A Faster Metabolism at Any Age
In fact, you can all but negate the metabolic slowdown that happens after 40 by tweaking your diet, exercise, and sleep habits. “Think of your body as an engine—your metabolism is the rate at which your engine runs,” explains Scott Isaacs, M.D., an endocrinologist in Atlanta and author of Hormonal Balance: How to Lose Weight By Understanding Your Hormones and Metabolism. “By making adjustments to these three elements, you can actually make your engine rev higher.”
The eating and exercise tips outlined below are designed to keep your metabolism humming to the tune of up to 10 pounds off in 21 days. Read on for the keys to not only losing, but losing for good.
We already know the reasons you may not want to (you don’t have the time/energy/stomach for it), but leaving for work on an empty stomach is like hitting the pause button on your metabolism. Here’s why: When your brain senses your stomach is empty, it sends a message to your cells to conserve energy in case another meal doesn’t arrive. In other words, your body holds onto the fat stored in your cells instead of helping you burn it off.
Keep reading for more ways to speed up your metabolism.
“Breakfast triggers a process called thermogenesis, where the body signals the brain to activate the metabolic process of turning food into energy,” says Mark Hyman, M.D., author of The Blood Sugar Solution.
Foods high in sugar and processed carbs, on the other hand, can lead to another problem: insulin resistance. “As we get older, it’s crucial to pay attention to how much sugar we’re consuming,” says Diane Kress, R.D., author of The Metabolism Miracle. “Too much messes with your metabolism by causing your body to store extra calories as fat.”
That’s especially true if you challenge yourself: A new study in the journalCell Metabolism suggests that intense bouts of exercise can “turn on” genes responsible for energy metabolism. Researchers found that the activation of these fat-burning genes was higher in cyclists who pedaled at 80 percent of their aerobic capacity versus those who did a more moderate cycling session at 40 percent.
So although you can’t permanently change your DNA (if only!), experts say exercise can fire up certain genes that initiate the fat-burning process.
Exercise is particularly helpful once you pass the age of 40, when your metabolism naturally begins to slow down. Experts used to believe it slowed due to an inevitable loss of muscle mass. However, a study in the journalThe Physician and Sports Medicine found that fit women ages 41 to 81 who continued to exercise four to five times a week as they got older had little change in body composition.
The real reason you lose muscle with age? You stop using it. “We now know that women who keep up a regular vigorous fitness routine don’t experience the metabolic decrease,” Isaacs says.
But that’s not all: A Swedish study found that even one night of disrupted sleep can cause the body to burn up to 20 percent fewer calories the following day. “Sleep deprivation impacts multiple hormones related to metabolism,” Isaacs says. “Resistance to leptin—a hormone that regulates body weight—increases, while levels of ghrelin, a hormone that signals to your brain that you’re hungry, also increase.”
Aim for seven to eight hours of pillow time a night, advises Hyman. “Just a small change in your sleep schedule can make a big difference in your health.” Not to mention your ability to burn calories.