Many of my patients are battling with weight issues and are always asking me how they can boost their metabolism so they can lose weight. They’re confused from reading a lot of information on the Internet and advice by talk show hosts on products or diets claiming to boost their metabolism to burn fat.
The truth is, a few years ago I may have recommended some of the same products or ways to speed up their metabolism to help them burn extra weight faster. However, recent studies published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology has changed my mind. Researchers concluded that higher metabolic rates in humans can actually lead to earlier deaths. As a result, lately I’ve been telling my patients how to naturally work with their slower metabolisms to lose those extra pounds. And, as an added bonus they can expect to live longer. Here’s why.
Slower Metabolism Equals Longer Life
Like many of my patients, after the age of 40 you may have seen pounds creep up on you, especially around your belly. You’ve tried just about every new product out there that promises to boost your metabolism in an attempt to get rid of your extra pudge. These are usually nothing more than stimulants that make your heart pound, make you dizzy or cause diarrhea. Yes, they can boost your metabolism so that you may burn fat faster. However, new research shows that the cost to your overall health may not be worth speeding up your metabolism to lose fat that fast. In fact, it’s not the key to lasting weight loss and can actually shorten your lifespan.
Metabolism, or metabolic rate, is the speed at which your body goes through all its various processes. These processes include the burning of your food to give you energy for all your various activities of daily living. You have your own unique metabolic rate that is determined by your genetics and your thyroid gland. An interesting study out of the Netherlands showed that two siblings with hypothyroidism – low thyroid function and low metabolic rate – were still alive and well in their mid-90’s!
For years, the common metabolism-boosting/weight loss advice was to do things like consume certain stimulant-type foods or drinks, take stimulant-type fat burner aids (like ephedra, bitter orange or caffeine), that would raise your metabolic rate and make you burn more fat. You’ve probably known someone who seemed able to eat anything and stay slim. You likely thought they had a fast metabolism. However, a fast metabolism doesn’t necessarily equal being healthier.
When your body goes through its normal everyday functions, your body uses oxygen to do so. This “internal combustion” produces by-products. These by-products are reactive oxygen species, or ROS, which can damage DNA proteins and lipids in your cells. This damage creates biologic aging. This is the decline in how well your body functions over time. Biologic aging can then lead to organ and tissue damage and increase your risk of getting a serious disease and death. With adequate antioxidants, you can counteract the DNA damage, replace damaged cells with new healthy ones, and counter biologic aging.
However, when you speed up your normal processes by artificially boosting your metabolism with stimulants, etc, more of these ROS are produced and more cell damage can be created. Your body may not be able to replace all the damaged cells with healthy ones fast enough. The damaged cells can then multiply and become stronger leading to the development of disease.
What’s the answer then if you need to slim down but still want to protect yourself from free radical damage and a shortened lifespan?
How to Lose Weight and Still Live Longer
Don’t get me wrong now. Carrying around extra weight is still not a good idea. All the excess fat cells carry a lot of inflammatory compounds that can lead to the development of serious diseases as well. You want to achieve a normal weight and stay there. This will help your metabolism work more efficiently as well. Here’s what I recommend:
1. Limit your calories. To lose excess weight, 1200-1400 calories a day of high protein, high Omega-3 foods; no refined sugar and low natural sugar intake (limit 15-20 grams, read labels); moderate carbohydrate (not more than 50) a day until you reach normal weight. Research shows that over-eating, especially refined sugar carbohydrates, over-stimulates the metabolism. Eating less, but more nutrient dense food has been research proven to boost lifespan by 60% in animals.
2. Exercise moderately, not strenuously. For 30-40 minutes a day, 4-5 times a week do some type of aerobic exercise. Do not go over 40 minutes at each session as too-vigorous aerobic exercise can cause free radical damage. Interval training of short 1-2 minute bursts of exercise for about 10-20 minutes works well. Weight train 3 times a week to build muscle and keep you strong. Although building muscle increases metabolic rate, it does not raise basal metabolism – your basic metabolic speed and temperature. Exercise safely raises your metabolism because it activates your outer tissues to burn more calories. Exercise also promotes longevity.
3. Antioxidants. When cutting down on food intake, you need to also ramp upantioxidant intake to offset any free radical damage from burning stored fat. Stored fat also contains toxins that your body then releases when you start burning the fat. Optimal antioxidants are crucial to neutralize these toxins before they can add to free radical damage.
Artificially boosting your metabolism to a faster rate means that you are likely aging faster as well. Instead, work with the metabolism that nature gave you using a low-calorie, nutrient dense diet and exercise to safely get to a normal weight that you can maintain for a longer, healthier life.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.