There she is again. That girl at work whose body you would die for. Why does it seem like she can eat whatever she wants, and not gain a pound? Meanwhile, you just look at food and it seems to fatten you up.
The answer is metabolism.
There's no mystery here. Metabolism is simply put the rate to which you burn calories. There is a longer, more scientific definition, but this is the long and short of it.
Feel free to blame your parents for genetics and those factors which you can't do anything about, but you do have control over your activity level, food intake and body composition. These factors play a major role in your body's metabolic rate. An important fact to understand regarding metabolism is that the body's primary fuel source during lower energy activities (sleep, sitting at your desk, watching TV, riding the bus, etc.) is fat.
These activities occupy most of your time. When you increase your metabolic rate, you begin to burn more calories in response to all the activities. And the more likely that your body will be using stored fat as an energy source. The main focus of any worthwhile fitness plan should be to increase metabolism so the body's furnace is burning at a higher level. Some ways to increase metabolism include:
1. Build more muscle. More of the body's energy is required to maintain muscle mass. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories your body will burn. In fact, about 50 calories are consumed for every one pound of muscle mass per day. Therefore, the more muscle you carry, the more calories your body burns — even at rest.
2. Moderate your aerobic exercise. You don't need to spend hours each day on the treadmill, bike or running path. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends as little as 20 minutes of aerobic activity three days per week to achieve fitness, health and weight-management goals. In fact, excessive aerobic exercise might result in the actual loss of lean body mass if calorie intake is too low, which reduces metabolic rate
3. Increase activity throughout the day. Instead of using the elevator to get to your fourth-floor office, use the stairwell. Park farther away from the supermarket door instead of trying the find the closest parking spot. Spend one of your work breaks during the day walking the office halls. Lose the remote control. The point is to get up and move, especially if your job requires you to sit during long periods of time.
4. Eat like a horse, not a bear. Sound crazy? Think about it. Horses graze on small amounts of food throughout the course of a day. Subsequently, they have very lean, muscular frames. Bears eat large amounts of food spaced further apart. They carry far more body fat on their frames. As for us humans, it's best to eat four to six meals spaced evenly from two and a half to three hours, which makes it easier for the body to digest throughout the day and increases metabolism over the long term.
Chad Smith is a Hagerstown personal trainer, and author of the ebook, "Best of Fitness Answer Man: Volume One." Read more tips on his blog at www.hometeamfitnessblog.com.