As we get older, it seems harder to lose fat or maintain body weight. Even when you watch what you eat, it can feel like a never-ending battle. Why? One word: metabolism. That’s the rate at which your body burns calories for fuel. While metabolism starts to decline around the age of 30, most of us really start to take notice after we are “over the hill” in our 40s. In fact, studies show that metabolic rate declines 2 – 4% each passing decade after the age of 20, on average.
For most of us, metabolism changes because our bodies change. And, our bodies change because our lifestyles change. As we get older, we tend to be more sedentary, and because of the lowered activity levels, body composition starts shifting. We lose calorie-burning muscle mass and gain unsightly body fat, leading to, you guessed it, lowered metabolism; which increases body fat and the cycle continues. Indeed, studies show adults lose about 3 – 8% of their muscle mass each passing decade after the age of 25!
As grim as that may sound, you’re not doomed to a metabolism that slows to a snail’s pace as you age. In fact, the explanation above can help lead us directly to the solution for the problem. The key is to end the cycle and change our bodies (and our lifestyles) to boost metabolism. And there are simple steps we can take every day to do that, including these five fast hacks to boost your metabolism.
One of the most effective, surefire ways to increase metabolism is by gaining lean muscle mass. And, arguably the best way to do that is with a regular resistance training program (i.e., lifting weights). As you stress your muscles with weights that are difficult to move, a cascade of reactions in your body signals them to grow. Muscle mass is “metabolically active,” and the more of it you have, the more calories you burn—even when you’re just sitting on your butt.
Speaking of sitting, remember how I mentioned the sedentary lifestyles of most adults? How often do you find yourself sitting still in a chair, car or couch? One of the best ways to boost metabolism is to MOVE.
People who fidget in their chairs, pace around the office while on the phone, take the stairs or stand at their desks for three or more hours have what I like to call the “metabolic advantage.” These types of activities make up a component of our daily metabolic rate called non-exercise activity thermogenesis (or NEAT, for short), and those seemingly small, extra movements throughout the day can have a BIG impact. Indeed, studies show that people who fidget and have higher NEAT are more likely to be lean.
One of the most research-backed exercise methods for getting more (results) from less (time) is High Intensity Interval Training – or HIIT. All you do is pick an exercise (say running outside) and perform short periods of high effort (running as fast as you can), alternated with intervals of lower effort (walking) for one to two minutes each (don’t forget to warm up first). All it takes is 15 to 20 minutes of intervals to increase “after burn” (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), boosting your metabolism for the remainder of the day.
When it comes to calorie control, most people think of eating less. Yet what may be most important is to eat enough for your activity levels. If you under eat, your body will take measures to slow your metabolic rate to adjust for the lowered calories, bringing your results to a screeching halt—also known as a weight-loss plateau. Even more, traditional dieting (reduced-calorie diet without adequate protein and/or resistance training) often results in muscle loss, which further compounds the metabolism dilemma.
On the other hand, if you overeat, you’ll pack on the pounds and find yourself back in the aforementioned losing cycle. Don’t skimp on protein either; protein has its own metabolism-boosting properties, which we call the “thermogenic burn.” On average, your body burns 3 – 6 times more calories processing protein compared to carbs or fats, and your body is less likely to store calories from protein as fat.
Whether you choose coffee or tea (or both), research has shown these beverages help stimulate metabolism. Coffee has been shown to increase metabolic rate by up to 11%, while tea may be up to 4%—an effect that can last an entire day.
Perhaps the most important beverage you can drink to boost metabolism, however, is water. Surprised? It’s true. One study showed that subjects who drank 17 ounces of water increased metabolic rate by 30% within 10 minutes. Yet another reason to stay hydrated! Take your bodyweight and cut in half – that number is the amount of water you should be drinking daily. At a body weight of 240lbs – I need to consume at least 120 OZ of Water daily
No matter how old or young you are, there’s no time like the present to take steps (figuratively and literally) to boost your metabolism. And, with these five simple ideas, you can see how easy it can be to change your body and win that “losing battle” after all.