Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What Every Dieter Should Know about Metabolism: The Role of Muscle

This is part 2 in the series, What Every Dieter Should Know about Metabolism. Part 1, Metabolism Basics, can be found here

Muscle drives the body’s metabolic engine. It is denser and weights more than fat and it requires about 20 more calories per pound to maintain than fat. Fat requires only 30 calories per day to sustain it. When you exercise you are not only burning calories, you are also adding muscle and boosting your metabolism for the rest of the day, even when you sleep. You are actually burning the exercise calories twice, once when you exercise and once again when the muscle you built with exercise turns up your daily caloric requirement. If you don’t add calories to sustain the additional muscle, the muscle alone will cause your body to burn fat.

Muscle and Weight Loss

Yesterday I mentioned that if the energy we consume exceeds the energy we expend, we gain weight; if the energy we consume is less than the energy we expend, we lose weight. The best way to lose weight is therefore to increase our energy expenditure while decreasing our caloric intake. Lean body tissue, muscle, is more metabolically active than fat so one way or another we need to incorporate exercise that builds muscle. This is also one reason that men burn calories more quickly than women. Men have more muscle even at the same height and weight than women. Our weight loss program should include a combination of aerobic (walking, running, hiking, bicycling) activities, and strength training to increase muscle.

Strength Training

While all of today’s fitness centers, spas, and gyms have equipment that can accommodate a variety of disabilities while still allowing for strength training, it is important to rely on the advice of a licensed physical therapist or physician before starting a conditioning or strength training program. I am neither. Lifting some types of weights can be done by anyone at any age. Experts recommend that they be heavy enough so you can only do 8-15 repetitions per set.

To maximize your weight loss, you can add an exercise program, or extend the length and intensity of your workout. Adding a few minutes to your workout or increasing the resistance (weight) of your weight training program can both increase your calorie-burning, and extend the length of time that your metabolism is cranked up.

Informal Strategies

I’ve noticed that since I started losing weight I have become more active in the classroom. I sit less and move around the lab from student to student more. When I lecture, I am more animated and move around more. These are examples of ways we can increase our caloric expenditure and boost our metabolism. I had a friend who walked when she was talking on the telephone. Stretching and changing position when you have to sit for long periods can relieve stress and energize the muscles so they burn more calories. It may be possible to find other ways to increase our metabolic output such as walking or bicycling for short distances rather than driving all the time. With today’s gasoline prices, that’s a double win.

Tomorrow: Eating Strategies for Increasing our Metabolism

Here is my recap for yesterday.

Daily Dietary Recap-5/28/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1130.12 72.42 g 194.5 g945.86 mg 10.07 g 7.61%

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