Ten Strategies to Raise Your Metabolism to Lose Weight

January 06, 2006

Ten Strategies to Raise Your Metabolism to Lose Weight 

 Competency # 3, 4, 5, 7                         Reference:  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 79, No. 5, 899S-906S, May 2004 

(Editor's Note:  This blog was written in 2006.  I leave it up solely to show how much we have learned since then.  Read this with your tongue firmly in your cheek.)

 New Year's Resolution:  Lose a Ton or Two! All right already, I've got the message I have to eat a little less, somehow.  Give me some more tips about how I can organize my eating, not feel so hungry and start down the road of losing some of this Holiday Flab. 

 1.  A calorie is a calorie is a calorie.  The only way to lose your "mobile calorie storage facility"  (spare tire) is to burn more than you eat.  But different calories have different hormonal effects.  You must understand the hormones (insulin mostly)

 2.  Evidence to get your burning into peak form suggests you need to maintain muscle mass.   Exercise doesn't just burn calories but it gets your metabolism up and running, and builds muscle mass that continues to burn more calories the rest of the day.  We lose 5% of muscle mass a decade after age forty so it's use it or lose it.  Do some sort of strength training every other day.  Plan:  get 2 3-5 lb barbells at a sporting goods store.  Do arm curls during every commercial while watching TV each night.  They only cost about $ 5 each.   Plan for a 30  minute walk three times a week.  Get an imaginary dog and take it for a good brisk walk. 

 3.  Eat whole grains for breakfast.  Breakfast wakes up your metabolism.  Whole grains stretch out the energy supply all morning.  Include protein to prevent glucose from rising too high. 

 4.  Never go more than 5 hours without food.  You get so hungry, you starve and then eat too much. 

 5.  Don’t cut your calories to a super low level either.  You can induce your metabolism to be more efficient, making it even harder. (Some experts say you can induce your body to be up to 15% more efficient by starving - and that efficiency lasts for a couple of months after you stop.) Hence, the swings in weight. 

 6.  Get a good night's sleep.  The evidence is in: going without sleep messes up your ghrelin and leptin - and the only way to feel better is to eat too much.  If you are a 5 hour sleeper, you have a 50% chance of being overweight, and you can't figure out why.  All your internal appetites are set a bit too high.  Aim for 6-7.  You don't burn extra calories by being awake longer, you munch more. 

 7.   Protein consumption does seem to blunt the appetite.  But Atkins diets by themselves are possilby a problem.  Dr. Schoeller, listed below, has the most quoted and repeated review article on the topic.  He is one of our own here in Wisconsin.   He concludes the vast majority of the effect comes from protein blunting your appetite.  That's ok.  Blunt it.   A  Calorie is a Calorie.  If you can choose some low-fat protein with every meal, it helps curb  Your “hungries.”  Sugar doesn't. Once I start on sugar, I can go a long way before I feel full. 8.   Plan your food day for 3 meals and 3 snacks.  All things being equal, you will eat a little less and burn a little more 

 9.   Use" tricks" to measure your progress.  When you are losing weight, your body is making ketones. (Ketones are pieces of fat molecules your body is putting out from your fat cells.  They are what you burn when glucose runs out.)   You can measure them in your urine.  This is a way to reward yourself and know when you are burning.  You can "feel the ketosis". There are diet gurus out there that use this idea a lot.  I think it's one trick that works for some.  I'm a little more compulsive.  I shelled out $ 50 and bought a One Touch Glucometer.   In just ten days I've shown to myself that my blood sugar drops 20 points when I am eating right.  It's a huge boost to my morale.  It keeps me on track.  Count every flight of stairs you take as 9 calories.  You can buy one without a prescription. 

 10.  Supplements.  At Mayfair and every other mall you can see people hawking ephedra  and ECGC.  There are studies from tiny numbers of people that show as much as a 4% change in metabolism.    The cost per month is high.   Long term, these drugs are not for me.  The literature just isn't credible.  This is # 10.  And it's not a sensible choice.

This column is written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI, (262-7844-5300)