You may have heard boosting your metabolism can help you lose weight. But did you know losing weight may actually lower your metabolism?
That’s right. Taking off those excess pounds can slow your metabolism. As we drop the weight, our metabolism slows down because there is less body weight to support.
So how do you lose weight without tanking your metabolism? You do it with a balance of dietary changes and exercise.
How your metabolism works.
Metabolism is the way your body turns food into energy. I tell my patients their metabolism is like a pilot light fire burning in your furnace. It’s burning all the time and as, you exercise and eat properly, you add fuel to it and make it burn nice and bright at full capacity.
What slows metabolism?
There are a lot of things we can do to slow our metabolism – not eat enough, not eat frequently enough and not move.
People looking to lose weight fast often fall prey to fad diets that produce significant short-term results from drastically dropping calories. Those diets are not sustainable. Initially, your metabolism will speed up, then it’ll really take a dive.
You need to reduce calories to lose weight but, if you reduce them too much, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot and not see the results that you want to long term.
How to boost metabolism?
Start by finding out your resting metabolic rate – the bare number of calories that we need if we just lay in bed all day. It’s enough calories to keep the heart beating, blood pumping, lungs breathing, everything moving, all that kind of stuff. Metabolic testing is available as part of the Comprehensive Weight Management Program
at Ohio State.
Then let’s look at the things that we can add on to help increase that number, which is ideally what we want to do – keep our metabolism going strong.
Every time we eat, that gives us a little boost in our metabolism. Exercise gives us a pretty good boost mostly during that time period. Strength training where you’re adding muscle mass adds to that resting metabolic rate because muscle is actively burning calories 24/7.
How to lose weight and maintain a strong metabolism?
There’s a sweet spot. I never want to see women or men drop their calories more than 200 – 300 per day. Combine this with increasing activity to burn a few hundred calories a day. You’ll definitely have better results with a combination of cardio and strength training. If you can make a 500-calorie-a-day deficit over a week, you’ll lose a pound.
These are general recommendations. You have to figure out what works best for you. The ultimate goal is to make gradual changes that you can sustain long term.
Keeping the weight off
The National Weight Control Registry
follows the progress of more than 10,000 people who have lost at least 30 pounds and have kept it off for a year or longer. There are several habits we’ve learned from their weight loss success. To keep the metabolic rate up and the weight off, start the day with breakfast; eat a balanced, nutrient-rich, low-calorie, low-fat diet that includes protein; exercise for at least an hour a day; and weigh yourself weekly.
Liz Weinandy is a registered dietitian in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.