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5 ways to increase your metabolic rate

Monday - 11/11/2013, 3:49pm  ET

Lisa Reed, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON - We need energy in everything we do: from moving, to thinking and eating. Most of the energy needed in daily life comes from the food we eat.

Your metabolic rate is the rate at which your body converts food into energy. As you get older, your metabolic rate tends to decrease -- sometimes by as much as 10 percent a decade -- as adults become less active. A decreasing metabolic rate can mean disaster for your diet.

The number of calories we burn each day is affected by our metabolic rates, along with exercise and the amount of muscle on our bodies.

But there are some things you can do to keep your metabolic rate up, even as you age. Increasing your metabolic rate won't just help with weight loss and maintenance, it will also help with overall energy levels.

Increase your metabolic rate:

  • Strength train: Muscle burns more calories than fat, so you can increase your metabolic rate by having more muscle on your body. Add resistance exercises that build muscle at least two to three times a week. See the video below for a strength training workout.

  • Add intervals to vary your cardio intensity: Make your cardio workout more intense by adding interval training. Here is a sample cardio routine: Warm-up for five minutes, perform 20-second bursts of high-intensity cardio, followed by 40- second recovery periods. Do this 10 times. By changing up the cardio intensities, the metabolic rate increases several hours after exercise.

  • Make time for a workout: Constant anxiety can actually cause your glands to store more fat. Fitting in a workout lowers stress, gives your metabolism a boost and protects your metabolic rate from dipping.

  • Eat often: Eating small, healthy meals every two to three hours helps build muscle and prevents the storage of fat. Eating healthy and frequently tells your body that you will always have access to food, so it will burn that food immediately.

    If you eat large meals and then don't eat for long periods, your body will store the food in case you don't get another meal. This is referred to as "starvation mode."

    Your body burns twice as many calories digesting high-protein foods than it does digesting foods that are high in carbs or fat. Fruits and veggies are also important because they contain fiber, which helps stabilize blood sugar levels as the body tries hard to break the food down. Plus, vegetables are low in calories, yet high in nutrients.

  • Be more active: When you increase your physical activity level, you burn more calories. Those who are always on the go, increase their energy by 20 percent. Incorporate activity into your daily life: Take several 10 to 15 minute brisk walks per day, take the stairs over the elevator, walk the escalators instead of riding. Every little bit counts.

Strength training can help boost your metabolic rate:

Lisa Reed is a certified personal trainer in the D.C. area and owner of Lisa Reed Fitness. Read more about Lisa at www.lisareedfitness.com. Follow @lisareedfitness and @WTOPLiving on Twitter.

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