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Ask Raphael: How Do I Speed Up My Metabolism?

Posted Dec 09 2009 12:13pm
Have a question about your routine or anything fitness-related? Send it Raphael's way at


After gaining 5 pounds over the holidays, I decided to hit the gym and work on my bulging belly. After one month of doing cardio and weight training, my weight went UP 5 more pounds, and it wasn't fat turning into muscle. My clothes are tight and my bulges show worse than before. I know I have a slow metabolism due to the fact that I used to eat very little. It's not on purpose -- I just have a hard time eating breakfast and then am so busy during the day that my next meal is dinner. After a few bites, I'm full.

I've tried eating small healthy meals every three hours or so, but am afraid that due to my metabolism I'll gain more weight. So in order to not gain weight but sustain myself throughout the day and workout, I'm at a loss. How do I speed up my metabolism while not gaining weight in the meantime?
-- Amber


You didn’t mention your height, how many calories you’re consuming, or your protein, carbohydrate and fat grams. This type of information always helps me to calculate where you’re going wrong. However, I do know that one major problem is related to your infrequent meals and snacks through the day. This is slowing your metabolism.

I always tell eDiets members to think of the body from the inside out. The human body’s main goal is survival. If it senses any type of emergency, it will do everything in its power to keep you alive.

If you sleep through the night and then deprive the body of food in the morning, what do you think the body is sensing at this point? A potential famine. If you go long periods of time without eating during the day (over 4 hours or so), the body can potentially hold onto stored body fat as a survival mechanism until it knows that more food is on the way. Calories from food represent heat. Use the heat to rev your metabolism.

To make matters worse, you’re working out a lot and , I assume, not providing your body the proper amount of calories to lose fat. This may be stripping valuable lean muscle and slowing your metabolism even more.

You mention you’ve tried eating smaller meals/snacks with increased frequency throughout the day, but I suspect you didn’t give it long enough time to work. Plus, your calorie intake might not be correct. It’s more than just eating smaller meals with increased frequency. The calories still have to be on target. If someone is consuming 1300 calories per day, they might need three meals at approximately 300 calories and two snacks at 200 calories each.

However, that still assumes the 1300 calories is the correct amount for that person based on height and activity level. If you work out, you may need more calories than that. If you’re taller, you may need more calories. And so on.

My professional assessment based on your question is that you need to implement the following:

1. Add structure to your plan. In other words, you require a professional assessment of how many calories you should be consuming. You must be in a slight caloric deficit to lose body fat. You also have to consume enough food to provide energy for your workouts, but they must be just low enough to produce a fat loss. Unused calories are turned to fat, regardless if they’re from protein, carbohydrate or fat.

2. Make your plan easy to stick with. The assessment should also take into account your height, workout and favorite foods that you’d like built into the plan. I want your favorite foods built into the plan so you stick with it -- but they must be nutritious foods.

3. Rev your metabolism. Your metabolism requires 5-6 smaller meals and snacks through the day to help you to lose body fat.

4. Increase your water intake. Remember what I said about thinking of the body from the inside out. Muscles and other tissues are made of approximately 80 percent water. If you limit your water intake, the body will retain water and make you feel bloated. We all know how absolutely awful it feels to be bloated. It doesn’t take much for this to happen -- the body only needs to be dehydrated by approximately 2 percent for this to take place.

Drink 0.55 ounces per pound of your body weight per day. Staying hydrated will release some excess water trapped in the body and most likely reduce your weight by a few pounds.

5. Balance your blood sugar. If you’ve been eating very infrequently throughout the day for a long period of time, then we need to get your blood sugar in balance. Balanced blood sugar will help you to lose body fat at an accelerated rate. I recommend the Glycemic Impact meal plan on eDiets. The GI plan keeps carbohydrates low but not too low, and it provides an excellent balance of protein and good monounsaturated fats.

6. Perform cardio interval training – Along with your weight training workouts, I recommend interval training. Interval training is simply performing short bursts of high-intensity exercise combined with more moderate intensity within the same workout.

Studies have shown people who perform interval training twice a week (in addition to two other days of lower-intensity cardio) lose twice as much weight as those who do just a moderate cardio workout. You can easily incorporate interval training into your workout by inserting a 45-second burst into your regular cardio session every 3 minutes. Your body will be working harder and will be forced to burn more calories. Try to get two additional days during the week of lower-intensity cardio as well

7. Eat breakfast. I’m not sure if you have a hard time eating breakfast because of time or because you don’t like eating at that time of day. If it’s based on time or if you just don’t like eating at that time of day, then I recommend a protein shake with some fruit. This is quick to prepare and easy to consume.

I’ve given you a lot to think about, Amber. Although the above may seem cumbersome, once you get into the habit and make some lifestyle shifts, you’ll be fine. Also, don’t forget eDiets can make all of this easier for you when you’re a member.

You’ll have access to the Glycemic Impact plan (and many others), you won’t need to count calories because we do the work for you, you’ll get access to a team of registered dieticians and personal trainers, and you can ask me a question on my Exercise and Fitness support board any time. I help members every day!

I wish you the best of luck!

Have a fitness question you want answered? Email Raphael at and you could have your question picked! And if you missed a previous column, see the archive here.

Make NOW your time to do something about your weight. eDiets can help make weight loss a little easier. Let our nutritionists and fitness pros guide you! Click here for a FREE diet profile.

A drug-free competitive bodybuilder and winner of the prestigious WNBF (World Natural Bodybuilding Federation) Pro Card, Raphael Calzadilla is a veteran of the health-and-fitness industry. He specializes in a holistic approach to body transformation, nutrition programs and personal training. He earned his B.A. from Southern Connecticut State University and is certified as a personal trainer with The American Council on Exercise (ACE). In addition, he successfully completed the RTS1 (Resistance Training Specialist) program based on biomechanics.
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