Ask the Doc

Metabolic Speed

What is a slow metabolism?

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Whenever someone tells me that she has a slow metabolism – and, believe me, I hear it all the time – it usually just means she has trouble losing weight. But the truth is that very few people have a slow metabolism. Timothy Church, MD, MPH, PhD, a professor and director at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, says that slow metabolisms are “so rare that of all the metabolisms we’ve checked I can’t remember one being legitimately slow.”More likely the problem is either that you’re eating more calories than your body needs in order to shed weight or you’re eating the wrong kinds of foods (or both). Most people wildly underestimate their calorie intake (and overestimate how much they burn during exercise). Most women will lose weight on 1,250 to 1,400 calories a day and most men on 1,500 to 1,800. If you concentrate on vegetables, fruits, lean meats and good fats, you can eat a heck of a lot of food for that amount. And you won’t be eating the “wrong” kinds of foods (i.e., refined carbs in excess), which can send your metabolism into fat storage overdrive.Muscle burns more calories than fat, so adding weight training to your lifestyle is a great way speed up your metabolism.