By JERRY HITCHCOCK
Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar: You’ve been working out for weeks, but those numbers when you step on the scale hasn’t changed much, if at all.
What happened? Well, if you’ve been eating correctly (meaning not overeating, or taking on too much junk food), chances are your metabolism is on alert, and has slowed itself down in an effort of self-preservation.
Just like most other body functions, your metabolism is uniquely you. And the rate at which your body consumes calories depends on many factors — genetics, age, height, weight and thyroid hormones.
In layman’s terms, the amount of effort (diet and exercise) you have to put in to maintain a healthy body weight is yours and yours alone. You may be lucky to be blessed with a high metabolism, or you might be stuck with one nearer to the other end of the scale.
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Two groups of people are normally susceptible to a slowing metabolism. Older people generally experience a slowing in normal metabolism, which accounts for weight gain over time if no change in diet occurs.
The other group that experiences slowing is people who have lost significant weight. Whether by genetics or thyroid activity, when a person is overweight, the body tends to slow its metabolism, and efforts to speed it back up and met with significant resistance.
A study of recent contestants on the TV show “The Biggest Loser” have shown the troubling truth, as the struggle to maintain the hard-fought gains of weight loss are met with the concrete wall of a slow metabolism.
The study revealed those contestants were burning 500 calories a day less than expected, meaning that unless they kept up a hectic schedule of workouts, they would have a difficult time maintaining their lower weight.
It all seems hopeless, unless you take some simple steps to show your metabolism who’s boss.
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If you are working out, a good way to boost metabolism is to work out at a higher rate, and/or extend your workouts.
Simply put, longer, more intense workouts mean your body is forced to get used to burning more calories. And as long as you’re not throwing thousands of useless calories down your neck the rest of the day, your metabolism will be forced to join the program and speed up.
Researchers have also come to recognize the effect of stress on metabolism. Many steps can be taken to learn how to avoid or alleviate the stressors that can cripple someone’s health. Managing stress has become a more common activity in recent years, and once you hit on the correct routine, your stress level can be reduced to a much lower level.
One thing that is known to alleviate stress is a regular workout schedule. Mid-day (lunchtime) workouts are no longer something that only fanatical fitness junkies do — a brisk, fast-paced walk on the lunch break can do wonders not only for your health, but your productivity. This in turn can help with the daily stress at work.
Once at home, an active routine can keep your metabolism on the run. Spreading out household tasks and yard work throughout the week ensures that the calorie burning remains consistent.
Finally, I wanted to mention two reverses — dieting and calorie intake.
Although two entirely separate concepts, each is commonly mistaken for the other. Reverse calorie intake (or the reverse pyramid diet) means consuming more calories early in the day (breakfast lunch) and much less later in the day (dinner). The thought here is that you have the calories readily available for exercise early, while smaller meals at night aid in the weight loss that has commenced with the daily exercise routine. Simply put, eat less as the day goes on, meaning that the body must burn fat when looking for calories during the latter half of the day.
Reverse dieting really has nothing to do with the concept explained above. Reverse dieting simply means that as a person becomes more active and cuts calories accordingly, some amount of calories are actually re-introduced at some point in time. This concept tries to trick your metabolism into remaining at a faster state, since more calories are available. Commonly, only an increase of 5 percent more calories per week is prescribed.
Reverse dieting has been shown to work on those who have dropped down to a daily intake of between 2,200 and 2,500 calories. This means that for a significant amount of time, the person had to be consuming much more calories for the decrease/exercise routine to work.
Like always, any rash dieting and exercise decisions need to be met with a consultation with your doctor.
Frustration over metabolic rates is common. Getting discouraged and falling off the diet-and-exercise routine is also common. Fortunately, with a little forward thinking and experimenting, solving the body’s metabolic mystery and gaining a healthy body is possible for most. Keep your eye on that prize, and let your body know who’s boss.
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Jerry Hitchcock can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2017, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at HitchTheWriter.