A couple of years ago, I took a sports nutrition class, which I loved. Sports nutrition is one of my favorite area of nutrition. I loved learning different nutrition strategies and practices used to change body composition and improve performance and health. It’s amazing how we can transform our body with the right nutrition, training, and mindset.
One of the topics I was surprised to learn was how much our metabolism declines as we age. For every decade after we reach 25 years old, our metabolism declines by 2-4%. We lose approximately 5 lbs of lean mass every decade between the age of 25-65 years. That’s huge! Keep in mind, the more muscle you have the more calories you are burning, which means you can eat more food without gaining weight. So, while it seems that our metabolism declines because we are aging; it actually declines because we become less active as we age.
Fortunately, we can improve our metabolism by making a few lifestyle changes.
Eat enough real, non-processed foods. When you eat below your body’s caloric needs, the amount your body needs to function, your metabolism decreases. Research shows that eating around 1,000-1,200 calories will drastically lower your metabolism causing your body to conserve energy and sometimes break down muscle for energy. This makes it hard to lose weight if that is your goal.
Eat enough protein. Proteins are the essential building blocks of the cells in our body. Consuming protein also increases metabolic rate via thermic effect in order for the body to break it down and digest. Fat has the lowest thermic effect.
Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. If you’re not consuming enough fruits and vegetables, it might also be a good idea to take a basic multivitamin to prevent any deficiencies. Vitamins and minerals don’t directly increase metabolic rate, but deficiencies can cause a decrease in metabolism.
Drink enough water. You should drink at least half your body weight of water in ounces. Mild dehydration can cause a decrease in metabolism by 3%. Yikes.
Lift weights. Strength training increases lean mass by building muscle which increases metabolic rate. So, lift anything heavier than what you’re used to lifting. This can be dumbbells or your children or the edge of a couch, seriously anything will work. Once that becomes easy, find something slightly heavier and lift it. Women, lift heavy weights. I promise you will not look like a man. Your body does not make enough testosterone to look manly.
Engage in high-intensity exercises. Intense exercises include strength training, interval endurance exercises such as sprinting, jump rope, circuit training, kettlebell workouts, and plyometrics.
Vary your workouts. You keep your body guessing by alternating different types of exercises. This causes your body to burn energy and add stress to your muscles/bones, which in turn makes you stronger. When your body becomes accustomed to a specific workout, such as steady-state running, your body will be more efficient and will use less energy to complete the task. This is great if you are training for a marathon and need to conserve energy. This is not great if your goal is a change in body composition.
It is imperative that you get at least 7+ hours of sleep a night. Lack of sleep can cause your metabolism to slow down and not function properly. Lack of sleep causes a decline in growth hormone and thyroid hormone while increasing cortisol. And it can affect your appetite hormones, leptin and ghrelin, by stimulating hunger and appetite and causing you to crave more processed foods.
While there are a few small changes you can make to increase your metabolism, such as drinking ice cold water, consuming caffeine, and eating spicy foods, the changes listed above will give have a greater effect.
Do you have any tips for boosting a slow metabolism?