8 Metabolism Secrets That Help You Blast Calories

Your metabolism

It’s no wonder metabolism is a subject of fascination and speculation: The process that turns food into fuel powers all that we do. “Even when you’re sleeping, your body requires energy for things like breathing and repairing cell damage,” says Donald Hensrud, MD, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. The number of calories you need to perform such basic functions is called your resting metabolic rate (RMR)—and it can affect everything from your waistline to your energy level. Read on to learn how to keep your metabolism revved so your body is operating at just the right speed.

Dieting can lower your metabolism

“Whenever you cut calories, your metabolism slows down, often by more than you’d expect,” says Kevin Hall, PhD, an obesity researcher at the National Institutes of Health. Studies have found that formerly obese people have a 3 to 5 percent lower RMR than people who’ve never had to lose weight. But such a drastic slowdown isn’t inevitable. Other research has shown that regular exercise can counteract the effect. And a gradual weight-loss strategy can help keep your metabolism humming. A good rule of thumb: Reduce caloric intake by no more than 500 calories a day, and torch roughly the same number through exercise. A 1,000-calorie daily deficit should help you lose about 2 pounds a week.

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Chronic stress slows your burn

Wigged-out and gaining weight? No, it’s not in your head (unfortunately). Research suggests that when you’re totally frazzled, your metabolism stalls. One reason: Chronic stress stimulates the production of betatrophin, a protein that inhibits an enzyme needed to break down fat, per a University of Florida study. Other research found that women who experienced a stressful event the day before eating a single high-fat meal burned 104 fewer calories over the seven hours following the meal than their more chillaxed counterparts. “The stressed women also had higher insulin levels, which contributes to fat storage,” says study author Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, a professor at The Ohio State University. These effects could lead to a gain of 11 pounds a year, she says.

Intermittent fasting may help

For the most part, experts have advised against cleanses and other trendy fasts. But research now shows that alternate-day fasting—which entails eating without restriction one day, then consuming about 500 calories the next—can trigger weight loss without mucking up your metabolism. Women who followed this plan for eight weeks lost an average of 13 pounds, according to a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago. “When we compared the change in their resting metabolic rate to that of subjects who lost weight by consuming 25 percent fewer calories overall, we didn’t see any differences between the two groups,” says study author Krista Varady, PhD.

What’s more, after the first few days, most of the women in the alternate-day fasting group didn’t report feeling hungry. But Dr. Hensrud cautions that further research is needed to determine the long-term effects of this strategy. If you’re tempted to try it, do so under a doctor’s supervision.

Hallie Levine

May 30, 2017

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