How Do You Boost Your Metabolism to Keep the Weight Off?
May 9, 2016 25 Comments
Last week, I shared my thoughts on the study about the Biggest Loser contestants and their inability to keep the weight off.
The main problem for the Biggest Losers is that their metabolism tanked to the point that it was impossible for them not to gain the weight back and it never recovered.
This study has major implications for the rest of us because it supports the idea that quick, fad diets do not work.
It also focuses a bright light on metabolism - the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy – and talks about weight maintenance after you lose the pounds.
1. What about slowing losing the weight so your metabolism never slows down in the first place? Would that work?
When you are on a calorie restrictive diet, your body slows down your metabolism to make up for the new lack of food.
One study had people drop about 400 calories per day – a little more than a Snickers bar in total calories - and it found that they gained back everything they lost over 3 years. Slowly cutting small amounts of calories versus chopping big amounts will get you to lose weight – but you still gain it back.
Basically, you can’t trick your body into not knowing you are feeding it less.
2. How about working out and doing cardio? That should speed things up!
Yes, you are burning more fuel when you work out but then usually you are more hungry. Your body sends you the message to make up for all that energy you spent in Zumba by eating some more food. It is uncomfortable to ignore the cravings and studies have shown that people eat the calories that exercise burns.
3. What about muscle? If I build more muscle won’t my metabolism increase?
It is true that muscles burn more calories than fat. But, muscle fibers have a very low metabolic rate at rest – and since we are at rest most of the time – this increased rate isn’t going to help that much.
4. How about if I don’t eat less but I eat differently?
Here is the one area some reputable scientists are exploring that might actually help. The book Always Hungry, which I featured in February, argues that cutting calories will not work for long term weight loss and maintenance. The author, David Ludwig, did a study published in 2012 where the participants who were on a low-carbohydrate diet burned 325 calories more than the study participants on the high-carbohydrate diet – this is with the SAME NUMBER OF CALORIES.
He argues (rather successfully) that what you eat affects your metabolism and you can increase metabolism by eating a low carbohydrate diet. The problem for many who have attempted his diet is that they find it to be a lot of work – buying and cooking food to maintain the diet – and they find it to be expensive. Hey, if you are living on frozen pizza and bread – eating a low carb diet is going to be a shock to your wallet.
Anecdotally, I will say that over the years, as I have consumed fewer and fewer “random” carbohydrates and have found that my stomach has shrunk a bit and I have more energy. Random carbohydrates are donuts, cookies, and slices of cake that pop up through out the day in places such as the work lunchroom, Costco, and my kid’s soccer game.
Please share your thoughts on weight maintenance after weight loss.
Other posts you might like:
My favorite reality TV show of all time is The Biggest Loser. I felt that many of the messages about how to become healthy made sense....
Dr. David Ludwig has been trying to help people lose weight for 20 years at a clinic at Harvard....