Read the original article, “Is Your Metabolism Really the Master of Your Weight? Expert Tips to Get Your System Running Smoothly” by Parade’s Catherine Winters
All day your metabolism churns away, converting food to fuel throughout your body so everything—from your circulatory system to your hormones and heart to your bones and brain—can do their jobs, says Michael Rosenbaum, MD, professor of pediatrics and medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. Yet, mention metabolism and most of us think first of our waistlines. We blame it for that extra bit of belly fat or praise it for allowing us to eat anything without adding pounds. Is metabolism really the master of our weight?
The pace at which your metabolism naturally works is called basal or resting metabolic rate, and everyone’s is different. “It’s the rate at which the body uses energy to perform its functions,” says William S. Yancy Jr., MD, program director of the Diet and Fitness Center at Duke University. Simply put, your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body would burn if you stayed in bed all day, and on average, it accounts for about 50 to 60 percent of your daily calorie expenditure. You can’t easily change your BMR, which is determined by genes, age, gender, height, weight, the amount of muscle you naturally have and your thyroid hormones. But you can boost your daily energy expenditure—aka calorie burning—by being more physically active.
Muscle, which burns more calories at rest than fat, powers your metabolism, says David C. Nieman, director of the Appalachian State University Human Performance Lab in Kannapolis, N.C. That’s why men, who typically have more muscle mass than women, tend to have faster metabolisms. But everyone’s metabolism slows down as they get older and lose muscle. In a frustrating twist, if you’re heavy and lose weight, the pace of your metabolism slows—a phenomenon known as metabolic adaptation. And if you put those pounds back on, your metabolic rate may stay sluggish, according to a recent study of participants on NBC’s The Biggest Loser.
A doctor can test your metabolism using a technique called indirect calorimetry, a breath test that measures the amount of oxygen you inhale and carbon dioxide you exhale and, thus, the number of calories your body burns at rest. That might be helpful if you think your metabolism is slow and you need more information to set a daily calorie goal, says Holly Wyatt, MD, medical director of The Wellness Clinic at the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center in Aurora.
But the bottom line is this: To lose weight, first cut calories. Then “tune up” your metabolism with these tips:
Work out harder. “The only way you can have a meaningful effect on the calories you burn is to move,” says Nieman. He’s found that men who cycled vigorously—hard enough to sweat—for 45 minutes burned about 519 calories during the workout and another 190 calories on average over the next 14 hours. (The same principle would apply for women.) Mixing up the pace may help, too: A 2015 study found that varying walking speed during your daily stroll may burn up to 20 percent more calories.
Stress less. A study at Ohio State University found that women who reported one or more stressful events the day before—such as getting a traffic ticket or disagreeing with the boss—had a slower metabolic rate than those who didn’t, burning an average of 104 fewer calories after eating the same meal. That could translate into an 11-pound weight gain over a year, says study co-author Martha Belury. Steer clear of large meals if you’re tense, she advises, and seek out stress management techniques that can take the pressure o in the long run.
Check your thyroid. If the pounds are creeping on, your thyroid, which regulates metabolism, may not be churning out enough hormones. Hypothyroidism—an underactive thyroid—is common as we age. Other symptoms include fatigue, a slow heart rate, dry skin and constipation. Talk with your doctor about treatment.