Sluggish metabolism is a common complaint often blamed for an inability to lose weight.
Some people have trouble recognizing the difference between a slow metabolism and their eating and exercising behaviors. They blame a “dead metabolism” for trouble losing or maintaining weight when the real problem is too many calories going in and too few getting burned.
Metabolism, to be clear, is the total number of calories a body burns on a daily basis.
It must be emphasized that the three major components of resting metabolism – breathing, circulating blood, and maintaining body temperature burn the most calories. Metabolism also includes calories burned by physical activity and with the process of food digestion.
Here is the skinny on what really happens when you go from fat to skinny to fat to skinny and back to fat again.
A national task force of leading obesity experts was created to make a comprehensive study the effects of weight cycling on health and metabolism. The comprehensive study revealed there is no reliable evidence that demonstrates weight cycling decreases metabolism*.
- Losing and regaining body weight does not make it harder to lose weight when trying to do so the next time around.
- Weight cycling also has not been linked to an increase in body fat.
- No evidence that weight cycling results in accumulating fat around the middle (also linked to increased health risks.)
- Body fat and muscle mass return to original amounts when weight is regained**.
Losing and gaining weight hasn’t “killed your metabolism,” and you can increase metabolism naturally by increasing your muscle mass.
Resistance (i.e., weight) training as part of a comprehensive exercise plan can increase lean muscle mass and that’s how you increase your metabolism.
It’s recommended that you start by working with an expert (personal trainer) to avoid hurting yourself when you start out.
Burn more calories at rest by doing the following exercises!
- Dumbbells or free weights can be adjusted to fit your activity and strength level. Use them to work your biceps, triceps, chest and back muscles.
- Rubber bands (resistance bands) are recommended for beginners.
- Circuit training uses a series of machines to work different muscle groups. Ask a trainer at your gym to show you how.
- Chin-ups, push-ups, sit-ups and a straight-arm hang are all exercises that use your own body weight to build metabolism-boosting muscles.
* Weight cycling. National Task Force on the Prevention and Treatment of Obesity. JAMA. 1994 Oct 19;272(15):1196-202.
** Wadden TA, Foster GD, Stunkard AJ, Conill AM. Effects of weight cycling on the resting energy expenditure and body composition of obese women. Int J Eat Disord. 1996 Jan;19(1):5-12.