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Can You Really Boost Your Metabolism?
Clients who struggle to keep their weight down often ask me how they can burn more calories and boost their metabolism. They’re not asking about exercise. They’re looking for a quick fix—pharmaceutical drugs and illegal methamphetamines to help them lose weight or keep it off. Back in my dieting days, I recall taking some over-the-counter pills myself for that purpose, but all they did was to keep me awake when I wanted to sleep.
Devotee of science that I am, it amazes me that people get away with making false or unproven claims that their process or product will boost metabolism. And, let me tell you, these top selling books do better than mine do which are about learning how to eat in tune with appetite. I understand why, but it still makes me angry because desperate people are getting duped into something that doesn’t work.
Says Michael Jensen, director of the Obesity Specialty Council at the Mayo Clinic in “Boost Metabolism” (Dr. Josh Axe column, Nutrition Action Healthletter, June 2019, p. 9), “Unfortunately, we don’t have much control over our resting metabolism.” The term is just what it sounds like, your metabolism when you’re doing nothing. Which is not to say that metabolism never changes: It slows as you age. If you’re beyond the first few decades of life, you already know this. If not, enjoy your speedy metabolism now because most of you aren’t going to have it for the rest of your life. Dr. Axe goes on to remind us that women have slower metabolisms than men, mostly due to having less muscle mass because “You have to burn more calories to maintain muscle than fat.”
What, if anything, will boost your resting metabolism? “People who gain a lot of extra muscle will burn more calories at rest than before they gained all that muscle,” says Jensen. The effect is small, however. The only way to burn more calories will likely not come as a surprise to you: Keep moving. This is why doctors and other health care providers encourage you to become more active and stay that way.
Take a minute to wonder with me why more people—maybe even you—don’t heed this advice. It’s simple and straightforward and costs nothing. And yet people will spend mega bucks on supplements, shakes, books and programs that claim to boost your metabolism but offer no real proof or lasting success. I understand that some high weight people have difficulty moving their bodies, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t commit to gradually building up more stamina—and more muscle. Take slow walks, lift weights, ride a stationary recumbent bike, or swim. Come up with a plan, adding more time moving bit by bit. No magic, just plain movement, that’s the key.