Master Your Metabolism How to Fire Up Your Body’s Fat-burning Furnace

Your metabolism holds the secret to your best body.

It’s true. The secret to getting the health and fitness results you want in the shortest period of time, with the least effort, is in mastering your metabolism. And it’s much easier to do than you may think.

But let’s back up for a moment and start from the beginning. I want to pull back the curtain on the mystery of your metabolism and help you understand why it’s so important to your health and fitness results.

It’s Not You … It’s Your Metabolism

Do you sometimes feel like a prisoner in your own body?

If you’re struggling to get your best body, or if you’re frustrated with the results (or lack of them) you’re getting, your metabolism holds the secret. Understanding what it is and how it works is absolutely vital to your short-term body-transformation success, and your long-term best body maintenance.

That’s because your metabolism, simply put, is your body’s engine. And the better your engine is tuned up, the faster and hotter it burns, and the better results you get.

To get up and go, your body needs food, much like a car engine needs fuel. Your body’s engine is your metabolism. When you rev the engine — say, when exercising — you burn more fuel. And when your engine is a finely tuned metabolism, your body burns its fuel most effectively, and with less waste. That means less fat and greater fitness for you.

Fueling your system is a calories-in, calories-out proposition. The calories in come from food fuels: fats, carbohydrates, proteins. The body uses each of those fuel sources for different purposes, and excess calories are stored in a way that is unique to each fuel source. Take fat, for instance: the body has seemingly unlimited capacity to store excess fats, and it does so in a decidedly bulky way.

The calories out are burned off through physical activity such as exercise, the digestion of food, and resting metabolism. The amount of calories burned via physical activity is largely up to you: your activity levels and your workout routine. The energy it takes to use the food you eat requires a nominal 10{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of the total calories out.

That means your resting metabolism — the amount of energy required to do all the things a body does to stay up and running, from the breathing you hardly even notice to the thinking you’re doing at this very moment — commands most of the calories out, at 60{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} to 70{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5}. Learning how to maximize that number is the key to your long-term health, fitness, and weight-loss success. Because when your metabolism is optimized, your body becomes a lean-muscle-manufacturing, fat-burning-furnace.

Two Metabolism Myths

Myth 1: Aging slows your metabolism.

Reality: The tendency to put on weight does increase with age, and as we get older, metabolism can slow. But adding another candle to your birthday cake isn’t to blame. No, if your metabolism is slowing down, you can chalk it up to less-than-ideal health habits (like eating that extra slice of cake or skipping workouts).

So what can you do to prevent the decline of your metabolism through the years? For starters, check your lifestyle choices, such as your sleep habits. Researchers have found that getting less than seven and a half hours of sleep slows metabolism. Adequate sleep keeps the body in good working order, and eight hours or more of rest is better still.

Also, keep exercising (or start if you’re not already active). It’s an obvious way to encourage the body to burn calories. A bonus: the lean muscle you add to your body will burn calories significantly faster than your stored fat will. And the exercise itself creates an afterburn of sorts that gobbles up even more calories. Be sure to change up your routine every couple of months, too. Otherwise, as your body adapts to your usual workout, a routine becomes a rut. The result? Fewer calories burned.

Finally, mind what’s on your plate. Eating too little will slow your metabolism by convincing your body it’s at risk for starvation, prompting it to burn fuel much … more … slowly. In the other extreme, overeating will force your body to store the excess fuel as bulky, low-calorie-burning fat.

Myth 2: Your metabolism is genetically programmed and can’t be changed.

Reality: As with many genetic traits, your body may have a preference for a certain behavior. But there is most definitely room for improvement and optimization. Just how much your metabolism can be improved and optimized is determined by the choices you make for your body.

By taking care of your metabolism — proper exercise, healthy diet, good lifestyle habits — you can train your body to deliver its best possible performance. Lack of exercise, poor diet, and general lack of attention to your health, on the other hand, can make even the best natural metabolic race car run like an old jalopy.

The metabolism’s work of turning food into energy and then using that energy to operate the body and to bounce back from everyday wear and tear is quite a process. Through our choices and actions, we can make that process more efficient or less so.

After we’ve eaten, the body uses oxygen to convert food into energy. The nutrients providing that energy are either used to fuel the body, or they’re stored as fat. The byproduct, or waste, from converting food into energy is carbon dioxide. Here’s how the body uses each of the main nutrients from the foods we eat.

Carbohydrates are generally the body’s main source of energy. Carbs are broken down into sugars and stored in muscle cells as glycogen. The body can only store so many carbs, which have four calories per gram.

Proteins are used to build and maintain body tissues and are rarely used as energy. Like carbs, only so much protein can be stored. Protein also has four calories per gram.

Fat is the most energy-dense of the nutrients at nine calories per gram, making it the most efficient source of fuel. Fat is also a long-term fuel reserve that guards against starvation. Sounds good, so what gives fat its bad rap? The body has a seemingly unlimited capacity to store it. And it’s not only fat that makes us fat: When the body is maxed out on other nutrients, especially carbs, those get stored as fat, too.

This brings us to efficiency, and back to the car engine metaphor: A car that’s throwing off a lot of exhaust is wasting its fuel and getting terrible gas mileage. It may chug along and need frequent repair, and that can waste a lot of time and money. That’s a fairly reasonable sketch of what happens to our bodies, too.

Through proper diet, good lifestyle habits, and healthy exercise, you’ll force your body to burn fuel with greater efficiency. At its most efficient, the body uses greater amounts of oxygen to convert more of our food into usable fuel (a bonus: the fat burns first). Less carbon dioxide is produced as waste, and less of our fuel ends up stored as fat (double bonus!).

Why Metabolism Matters

Do you want to make 2009 your best year ever? Do you want to feel better in your own skin? Are you eager to fit into your clothes the way you once did — or in the way you’ve always hoped you might? Is it time to leave behind a plateau and attain the next level of athletic performance?

The bottom-line relevance of understanding your metabolism is this: your metabolism is the most powerful tool you have for smartly and effectively training your body to achieve your health and fitness goals in the fastest way possible.

The end result: by mastering your metabolism, you will develop lean muscle and burn fat faster. And, ladies, do not be concerned; you will develop the lean, toned, tight, and small feminine muscles you want. You will not get ‘bulky’ or muscle-bound. Lean muscle is smaller and more compact than fat, and most definitely looks better, feels better … and burns calories faster. There are no negative ramifications to tightening and toning your body.v

Coach Holly Leonard, owner of BeFit Health and Wellness Solutions, is a body-transformation expert who has helped more than 300 Pioneer Valley men and women reclaim their health, fitness, and vitality through proper fitness and nutrition. For more expert advice, check out www.yourbodyfixnow.com.

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