Be A Fat-Burning Dynamo (Without Drugs!)

Boost your metabolism by eating special foods, advertisers claim. That sounds great, doesn't it? If you are one of the estimated 50 million Americans who will go on a diet this year, you may be tempted by advertisements for products promising easy, quick ways to lose weight. You should know that when it comes to losing weight, gimmicks usually don't deliver on their promises. It's very easy to get lost amid all the claims and sales pitches. What is your metabolism and can some foods magically increase it? If not, what can?

In very simple terms, your metabolism is the rate at which your individual body engine operates as it performs all its bodily functions, like the creation/building of various substances (heat, muscle, proteins, RNA, hair, nails, enzymes, storage fat, bones) and the breaking down of others (food, storage fat, etc.). Both the creation/building process (anabolic, as above) and the breaking down process (catabolic) occur simultaneously, every moment. The fuel for all the chemical reactions which make up the metabolic process is food.

Your metabolism has four components.

  1. Basal metabolism. This refers to the minimum number of calories the resting body needs to stay alive and function. This accounts for 65-70 percent of your total metabolism.
  2. Thermic effect of food. The increase in metabolism that occurs during digestion, absorption and metabolism of food. This accounts for 5 -10 percent of your total metabolism.
  3. Adaptive Thermogenesis. Calories that are used to produce body heat and keep your temperature regulated. This accounts for 7 percent of your total metabolism.
  4. Exercise and other activity. Calories that are burned during daily activity and during exercise. This accounts for 15-25 percent of your total metabolism.

To find your basal metabolic rate:

Women - Multiply your weight in pounds by 9.817. Example: A 130 lb. woman burns approximately 1,276 calories every 24 hours to keep the body alive and functioning properly (130 X 9.817 = 1,276).
Men - Multiply your weight in pounds by 10.908. Example: A 190 lb. man burns approximately 1,963 calories during resting metabolism (basal metabolism) every 24 hours (180 X 10.908).

Both men and women should avoid reducing their caloric intake below these minimum levels. This represents a safe level of caloric intake to provide enough energy for moderate exercise, adequate nutrition and also prevent a slowing in metabolic rate. Basal metabolism accounts for the majority of calories you burn daily and several factors effect it. Age, height, genetics, body composition (lean people have a higher BMR), stress and diet (fasting/starvation lowers BMR) are some of those things. To date, there is no solid research that any specific food can boost your metabolism significantly. Some foods might increase it slightly, but not enough to have an impact. Those foods include flax seeds, grapefruit, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. A good rule to follow with weight loss is that if it seems to easy, then it probably is not legitimate.

So, what can you do to safely increase your metabolic rate?

  1. Exercise and increase muscle mass. Muscle tissue has a higher metabolic rate than fat tissue. As people age, the amount of fat increases and muscle mass decreases. This can lead to weight gain even if your diet remains unchanged. The most effective way to boost your metabolism is through exercise. When you work out, you build muscle, which takes more calories to maintain than fat and boosts your BMR. The kind of fibers that make up lean muscle mass require more energy to function.
  2. Make sure you eat enough! A common mistake among dieters is taking in too few calories. This adversely effects the metabolism. In essence, by following an overly restrictive diet, you lower your body's ability and desire to burn even the reduced amount of calories you are taking in. When you deprive yourself of calories, your body thinks it's in starvation mode and your metabolism will slow to conserve the calories you do have.
  3. Eat smaller meals more frequently. You raise your metabolic rate every time you eat, so eating more frequently gives you more metabolic boost. Sometimes it's not what you eat but how you eat it that affects your weight. In the case of metabolism management, it's wise to have more tiny meals scattered throughout the day, since eating one huge meal will slow your system.
  4. Thyroid: Although the thyroid sometimes takes undeserved blame for obesity caused by simple inactivity, if it isn't doing its job, it can drag your metabolism down. The thyroid gland controls the use of energy in your cells, and an improperly functioning thyroid gland makes you feel sluggish and carry more weight.
  5. Protein and Fiber: Eating plenty of protein is also good for building that metabolism-boosting muscle mass. How much you exercise determines how much protein you should eat. If you're sedentary, you need to take in 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. However, if you do aerobics three to five times a week, you need 0.5 grams for every pound.

Fiber does more than regulate your bowels -- it regulates your metabolism, too. Fiber is digested more slowly than other nutrients, because it's composed of long molecule chains that must be broken down into single glucose molecules before they can be used by the body. This slow process can compensate for poor food choices, like excess sugar, which is metabolized quickly and causes insulin spikes in the bloodstream. Eating more fiber will keep you from riding high and then crashing from your body's response to that addictive glucose.

Every year, book publishers and supplement companies come out with miracle diets and supplements that promise to lift your metabolism and melt away unwanted pounds. Unfortunately, most of this advice is at best laughable and at worst dangerous. The best way to reach your goal is slowly and sensibly with one of the eDiets plans.