You used to eat anything and not gain an ounce. Now it seems you just look at a chocolate doughnut and you gain weight. As we age, our metabolism slows down, but there are many things you can do to speed it up.
By Shawn Nisbet
Metabolism: What is it?
Metabolism is the process by which your body burns calories (food energy), and it has three components: your resting metabolic rate, your thermic effect of food and your physical activity.
Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is the energy you use at rest to perform basic body functions such as breathing and sleeping. This accounts for roughly 60 to 70% of your total daily energy expenditure.
How many calories should you consume daily? Here is the simplest calculation: add a zero to your weight in pounds. Example: 160lbs plus a zero = 1600 calories. If you plan to exercise, add another 250 to 500 calories, depending on the intensity and duration of your activity.
Basic rule of thumb to lose 1 pound of weight. To lose a pound a week, decrease your daily calories by 500 a day, increase your physical activity by 500 calories a day, or a combination of the two. However, these numbers are not exact, and as tracking calories can be difficult, it is important to learn the many tricks to increasing your metabolism: nourish your body, nourish your brain, exercise daily, have a good night’s sleep, and learn to manage your stress levels. When you are in balance your body, stomach and brain will signal when you are hungry and when you are full.
While this is easier said than done, it is possible if you take baby steps to improve your overall wellness.
To increase your metabolism, increase your muscle mass
Your resting metabolic rate is determined by the amount of lean body (muscle) mass you have. We all have the same metabolism per amount of lean body mass. Unfortunately, most women have more body fat in proportion to muscle mass than men, causing women generally to have metabolic rates 5 to 10% lower than men of the same height and weight.
Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). Starting at about age 25, the average person’s metabolism declines by 5 to 10% per decade. This means the average North American loses 20 to 40% of their metabolic power over their lifetime. To maintain your weight, you would need to decrease your caloric intake by 20 to 40%. But this decrease will cause your metabolism to decrease further and you will deny your body the nutrients it needs to age gracefully.
If your metabolism slows by 5% each decade after age 25, you will burn 100 fewer calories a day at age 35 and 200 fewer calories a day by age 45. If you don’t exercise, you could gain 8 to 12 pounds a year!
The good news. A slow metabolism is not inevitable. Our metabolism slows down because we choose to be less active over time. Research shows that people who preserve their physical activity levels throughout their lifetime can expect to see only a 0.3% metabolic decline per decade. If you eat healthily and exercise optimally, your metabolism should only drop 1 to 2% over your lifetime.
The power of exercise: our greatest control over metabolism. Not only does exercise increase your metabolism: it also reduces your appetite. The next time you feel the first twinge of hunger, take a quick walk and before you know it your cravings will be gone. To add exercise to your daily routine, remember that it doesn’t have to be done all at once. A short walk here, some gardening there, another walk after dinner – it all adds up.
How to increase your metabolism 24/7: Build some muscle. Aerobic exercise is wonderful, but toning has advantages. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, so replacing your fat stores with lean muscle will allow you to maintain your weight more easily. It’s not necessary to become a body builder – just add light weights and some squats and push-ups to your weekly routine.
For every pound of muscle you add to your body, you can burn up to an additional 50 calories daily – with no extra effort on your part. A few pounds of muscle could add up to 150 to 200 calories burned every day, which could add up to a 20 lb weight loss in a year.
More Ways to Increase Your Metabolism
1. Eat healthy, smaller portions more often and don’t forget the protein. Every time you eat, you stimulate your metabolism for a short period of time. Choosing the right types of food is important. Protein provides a metabolic advantage compared with fat or carbohydrates because your body uses more energy to process protein. This is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). Studies show that you may burn up to twice as many calories digesting protein.
Frequent eating doesn’t mean snacking. Make sure your snacks are more like mini-meals. Include vegetables and a healthy source of protein such as eggs, chicken or nuts.
How to calculate how much protein you require daily. The RDA’s recommendation is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of weight. For those who work out with weights, or who are pregnant, under stress, or recovering from an illness or injury, the calculation should be 1.0 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of weight. Example: a 150 lb female who exercises regularly and uses weights 150 lbs/2.2 = 68kg 68kg x 1.5 = 102 gm protein/day
2. Watch your carbohydrates. Instead of doughnuts and muffins, eat lean proteins and vegetables for snacks; red peppers dipped in hummus, for example. Refined grains such as breads, pasta, cookies, cakes and sweets cause your body to secrete insulin, the fat storage hormone. The more sugar you eat, the more fat your body will store.
3. Sleep, sleep and more sleep. Cutting back on sleep can have a negative effect on your metabolism. Lack of sleep decreases the amount of leptin your body makes. Leptin is a hormone that allows you to feel full when you eat. Lack of leptin can cause overeating.
4. Don’t crash diet. When you decrease your calories too much, you send your body into starvation mode. A crash diet can easily decrease an average woman’s metabolic rate by 15 to 20%.
5. Change up your exercise. Don’t run or walk the same route, or swim the same number of laps, because your muscles will adapt quickly and become so efficient they will burn fewer calories for the same amount of work. Incorporate a few short, fast-paced bursts of speed to your regular routine. Researchers at the University of Guelph found that women who did interval workouts on stationary bikes for two weeks burned 36% more fat. When you push hard in short busts, it reactivates nerve fibres, builds new capillaries and forces your body to repair your muscle.
6. Don’t skip breakfast. Researchers at the University of Texas found that those who ate a healthy breakfast ended up eating 100 to 200 fewer calories later in the day. Research from Michigan State University found that women who skipped breakfast were 30% more likely to be overweight. Eat foods such as oatmeal, quinoa, eggs, nut butters and yogurt for breakfast because they are high in protein and fibre.
7. Drink water. Lack of water can also slow your metabolic rate. John Acquaviva, PhD at Roanoke College in Salem, says, “Since water is the body’s most important nutrient, the liver will turn its concentration to water retention instead of doing other duties such as burning fat.”
8. Don’t look for quick fixes. While eating spicy foods, celery, grapefruit or drinking green tea may increase your metabolism a bit, it may not be enough to have a real effect on your metabolism. Remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
To keep your metabolism humming, eat healthily, exercise optimally, get a good night’s sleep and manage your stress.
Protein Content of Healthy Foods
Organic cow’s milk, 1 cup 8 g
1 Egg 6 g
Nut butter, 2 tbsp 5-8 g
Rice milk, 1 cup 0.4 g
Cottage cheese, 1/2 cup 15 g
Almonds, ¼ cup 8 g
Almond milk, 1 cup 1 g
Brown rice, ¾ cup 4 g
Cashews, ¼ cup 5 g
Yogurt, ¾ cup 10 g
Steel cut oats, ¼ cup 6 g
Pecans, ¼ cup 2.5 g
Greek yogurt, ¾ cup 20 g
Quinoa, ¼ cup 6 g
Sunflower seeds, ¼ cup 6 g
Cheese, 1 ounce 7 g
Legumes, ½ cup 7-8 g
Pumpkin seeds, ¼ cup 19 g
Meat, 1 ounce 7 g
Whey protein, 1 scoop (28g) 20–30 g
Flaxseeds, ¼ cup 8 g
Poultry breast, 3 ounces 25 g
Cooked starchy veggies, ½ cup 2 g
Most beans, ½ cup (black, pinto, lentils, etc) 7-10 g
Salmon, 3 ounces 19 g
Bread (1 slice) or ½ Bun 3 g
Whole grain bread, 1 slice 5 g
Cereal (1 cup) or 1 Small muffin 3 g
*Don’t forget to read food labels
Shawn M. Nisbet, RHN, CFA, is a registered holistic nutritionist, certified fitness consultant and Nordic pole walking master instructor. Tel: 416.804.0938; www.shawnnisbet.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.