So many awesome things happen as we get older: we get to know ourselves better (our likes and dislikes), we develop those gorgeous smile lines that map the joy we’ve experienced and hopefully we stop sweating the small stuff as much—at least that’s the goal. But as we grow in wisdom, sometimes we also grow in our waistlines. Suddenly, there’s belly fat that’s hard to shake and more cushion in the tuchas.
The truth is, our metabolism slows as we age. And sometimes, no matter how hard we try, the scale doesn’t budge. While there are many reasons for this, including hormonal changes, dwindling muscle strength and escalating stress, there are also some pretty good solutions.
We all know that what we eat and drink and how much we’re exercising impact the numbers on the scale. But, there are other ways too, and I have a list of tips you may not have considered below. So before you run out and buy another pair of Spanx, read this.
Understanding Your Metabolism
Basically, metabolism is the process your body uses to convert calories into energy (we often refer to this as “burning calories”). Whether you know it or not, your body is always burning calories. Even when you’re just sitting around watching Gilmore Girls for the third time, your body is using energy to run the inner show that goes on behind the scenes—stuff like keeping your ticker running, blood circulating, repairing your cells, breathing, and the list goes on. This accounts for about eighty percent of your metabolism (study).
In addition to the calories burned just to keep your body functioning each day, you also burn them while digesting food (which takes a lot of energy)—and of course during exercise and any physical activity (folding laundry, painting your nails, even tweeting!). So, that’s your metabolism in a nutshell. Some of it’s within your control and some of it’s not.
As I mentioned earlier, your metabolism doesn’t always stay the same throughout your life. For most women, metabolism drops about 1-2% per decade after age 25. So to put that into perspective, continuing to eat the same foods and exercise the same amount could mean gaining about 2 pounds per year after age 25. No biggie for a year or two, but after 10 or 20 years, a noticeable amount of extra weight may be hanging around.
This is when boosting your metabolism can really help—because you shouldn’t have to starve yourself to attain your (realistic) weight loss goals. In fact, if you do, there’s a good chance you could actually damage your metabolism. And once it’s hurt, it’s hard to heal. Not impossible, but not easy.
So, let’s say you want to lose weight in a healthy way. You’re being mindful of your portions and what you’re eating, and you’re exercising too, but you’re still not losing weight! What do you do?
Try revving up your metabolism with the strategies below. They may be just what you need to tip the scale in your favor.
8 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism & Support Weight Loss
1. Spice up your meals: Adding a spicy kick to your food on a regular basis can increase your metabolism (and make your meals even tastier). Try adding hot peppers, chili peppers and even red pepper flakes to your foods throughout the day (study).
2. Eat more plant protein: Protein has a greater thermic effect than carbs or fats (so digesting protein burns more calories!). And when you choose plant-based protein, you get these metabolism-boosting benefits without the potential drawbacks of eating more animal protein (for example, increased heart disease risk and cancer risk). Try adding a serving of beans, lentils, hemp seeds, chia seeds or some of the other rich sources of plant protein to your snacks and meals.
3. Stay well hydrated: Try to consume at least half your bodyweight (lbs) in ounces of water per day. Recently, a study done among overweight children found that consuming the recommended amount of water increased their metabolism by 25 percent (study). On the opposite side of the coin, poor hydration is linked to higher weight and obesity (study).
4. Stay rested: Clocking at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night keeps your metabolism running strong. When you’re chronically sleep deprived (consistently getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night), your body produces more of the stress hormone cortisol. This uptick in cortisol throws your hormonal balance out of whack, which can slow down your metabolism. Plus, sleep deprivation increases your appetite for carbohydrate-rich foods, like sweets and snacks, making sleep loss a double whammy for weight gain. (Study)
5. Build muscle: Thirty minutes of weight-bearing exercises 3 to 4 times a week can help you increase and maintain muscle mass, which keeps your metabolism running high. A pound of muscle burns about 6 calories a day whereas a pound of fat only burns 2 calories a day. So the more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism (study).
6. Drink green tea: Research suggests drinking 2-3 cups of green tea daily. It’s been shown to significantly increase metabolism for 24 hours after consumption (study). Also, green tea may boost fat oxidation, which means less storage of body fat.
7. Fill your plate with whole, plant-based foods: People following a plant-based diet usually have an easier time losing weight and keeping it off compared to their omnivorous pals. Why? Because plant-based foods are typically lower in calories than animal-based ones. Also, plant foods (and even more so whole plant foods) have a greater thermic effect than animal-based ones—meaning you burn more calories while digesting them (study). In fact, plant-based eaters burn about 300 more calories a day on average while at rest (study).
8. Reduce your stress level: Maintaining a healthy metabolism is also connected to our levels of stress and overwhelm. So if you want to lose the weight and keep it off, then stress reduction practices, like meditation, breath work, exercise, talk therapy and other self-care strategies, are important parts of your overall plan. In fact, recent research has shown a significant decrease in metabolism and an increase in insulin release (which triggers appetite) the day following a stressful event (study). Over the course of a year, this drop in metabolism could add up to 11 pounds.