We know it’s going through your head…” how does my skinny girlfriend snack on loaves of bread and I eat a crouton and gain 5 pounds”? The same reason why some men struggle to put weight on and why most women struggle to keep it off— metabolism.
Your metabolism is an intricate configuration of hormones and enzymes that control the rate at which your body converts food into fuel and burns fat to use for energy when your body goes into a calorie deficit. Metabolic rates vary across gender, age, weight, and activity level and are ultimately responsible for how we gain weight and lose it.
However, according to Pamela Peeke, M.D., author of Fight Fat After Forty, “There’s no reason you can’t have the same metabolism in your 30s and 40s that you had in your 20s.” The following are tips and tricks you can follow to raise your metabolism and turn your body into an ongoing fat-burning furnace.
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Don’t Skip Breakfast
Many dieters (especially women) fall into the trap of not eating breakfast. They think that the longer they hold out before eating, the fewer calories they’ll consume overall and the more weight they’ll lose. This is in fact the exact opposite of what you want to be doing if your goal is to stimulate your metabolism and cause it to work harder.
By skipping meals and particularly by skipping breakfast after your body hasn’t been fueled for at least 8 hours, you may not feel incredibly hungry but your body notices the lack in caloric intake and therefore goes into storage mode where it stores most of the calories it is eventually fed.
When you begin your day with a healthy, 300-400 calorie breakfast, you are essentially “jump-starting” your metabolism as it continues to burn calories even after you’ve eaten.
Hit the Weight Room
Believe it or not, the more lean muscle mass you have in your body, the more calories you’re going to burn daily. Research has proven that it takes 9 times more calories to fuel even sedentary muscle than it does to sustain fat stores. So the more muscle you have, the more calories you can burn just by breathing!
It is equally important for men and women, especially after the age of 30 when muscle mass begins to deteriorate by 5-6 pounds every 10 years. This deterioration of lean muscle mass is the primary reason why your metabolism slows down as you get older. However, with regular weight training (not even the kind that will turn you into the hulk but simply the kind that will develop toned lean muscle mass), you can greatly enhance your metabolism.
If you’re already a regular in the weight room—Bravo. However, if you don’t know a barbell from a dumbbell it’s important to start out slow. The recommended amount of weight training is 2-4 times per week for 20-40 minutes. Of course, as you become stronger and more comfortable with the exercises you can up your time and intensity but it’s important to start slow, especially when your muscles and joints aren’t used to the impact. You can read more about simple bodyweight exercises here.
Up Your Protein Intake
Protein revs up the metabolism in 3 main ways: first, it requires extra energy for protein’s amino acids just to be digested; second, it keeps you feeling full for up to 4 hours after consumption so you won’t crave high-calorie snacks, and third, it helps build lean muscle.
Typically, your diet should consist of 10-35 (closer to 35) percent protein. If you’re a typical adult, you’re probably not getting anywhere near this amount of protein in your current diet. Upping your protein intake is not hard, but it definitely takes a conscious effort.
Protein shakes are a quick and easy way to increase your daily protein intake because each serving typically contains 24-30g of protein alone. Other high sources of protein include lean meat like chicken and fish, low-fat cheese and yogurt, beans, and nuts.
If you’re one of those who make it to the gym but somehow always finds themselves bee-lining to the treadmill or heading straight for the leg press because you’re familiar with it and you’re relying more on muscle memory than actual muscle—something needs to change.
Changing up your work out is a fantastic way to boost the metabolism because it forces you to use muscles and stamina that your body isn’t used to using, and in turn, burn more calories. This is the same reason why you’re going to burn more calories if you’re doing an interval treadmill workout rather than running for 40 minutes at 6.0 miles per hour the entire time.
Don’t have time to try a new class or spend an hour in the gym figuring out new equipment? Try starting your day with 15 minutes of weights whether you use dumbbells or bodyweight then get ready and go to work or school or run your errands. Then on your lunch break take a 30-minute walk or jog and then do some ab work right before bed. By spreading out your workout, you’re elevating your heart rate several times throughout the day and continuing to burn extra calories even after you’ve stopped the activity.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep has a larger impact on your metabolism that you may have originally thought. According to a study done at the University of Chicago, individuals who got four hours of sleep or less a night had a harder time processing carbohydrates—a major source of body fat.
When you’re lacking sleep, your body requires extra calories to simply keep you awake and isn’t able to use the calories to process food properly, let alone burn body fat.
Ready, Set, Go
Don’t let your age or any other physicality stop you from reaching your full metabolic potential. Yes, age, gender, and weight may have given you the short end of the stick but it’s never too late to start increasing your metabolism and to begin burning more calories naturally than ever before.