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Pump up your strength workout and you'll reap the rewards long after you've put down the dumbbells. Research has shown that your metabolism can stay revved by 25 percent for up to 15 hours after a high-intensity strength session. Plus, regular resistance training helps keep your metabolic fires ignited daily, notes Michele S. Olson, PhD, an exercise physiologist at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama. This workout focuses on a slower lowering phase for each exercise, which forces the muscles to work harder, says Cindy Whitmarsh, president of Ultrafit Nutrition Systems in San Diego.
For each rep, lift the weight in two counts and lower it in eight. Do two or three sets of each move. Aim for a total of three workouts a week -- after six weeks, you'll have sleeker muscles and a metabolism that roars!
Mix the strength moves here with short, high-energy bursts of cardio and you'll boost your calorie burn by as much as 25 percent, blasting about 320 calories in 45 minutes.
Warm up: Do any form of moderate-intensity cardio (jogging, cycling, elliptical machine, stair stepper, etc.) for four minutes.
Intervals: Alternate one strength move with three minutes of cardio -- try jumping rope, jogging in place, or quickly stepping up and down off a step bench. (To make it harder, lift your knees into your chest or raise both arms overhead while stepping.)
Cool down: After your last weight move, do four minutes of moderate-intensity cardio.
Your resting metabolic rate (RMR) -- the amount of calories you burn before adding in any activity -- accounts for roughly 70 percent of your daily calorie burn. Knowing this number should help you estimate just how much you need to eat and exercise every day. But until recently, finding your precise RMR could be done only in a laboratory setting. Enter personal RMR monitoring devices such as the BodyGem, a small tool that measures oxygen output from the breath. It is routinely used at high-end health clubs. But at about $50 for a BodyGem test, we wondered if the investment was truly worth it.
"While this data may be helpful to someone on a strict calorie-controlled diet, it has its drawbacks," says Reed Humphrey, PhD, a professor of physical therapy at Idaho State University. "If you log in a low number, you might be tempted to cut your calories too far, which can harm both health and metabolism," he says. Instead, concentrate on a balanced diet and regular workouts. "These are the things to invest in, since they have an impact on what you see in the mirror," he says.
Q&A: Can drinking water speed up your metabolism?
Yes, says Rachel Brandeis, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, but the effect is tiny and temporary at best. "You might burn a few extra calories, but it won't translate into any long-term, meaningful changes," she explains. One study found that subjects who drank half a liter of water a day had a 30 percent increase in metabolism -- but the boost lasted just 40 minutes.
Originally published in Fitness magazine, October 2005.