Get the body you want by working with your metabolism, not fighting it.

by William Kim


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Muscle, Fat and Metabolic Sabotage

etabolic sabotage is the only way to describe what happens to the body goals of millions of determined dieters, fitness buffs and body builders.

     The cause? Impatience and resort to quick-fix schemes that disregard how the human body acquires, uses and stores energy.

     You don't need an advanced degree to understand and harness your metabolism. These simple guidelines will help you become a smart body manager.
  1. Stop being a sucker for quick results.

         Are you one of those people who looks at her body and sees only fat hips, a skinny torso or knobby knees? You have fallen into the western trap of seeing yourself as an assemblage of organs and body parts. Your body is a thoroughly integrated system. Failing to understand that makes you a sucker for promises of quick, effortless body changes. You might as well believe you can get water to flow uphill or turn lead into gold.

         Anyone who thinks she can permanently lose more than 1 pound of fat per week or gain more than 1/2 pound of muscle per week is a sucker. The world abounds with suckers and people who profit from them.

         Here's a sad but common example. A young woman wants to lose fat around her waist, hips and thighs while increasing her bust size and having more energy. She buys pills and supplements that promise to help her lose 10 pounds in a single weekend while boosting her IQ, bra-size and energy level. During that magical weekend she succeeds in draining several quarts of water from her body, to the cheers of her bathroom scale. By Monday, however, she feels jittery, weak and famished. By Friday, she has regained the lost water and another pound of fat to boot. She is now plagued by constant weakness and a craving to eat everything in sight. Those stimulants, diuretics and laxatives have drained her of vital nutrients, weakening or even damaging her heart, liver and muscles, while depleting the energy needed to sustain her usual mental and physical activities.


         Another common example. A young man wants to bulk up his chest, shoulders and arms while reducing his body's fat content and boosting his energy level. He takes anabolic steroids and protein "supplements" and plunges headlong into a daily regimen of two hours of weightlifting. He is encouraged by the way his muscles are plumping up, not knowing that it is from temporary storage of glycogen, the precursor to fat. The illusion of success lasts just long enough to encourage him to keep taking the supplement until, a week later, he succumbs to a virus and barely has the energy to get out of bed. If he persists, he will eventually find that he has shrunken his testicles, stunted his growth, given himself man-breasts, weakened his heart and damaged his liver. Not to mention, made himself look grotesque and silly by tottering around on spindly legs with a puffed out torso.

         Is it impossible to change your body? No, it's just stupid to expect quick changes through potions and wish fulfillment. Like all living things, your body is governed by strict biochemical processes. The first step to getting the body you really want is to stop being a sucker and accept the fact that there is no free ride. Every physical change is fueled by your metabolism. That must always be the starting point.

  2. Build your metabolic capacity.

         Permanent improvements to your body must be supported by increased metabolic activity. If you want to burn fat, build muscle cells and increase the rate at which your body turns nutrients into energy, you must first build your body's metabolic capacity. Otherwise, you will end up shortchanging one of your body's vital processes -- often the immune system and, in the case of young people, full growth potential. All your vital functions are powered by the same engine comprising the digestive, respiratory, circulatory and endocrine systems. Favor one at the expense of another, and you will only damage your health.

         Boosting your body's metabolic capacity entails many physical changes. You must increase the number of red blood cells, expand lung capacity, expand and lengthen your blood vessels, improve digestive efficiency and increase the number, size and quality of the cells making up your various organs, including your muscles. There is no way this can be achieved in a few days. It takes a minimum of two or three weeks to significantly increase your metabolic capacity. It may take longer, depending on your overall health, conditioning and age.

         Consider how elite mountain climbers prepare for challenges like Everest or K-2. They begin by climbing a long series of lesser peaks to build up their stamina, strength and overall metabolic capacity. Then they spend at least six weeks at a base camp at 14,000 feet to build red blood cells and expand lung capacity. They spend another week or two at 20,000 feet to further that process, before finally embarking on the summit attempt. Are these climbers being overly cautious? Hardly. They are as daring and impatient a group of risktakers as you will find. But generations of experience have taught them that it takes weeks to prepare their bodies for a new challenge.

         Now, you may not be planning to climb Everest or trek across Antarctica but you would be wise to precede any new demands on your body with a gradual metabolic rampup. Before starting workouts to build strength or muscles, increase your metabolic capacity. Otherwise, any gain will be temporary and you will suffer illness, injury and diminished strength and vitality.

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"It takes a minimum of two or three weeks to significantly increase your metabolic capacity."