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Maximizing your metabolism

by Cindy Wendt, Science & Environment editor


Some people can eat whatever they want, rarely exercise, and yet manage to remain thin and look healthy. We’ve seen them; they sit down to dinner, eat their entire meal, follow it with brownies a la mode or cookie dough ice cream, and yet, they are still so skinny. How do they do it?

They are just lucky to have a fast metabolism.

Many of us had a fast metabolism once—usually in our youth. We can remember the days when we didn’t have to feel guilty about eating McDonald’s fries, or ice cream every night after dinner, but the fact is metabolism slows down with age. Even those lucky people who today can eat whatever they want are likely to experience a slowed metabolism one day, and those fatty foods and poor eating habits will then show their effects. However, this does not have to be a losing battle. Slow metabolism can be defeated.

Slow metabolism may be a result of a rising level of the “hunger hormone”—insulin. Insulin acts as a fuel regulator in the body and is responsible for taking sugar and fat from the bloodstream and putting it into the cells, according to Maximum Metabolism written by Robert M. Giller, M.D. and Kathy Matthews. The authors say that insulin not only responds to what we have eaten, but it stimulates an appetite for more, hence the name “hunger hormone.” The major insulin boosters are sweets and fats; both can create abnormally high levels of insulin, slowing down metabolism and causing the body to store more fat.

The Maximum Metabolism Diet offers these practical steps for people who want to raise their metabolism:

Properly balance fats, carbohydrates, and protein at each meal.
Eat fruits and vegetables for carbohydrates; eat starches (such as bread and grains) only in the morning. Incorporate some protein into every meal. Protein reduces the amount of insulin released in the body.

Eat enough meals
Don’t skip breakfast! Eating fewer meals is not the answer. Researchers have found that eating fewer meals causes the body to become better at storing fat, making weight loss more difficult. Eating six to eight small meals a day is ideal, but if that is too difficult, then try eating three healthy, balanced meals.

Eat at the right times
Try not to eat after 9 p.m. because metabolism generally slows down around this time. Large dinners, if possible, should be eaten before 8 p.m. Eating small meals every few hours throughout the day keeps the metabolism going at a higher rate.

Eat an adequate number of calories each day (too few is as bad as too many)
What and when you eat is as important as how much you eat. Weight loss at the beginning of a low-fat diet is often not fat loss but water loss. Thus, the weight is usually gained back after a few weeks. Also, low-calorie diets cause loss of muscle weight. Going lower than 900 calories per day could lead to loss of more muscle than fat, while the body stores more fat for energy.

Exercise is incredibly beneficial for the body in many ways, including increased metabolism. Proper exercise can speed up the body’s metabolism for hours after the exercise is over, so the body continues burning calories at a higher rate, allowing the body to benefit not just from burned calories during the workout, but well after. Exercise increases muscle mass. Muscle is the major calorie-using tissue in the body (as opposed to fat, which stores calories), so if the body has more muscle, more food can be eaten without adding body fat. Exercise stabilizes insulin, which then reduces hunger. Exercise controls stress and also makes the body more energetic by bringing more oxygen to the brain.

With practice, these simple steps could become part of a regular routine, and eventually a slow metabolism can be conquered. However, it is okay (if not necessary) to break the rules on occasion!


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