4 Ways to Make Over Your Metabolism

Starting in your 20s, your metabolism slows down by 2 to 4 percent a decade. But research says weight gain isn’t inevitable. Here’s how four women turned back the clock

by Shelley Levitt
woman on stairs image
Rita Tritter
Photograph: Ari Michelson

Building muscle through strength training is the only reliable way to kick up your basal metabolism (the energy required to keep your body functioning while at rest). But to achieve this, you need to work out consistently and  strenuously. In the past, Loging had done biceps curls and triceps kickbacks with three- or five-pound weights. That will get you toned but won’t necessarily increase your muscle, says UCLA’s Heber. “To do that, you need to stretch the muscle fibers apart to the point where they get inflamed and have to repair themselves,” he says. The energy expended in repairing is what burns extra calories.

Kattouf switched Loging to fewer repetitions with heavier weights, which grew even heavier as she got stronger. Today she works her biceps with 20- pounders and leg-presses 140 pounds, almost triple the 50 pounds she pressed four years ago. These strength-training sessions also raise her heart rate, giving her even more of a metabolic boost.

The bonus of any exercise session: afterburn, the extra calories your body expends to restore its pre-exercise equilibrium. One recent study showed that participants burned about 500 calories in 45 minutes of vigorous cycling and an additional 190 calories in the next 14 hours. Kattouf also tweaked Loging’s diet, upping her calorie intake to a healthier level of 1,500 to 1,900 calories a day. And he advised her to swap calorie-dense but nutritionally empty food, such as french fries, for fruits, vegetables, lentils and whole grains. At first, Loging was shocked at the volume of food she was consuming. “I asked Rick, ‘Are you sure I’m supposed to be eating this much?’ ” she says. But by normalizing her calorie intake with high-nutrient foods, she actually boosted her metabolism, and the weight started coming off. She dropped 40 pounds in 18 months and in October 2011 hit 135, a weight she’s maintained ever since. The best part, says Loging, is that she has simultaneously slimmed and toned. “Women who lose a lot of weight in a small amount of time often end up with a roll of skin hanging over their jeans or flapping from their arms,” she says. “But because I gained muscle as I lost pounds, I’ve been flab free.”

SHELLEY LEVITT is a Los Angeles–based freelance writer.

Next: (Almost) Everything You Know About Saturated Fat Is Wrong

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