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Shed Pounds and Keep Them Off

Never had much luck at losing weight and keeping it off? Increasing your metabolism might help.

Your metabolism can affect how much you weigh, especially over time. To increase it, the best thing you can do is strength training: The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism.

But first, let’s start with some background. Your basal metabolic rate is how fast your body burns calories while at rest, in order to fuel the biochemical reactions the body’s cells need to function. A person with a low basal metabolic rate needs fewer calories over the course of a day and could more easily gain weight compared to a similar-sized person with a higher rate.

Your basal metabolic rate, to a large extent, is inherited. Medical problems, such as an underactive thyroid gland, can reduce your metabolic rate, but those conditions are relatively rare. Putting yourself on a too-strict diet can also slow down your metabolism. When you are taking in too few calories, your body reacts to what it perceives as starvation and slows down its processes.

Although you can’t change what you inherited, it is important to remember that people with more muscle and less fat have higher metabolic rates. This seemingly simple statement has some weighty implications:

  • Men have a higher basal metabolic rate than women do because they naturally have more muscle mass.
  • As people get older, they tend to lose muscle mass; that makes it easier to pack on the pounds as you age.
  • People who lose weight not only lose fat, but they also tend to lose muscle. Again, this muscle loss just makes it that much easier to put lost weight right back on.

All of this points you in one direction: the gym. If you want to increase your metabolism, you need to do some heavy lifting. If you are not accustomed to weight-training exercises, be sure to work with an exercise professional to avoid muscle strain. Any such activity should include warm-up, cool-down and stretching periods. As always, check with your doctor first before starting any new exercise plan.

Muscle-building exercises should be part of all adults’ physical activity routine. In fact, the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommends adults engage in muscle-building exercises at least twice a week.

For additional guidance, Nemours, one of the nation’s largest children’s health systems, has detailed information on how metabolism works on its web site.

This article originally appeared in Chow Line (12/27/09), a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2010.

For more information:

Go to the Healthy Weight Center health topic.