Chow Line: Boost metabolism, activity; shed pounds (for 12/27/09)

Dec 18, 2009


I've never had much luck at losing weight and keeping it off. I read something about how increasing my metabolism might help. What are some ways I can do this?

Your metabolism can affect how much you weigh, especially over time. To increase it, the best thing you can do is strength training: The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism.

But first, let's start with some background. Your basal metabolic rate how fast your body burns calories -- while at rest -- in order to fuel the biochemical reactions the body's cells need to function. A person with a low basal metabolic rate needs fewer calories over the course of a day -- and could more easily gain weight -- than a similar-sized person with a higher rate.

Your basal metabolic rate, to a large extent, is inherited. Medical problems, such as an underactive thyroid gland, can reduce your metabolic rate, but those conditions are relatively rare. Putting yourself on a too-strict diet can also slow down your metabolism: the body reacts to what it perceives as starvation by slowing down its processes.

At the same time, it's important to know that people with more muscle and less fat have higher metabolic rates. This seemingly simple statement has some weighty implications:


  • Men have a higher basal metabolic rate than women because they naturally have more muscle mass.

  • As people get older, they tend to lose muscle mass; that makes it easier to pack on the pounds as you age.

  • People who lose weight not only lose fat, but they also tend to lose muscle. Again, this muscle loss just makes it that much easier to put lost weight right back on.

All of this points you in one direction: the gym. If you want to increase your metabolism, you need to do some heavy lifting. If you're not accustomed to weight-training exercises, be sure to work with a professional to avoid muscle strain -- any such activity should include warm-up, cool-down and stretching periods. But muscle-building exercises should be part of all adults' physical activity routine. In fact, the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommends adults engage in muscle-building exercises at least twice a week.

For additional guidance, Nemours, one of the nation's largest children's health systems, has detailed information on how metabolism works on its Web site at; search for "metabolism basics." In addition, the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans are available online at

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or

Editor: Chow Line is taking two weeks off. You can expect to receive the next column on Jan.8. Happy holidays!

This column was reviewed by Julie Shertzer, registered dietitian and program specialist for Ohio State University Extension in the Department of Human Nutrition in the College of Education and Human Ecology.


Martha Filipic


Julie Shertzer, Human Nutrition, College of Education and Human Ecology, Ohio State University Extension

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