It’s not age that’s slowing our metabolism, new research suggests. If you’re middle-aged and have been slowly but steadily putting on weight for years, you’ve probably attributed it to an age-related decrease in metabolism. And if you are a woman in menopause, your metabolism slows even more – right? Not true, says a new paper published in Science.
Metabolic rate is the rate at which our body burns calories to keep us alive and functioning. It’s a generally accepted belief that as we age our resting metabolism slows – especially over age 40.
As it turns out it’s less about age than the rate at which we move.
Further countering conventional wisdom, the paper in Science also cites no real differences between resting metabolic rates of men and women, even for menopausal women, when controlling for other influences.
It’s more about our lifestyle.
Although our baseline resting metabolic rate may not have changed between ages 20 and 60, the factors involved in other aspects of our metabolism likely changed.
By analyzing data from nearly 6,500 people ranging in age from infancy to elderly, the paper’s authors in Science magazine determined that resting metabolism holds steady from age 20 to 60 before logging a decrease of less than 1% per year thereafter.
We tend to be less active as we get older which lowers our ability to metabolize fat and maximize our caloric burn from exercise. Which leads to less muscle mass that prevents us from burning calories effectively.
Don’t worry — this isn’t bad news. It actually means that we have the power to make changes that will boost our metabolism, regardless of age.
When asking ourself why we feel like our metabolism has slowed down we should also question whether our daily activity level has slowed down as we get older.
A typical adult usually sits more especially with most of us on the computer a lot, and most adults are consistently more inactive than they were at a younger age. This inactivity is the biggest detriment to our metabolism.
We have the power to make changes in our metabolism. Move throughout the day
“Being sedentary most of the day markedly reduces the ability for fat to be metabolised.” Edward Coyle, professor of kinesiology and health education at the University of Texas at Austin.
To get the most out of any kind of exercise program, we need to also break up long periods of sedentary time like sitting during the day with short bouts of activity.
What is exercise resistance?
For example, while doing a one-hour workout would normally increase our fat metabolism, if we’ve been inactive all day long, it won’t be as effective due to what Coyle referred to as “exercise resistance.”
Coyle, who is the director of the UT’s Human Performance Laboratory, explained that his research found people who are inactive all day long become resistant to some of the beneficial effects of exercise –such as fat metabolism in particular.
That’s why it’s crucial to engage in spurts of activity throughout your day in addition to doing longer workouts. This could be something a simple as quick walk when grabbing lunch or a coffee break.
How to maximize your metabolic boost through exercise
To maximize your metabolic boost through exercise, you should mix up your weekly workout programs to include both strength training sessions and HIIT training sessions.
Do the right kinds of exercise – both high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training have both been shown statistically to have significant impacts on our metabolism.
HIIT is a training style that involves periods of exercising intensely with an elevated heart rate alternated with short bursts of recovery periods.
HIIT has been shown to elevate metabolic rate, specifically for fat burning long after our workout ends.
One study found that after 12 weeks of HIIT, overweight men reduced their belly fat by 17% and overall fat mass by 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms). This is comparatively more than other studies on fat burning using alternate forms of exercise.
With strength training, we increase our body’s muscle mass, which increases our overall metabolic rate. That means more calories burned after exercising.
However unlike HIIT, the muscle we build through strength training will continue to burn caloric energy even when we are resting.
Strength training can also help avoid muscle loss.
In a study of 48 overweight women on a diet of only 800 calories per day, strength training was shown to enable them to maintain muscle mass and metabolism, while those in the study who did only aerobic exercise or no exercise lost muscle and experienced decreased metabolism.
Fuel your body with protein and water
Digesting food actually increases our metabolism for a few hours, because it takes caloric energy to process the nutrients we eat. This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF). This is most effective when we eat more protein, which can lead to bigger boosts in metabolism than other foods.
This is because protein causes the largest rise in TEF, increasing your overall metabolic rate by 15% to 30%. Eating protein is also essential for building and repairing muscle which boosts metabolism.
Registered dietician Angie Asche, who is the author of the book “Fuel Your Body: How to Cook and Eat for Peak Performance,” advises eating 20 to 25 grams of protein within an hour after working out. That’s equal to a 3-ounce chicken breast (24 grams of protein), one 7-ounce container of 2% Greek yogurt (20 grams) or one scoop of whey or plant-based protein powder.
Drinking water can also briefly raise your metabolism. Research shows that drinking 0.5 liters of water can increase resting metabolism by 24% for about an hour.
Additional research points to enhanced metabolism boost if we drink cold water because of the energy expenditure needed to heat it to body temperature.
Get the rest you need. Sleep! Get at least 7 hours a night
Sleep is crucial for the recovery and restoration of all metabolic processes in our body. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society, sleeping fewer than seven hours on a regular basis is associated with many negative health issues such as weight gain, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, depression, just to name a few.
– Move throughout the day.
– Exercise both intense aerobic HIIT workouts and strength training.
– Eat protein within an hour after workout.
– Drink lots of water.
– Sleep! At least seven hours of sleep a day for a rested body and steady metabolism at any age.