Wrinkles, sagging skin, and graying hair aren’t the only crosses you have to bear as you age. Your metabolism also makes the growing-older hit list. Johns Hopkins offers seven strategies on how to keep your metabolism humming as you grow older.
After age 30, metabolism slows by about 2% per decade, thanks to a loss of muscle mass — we lose as much as 50% of our muscle mass between the ages of 20 and 90, and the rate of loss is especially pronounced from ages 50-70.
Why is that important? The less muscle you have, the fewer calories you burn, and that can add up to age-related weight gain. For women, menopause can slow metabolism even more. Yes, life is unfair, especially since women have slower metabolisms than men to begin with because of their naturally higher levels of body fat. Here are some tips to help you boost your metabolism.
Metabolism Boosting Tip #1 — Eat breakfast. Breakfast gets your metabolism out of its resting state and back into burning mode. Skipping breakfast and other meals may prompt your body to store calories as fat rather than to burn them, in case your body won’t be getting more food any time soon. Infrequent eating may also prompt you to overeat later as a result of excessive hunger.
Metabolism Boosting Tip #2 — Eat frequently. Instead of eating three large meals a day, spread out your food consumption (for example, eating small amounts of food every three hours or so) to keep your metabolism at work, burning and processing calories all day long. An added bonus: Eating smaller, more frequent meals is more filling than eating the same amount of calories in three large meals.
Metabolism Boosting Tip #3 — Eat more lean protein. A Dutch study found that consuming a third of your daily calories from protein can boost metabolism. The reason: Your body burns more calories when digesting proteins vs. carbohydrates or fats. Protein also makes you feel more satisfied, so you may end up eating fewer overall calories. Be sure to choose non-fatty protein sources, such as lean meat, poultry without the skin, beans, and nonfat dairy products.
Metabolism Boosting Tip #4 — Exercise frequently. Regular aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, swimming, dancing, or biking, keeps your metabolism in high gear. The latest national guidelines recommend getting 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise on most days of the week to prevent weight gain.
Metabolism Boosting Tip #5 — Strength train. Resistance training — working with machines or free weights — can help counter some of the muscle loss that normally occurs with aging. And as we said before, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn (the body uses more energy to maintain muscle than fat tissue). Two to three weekly sessions of strength training that work the major muscle groups in the chest, arms, legs, and back should do the trick.
Metabolism Boosting Tip #6 — Get enough sleep. Inadequate slumber may affect your weight — not only because you’ll be too tired to exercise but also because tiredness may lead to snacking as a “pick-me-up.” In fact, a study of over 1,000 people found that those who sleep less than the recommended eight hours a night weigh more than those who get adequate rest. In addition, researchers are investigating whether lack of sleep affects appetite-regulating hormones.
Metabolism Boosting Tip #7 — Move as much as possible. Research from the Mayo Clinic shows that people who fidget and move around a lot, even if they don’t formally exercise, have more active metabolisms and burn more calories than nonfidgeters. In their study, fidgeters moved about 152 minutes longer per day than nonfidgeters — and as a result burned 350 more calories a day. The lesson: Take every opportunity to move a little more during your day, from changing the TV channel by hand to pacing while talking on the phone and standing when you could be sitting.
Bottom line: If these seven strategies aren’t helpful in your quest to maintain a healthy weight, you might want to consider seeing a doctor. It is possible that you could have a thyroid or other hormonal problem that is slowing your metabolism.