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Metabolism Hacks: Tap into Your Calorie-Burning Power

Just because you're overweight doesn't mean you have a slow metabolism — and your slim friends don't necessarily have fast ones.

The relationship between your weight and your metabolism is a complicated one. You might presume that the larger your size, the slower your metabolism, yet overweight people tend to burn through calories more quickly because their muscles have to work harder to move those extra pounds. Of course, if you're more sedentary (as many overweight people are), you aren't engaging your muscles much, so your calorie expenditure is still low. On the flip side, when you lose weight, your metabolism doesn't speed up — in fact, it slows. It's not fair, we know, but your metabolic rate drops when you drop pounds because your body now needs fewer calories to function. A loss of up to 20 pounds can reduce your RMR by up to 70 calories per day, but don't despair. "A woman eating 1,500 calories a day only needs to cut 150 calories from her daily diet or walk some extra steps to compensate for the change in her metabolic rate," says Heber. What you don't want to do is drastically cut your calories to below 1,200. "A body in self-starvation mode holds on to calories — so you're actually hurting, not helping, your metabolic rate," says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, R.D., spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Not to mention, there's no way your body can get all the nutrition it needs on such a severe diet.

Men have faster metabolisms, so they lose weight more easily.

It's hard not to hate your husband when he eats foot-long subs every day and drops five pounds while you chew on nothing but lettuce and lose only one. But when it comes to metabolism, men have it made. "Men naturally have more lean muscle, so their metabolic rates run about 10 percent faster than women's," says Liz Applegate, Ph.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of California — Davis. Women's bodies, on the other hand, are designed to hold on to body fat to nurture and grow babies. Our hormones might also play a role: A 2006 study from the University of Missouri — Columbia suggests that metabolism slows as estrogen levels drop, resulting in post-menopausal muscle-mass loss and weight gain. Still, this metabolic slow-down isn't a given, Applegate says. "You won't build muscle and burn calories by watching your kids play sports. You need to be active too, or your metabolic rate will take a hit."

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