Q-AND-A

Metabolism and weight gain


Published: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 8, 2013 at 3:55 p.m.

Q: I think I'm putting on pounds because my metabolism is slowing down. Dieting doesn't seem to work for me. How can I rev up my metabolism?

— Amy D., Chillicothe, Ohio

A: That's a burning question, for sure. Your body's metabolism is a two-part process designed to convert calories into energy and then use that energy to make muscle and other vital components of your body (your brain cells use energy, too). It's fueled by food, the hormones your body secretes and the chemical reactions that go on within (and between) all of your cells.

Metabolism slows down for a couple of reasons: As you age, you tend to lose brain and muscle mass (you can minimize both), so you burn fewer calories per minute. If you don't decrease your calorie intake, you'll gain weight. Also, if you're on a super-low-calorie diet (less than 1,200 calories a day), your metabolism slows down in an attempt to keep you from starving.

So the key to increasing your metabolism and losing weight is to take in fewer calories than you burn, but not so much that your body goes into "protect from starvation" mode. At the same time you want to build muscle (and brain) mass. That'll increase the number of calories per minute that you burn, even while sleeping.

1. To lose 1 pound a week (don't try for more), you want to eat 250 fewer calories a day and do an additional 45 minutes of walking (at 3 mph) every day.

2. Do strength-building exercises two to three times a week for 30 minutes, using exercise bands or hand weights/weight machines. Focus on exhausting a muscle within two minutes, and repeating each exercise twice. Consider working with a trainer who can teach you to avoid injury and build muscle.

The bonus: As you adopt these healthier habits and rev up your metabolism, you'll lose weight and protect yourself from cancer, dementia, osteoarthritis, heart disease and a lousy sex life. Now that's something everyone can get revved up about.

Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily@sharecare.com.

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