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Handling the 'weighty' issues

If your metabolism is slower than normal, here are 10 tips from the pros on how to speed up the burner. Sai Raje reports.
None | By Sai Raje, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAY 27, 2008 03:31 PM IST

You probably hear it a lot, casually thrown around in your gym, the fact that, "Weight loss is all about revving up the metabolism". Your body's physical shape is very closely connected to its rate of metabolism, which simply refers to all of the body's physical and chemical processes that use energy.

"It's calculated as a basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories your body burns per day at rest," says clinical nutritionist, Dr Nupur J Krishnan. Metabolism varies vastly from person to person, depending on factors like age, sex and weight.

If you starve yourself in the morning, the signal that your body gets is that food supplies are low and whatever meal comes in next has to be stored as fat Fruits contain fibre that is essential for the metabolic process.

"The normal BMR range is 1,200-1,300 for women and 1,400-1,600 for men. People with a sluggish metabolism may find it difficult to lose weight," adds Dr Krishnan.

If your doctor finds your metabolism slower than normal and you're having a hard time losing weight, here are 10 tips from the pros on how to speed up the burner.

Build muscle
The body burns more calories in maintaining muscle tissue than it does with fat. Regular cardiovascular exercise that trims fat, and weight training that helps build muscle mass will definitely rev up your metabolism.

"Weight training is the best way to raise your metabolic rate and burn more calories. It adds to your overall weight loss - the more lean muscle tissue there is, the more calories the body burns at rest," says fitness expert Leena Mogre.

"Weight training causes muscles to breakdown and then rebuild themselves better when you're resting, which increases muscle mass, which in turn increases metabolic rate," says Ritesh Patil, fitness consultant and operations manager, Sykz Gym.

Aerobic exercise
Any form of cardiovascular exercise raises the body's BMR for over an hour or so after the workout. "People with very sluggish metabolism are often advised more cardiovascular workouts to increase their rate of burn," says Mogre.

Small, frequent meals
You stimulate your metabolism every time you eat. So six small meals a day will actually help you burn more calories than three large ones. The body utilises multiple packets of nutrients in smaller meals much better than it does a single load of nutrients from one large meal.

"Keeping up this eating pattern will boost your BMR in the long run," says Mogre.

Never skip breakfast
It's the first meal of the day when you literally break your fast after eight to 10 hours of sleep, so a good breakfast provides a critical energy surge as you begin your day.

"A proper breakfast also keeps your energy levels high throughout the day," says Anjum Shaikh, chief nutritionist, Sykz Gym.

Skipping breakfast could actually leave you piled with extra kilos of fat. "If you starve yourself in the morning, the signal that your body gets is that food supplies are low and whatever meal comes in next has to be stored as fat. Starving yourself for too long also leads to muscle breakdown," says Mogre.

Don't cut off carbohydrates
The first thing most of us do to lose weight is cut down on carbohydrate or starchy food.

Bread, pastries, pastas become off limits. "But drastically reducing carbohydrate intake can reduce the body's metabolic rate. You have to eat enough carbohydrates to keep your metabolism high. And cutting carbohydrates totally is never a good idea," says Shaikh.

Pack in the proteins Protein-rich foods like egg whites, chicken, fish, dal, and sprouts don't directly cause your metabolism to shoot up. "But protein and calcium absorbed by the body through milk and milk products will help strengthen your bones, increase your lean body mass, and thus your BMR," says Shaikh.

Managing thyroid trouble
Improper functioning of the thyroid gland, which manages your body's metabolism, can slow down weight loss. "People with hypothyroidism don't produce enough thyroid hormone, which leaves them with a slow metabolism. But it's not impossible for them to increase their metabolism," says Dr Krishnan.

Eating right is critical. "Avoid foods like cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, turnip, broccoli, soyabeans and tofu. These are rich in goitrogens, a substance that interferes with the functioning of the thyroid gland. Those suffering from hypothyroidism should especially avoid these foods," says Shaikh.

Drink lots of water
Water is directly involved in the metabolism process and the more you have of it, the higher your BMR. But that doesn't mean indiscriminately gulping down 10-12 glasses per day. "It's no longer a blanket rule applied to everyone. If you sit at a desk in an air-conditioned space, you don't need 12 glasses of water a day, simply because there's hardly any loss of water due to sweating.

Up to eight glasses a day is good enough to keep your metabolism running," says Dr Krishnan.

Trim the trans fat
The reason is simple. Too much fat or oil intake increases the body's fat percentage, which slows down metabolism. "Avoid junk food and oily snacks - they only make your system sluggish and lower your metabolism," says Shaikh.

Metabolism boosters Complex carbohydrates and high-fibre vegetables and cereals burn more calories than simple carbohydrates and are more likely to get your metabolism going than a large serving of French fries.

"Eat lots of coloured vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, red and yellow capsicum. These are rich in anti-oxidants and phytochemicals that help the fat burning process," says Dr Krishnan. To calculate your BMR, go to

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