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Metabolism Hacks: Tap into Your Calorie-Burning Power

WebMD Feature from "Redbook" Magazine

By Jeannette Moninger

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What woman hasn't complained, "My metabolism is sooo slow!" Or sworn, "My metabolism was sooo much faster before I turned 30." We blame metabolism for our jean size, for the fact that we can't eat (or drink) the way we used to without putting on pounds, and for the fact that all that working out just doesn't seem to work. Most of all, we feel doomed to muddle through with the metabolism we've got. But raise your hand if you can explain what the M word even means. Anyone? Anyone?

Here's the deal:

Yes, your metabolism affects your size, and the faster your personal motor runs, the more calories you'll burn. But the truth is, a slow metabolism isn't the real reason you're packing on pounds. You are the reason. It's what you do — or don't do — with your body's calorie-burning machine that will determine whether you'll fit into those high-school jeans or not. Yes, it can be irritating that we have only ourselves to blame, but the good news is, that means you are in control of your weight. Once you understand what metabolism is and how it works, you'll need to make only a few simple changes to make the most of yours — and to achieve a healthy weight you can maintain. Here are all the burning facts you need to know about that mysterious calorie-burner we call metabolism.

Metabolism fuels your body using calories you've eaten.

You probably associate the word metabolism with weight gain and loss, but it's really a name for the process by which your body converts food into fuel. Even at rest, your body needs energy — in the form of calories you've eaten — for basic functions such as circulating blood, breathing, and growing and repairing cells. Up to 75 percent of the calories you take in every day go toward this resting metabolic rate, or RMR (sometimes called basal metabolic rate, or BMR). The remainder gives you the fuel you need for daily activities and helps with digestion. (Yes, the mere act of processing foods burns calories!) Most women need 1,200 calories a day to support their RMRs, plus 200 to 400 extra calories for daily activities (and even more if you exercise regularly). Unfortunately, whatever surplus your body can't use ends up stored as junk in your trunk (or thighs or belly). "It's simply a matter of intake versus output," says cardiologist Joseph Klapper, M.D., author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Metabolism. "Consume more calories than your metabolism needs, and you'll gain weight."

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