two pound)
slowly: Yanking a weight up and down doesn't work
muscles efficiently, and it increases the likelihood that you'll hurt yourself.
Use a slow, smooth movement, raising the weight on a count of five, and
lowering it on another count of five. Pay attention to how your muscles feel as
you do this: a slight burning sensation is okay; searing pain is not. If it
- Time it
right: Although many researchers have tried to pin
down the right time for doing various exercises, no one has come up with
a definitive answer. So be active when it's convenient for you. If you want to
do bicep curls at 2 A.M., go ahead. Just make sure you're awake enough to
maintain good form.
- Give yourself a break: Be sure to take a day off between weight-training
sessions, to give your body time to build
new muscle tissue.
The Power of Food
Food does more than
add calories; it also burns them. Digestion takes work, and therefore calories
a phenomenon known as the "thermogenic effect of food." This effect
accounts for only five to 10 percent of your metabolic rate, but it's still
worth exploiting. Here are some tips.
- Do your eating
early. Metabolism naturally slows down during the
afternoon and evening, which means that food has less of a thermogenic effect
when eaten late in the day. So you stand a better chance of burning off a
hearty breakfast than you do an enormous dinner.
- If you must eat
late, go for lean PROTEIN and veggies: Pure
protein has the most thermogenic effect of all foods (30 percent of its
calories are used during digestion), so very lean protein foods will give your
metabolism a little boost. The FIBER and complex CARBOHYDRATES in vegetables
will also force your body to do some extra work, though not as much as they
would earlier in the day.
- Be sure your
carbohydrates are complex. Not all
carbohydratess are created equal. Your body has to work harder to break down
the fiber and complex carbohydrates in whole grains and vegetables than it does
breaking down fiber-free refined flours or simple carbs such as honey and
sugar. Get the maximum metabolic benefit from your carbohydrates by eating
plenty of whole grain foods, such as oatmeal, brown rice and whole grain
cereals and breads, and steering clear of sugar and refined flour products,
such as pasta, white bread, croissants and pastries.