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Make Over Your Metabolism

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More than 60 percent of Americans blame a sluggish metabolism for excess pounds, according to a recent Calorie Control Council survey. It's not just a flimsy excuse; resting metabolic rate (RMR), or the number of calories you burn at rest, slows with age, hormonal changes, and weight gain, and genetics also plays an important role. But don't despair. We identified six simple strategies that can stoke your calorie-burning fire. Give them a try and end the metabolic blame game once and for all.

Rev the Engine

Hit the weight room.

Pumping iron keeps your metabolism humming and your silhouette slim. But a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that a mere 19 percent of women weight-train twice a week or more. It's time to rethink that: "Starting at around age 35, women lose 5 to 10 percent of their lean muscle mass per decade," says Michele S. Olson, PhD, a FITNESS advisory board member and professor of exercise science at Auburn University at Montgomery in Alabama. "So when you're 45, even if you weigh the same as you used to, you've probably lost about eight pounds of muscle and replaced it with eight pounds of fat." And that switcheroo leads to a 48-calorie-a-day decrease in your RMR. It may not sound like much, but it adds up to about five pounds of fat gained a year.

Make it happen: In addition to regular cardio sessions (intervals are especially good for torching calories and boosting your post-exercise burn), strength-train. "Studies have found that women who do eight to 12 reps of three upper-body and three lower-body strength exercises four times a week using moderately heavy weights can gain about a pound of muscle each month," Olson says.

Ditch crash dieting.

More than half of people who are trying to lose weight say that they crash diet or fast, follow a restrictive program, or skip meals, according to a recent survey. You've probably heard that when you don't eat enough, your body goes into starvation mode and your metabolic rate decreases. Although some researchers have questioned the validity of this claim, a recent study published in Obesity backs it up. People who reduced their calorie intake by 25 percent or consumed just 890 calories a day experienced a drop in their RMR. And that's not all: "If you're not eating enough, you're most likely losing muscle, not fat," says Rachel Berman, RD, the author of Boosting Your Metabolism for Dummies. That's particularly true if you're skimping on protein or essential fats. "Your body will break down its own muscle tissue to get the amino acids it needs," says Caroline Cederquist, MD, the medical director of Cederquist Comprehensive Medical Weight Control in Naples, Florida.

Make it happen: Eat up! If you exercise regularly, you need at least 1,500 calories a day. Active women may require 0.5 to 0.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight, according to Nancy Clark, RD, the author of Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook. That's 70 to 105 grams a day for a 140-pound woman. You can reach that range, for example, by eating one egg (six grams), six ounces of Greek yogurt (17 grams), two tablespoons of almond butter (seven grams), a four-ounce salmon fillet (31 grams), and a cup of pinto beans (15 grams).

Don't party too hard.

A glass of wine a day probably won't cause weight gain. Research shows that people who drink small amounts frequently have healthier body mass indexes than those who drink larger amounts less frequently. Several studies have found a link between occasional bouts of heavy drinking -- consuming at least six cocktails at a time -- and excessive abdominal fat. "The liver normally breaks down stored fat for energy," Dr. Cederquist says. "But with heavy alcohol intake, your body prioritizes the detoxification of the alcohol over the metabolism of fat." Translation: You hold onto fat and torch fewer calories. Buzzkill!

Make it happen: Sip no more than one drink a day. And make it a glass of wine, preferably red. In a recent review of studies at the University of Navarra in Spain, vino wasn't associated with weight gain, but hard liquor was. This may be because the compound resveratrol, found in the skin of grapes, inhibits the production or accumulation of fat.

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jeane.urbani wrote:

I was told my body is in starvation mode. I increased my calorie intake and gained 30 pounds. Now I cannot lose even one pound. About 3-weeks ago I started riding a stationary bike 30 minutes a day

8/6/2014 11:48:43 AM Report Abuse
jilljones26610 wrote:

What really helped me to lose weight was a program I stumbled upon This is a very easy method and will let you reach your goals simple and quick. Good luck!

4/21/2014 04:25:30 AM Report Abuse
samharring wrote:

Awesome article! love this site

2/25/2014 12:26:23 PM Report Abuse
imsmilinatutoo wrote:

Very informative.

2/12/2014 08:23:23 PM Report Abuse
ptgirl100 wrote:

Be careful about doing strength training 4x/week. A muscle needs 48 hours rest before doing strength training again. So, 2-3x/week is best, if you exercise all muscle groups each time. Also, 1-2 sets of 8-10 exercises is all that is necessary, IF you perform 6-15 reps at the most weight you can lift with good form. (3 or more sets will only offer marginal improvement over 1-2 sets). Overall, this is more time efficient.

2/12/2014 07:26:01 AM Report Abuse

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