Look, you probably don’t need scientists to tell you that your metabolism slows with age.
Research shows the average woman gains 1 1/2 pounds a year during her adult life—enough to pack on 40-plus pounds by her 50s.
If you’re cool with this, fine. We’re not here to tell you that there is one type of beautiful body. However, if those extra pounds are unwelcome guests, then it pays to combat the roller coaster of hormones, muscle loss, and stress that conspires to slow her fat-burning engine.
Thankfully, there’s a way to help rev it up again. Midlife weight gain isn’t inevitable: By eating metabolism-boosting foods you’re likely to sleep better have more energy and hopefully feel a bit firmer around the edges.
1 Cut calories—but not too much
Sure, losing weight involves cutting calories, but limiting your calorie intake too much can deliver a double whammy to your metabolism. When you eat less than you need for basic biological function (about 2,000 calories for most women), your body throws the brakes on your metabolism.
It also begins to break down precious, calorie-burning muscle tissue for energy, says Dr Dan Benardot, associate professor of nutrition and kinesiology at Georgia State University. ‘Eat just enough so you’re not hungry—a 150-calorie snack midmorning and mid-afternoon between three meals (about 430 calories each) will keep your metabolism humming.’
Healthy recipe inspiration, coming right up.
2 Enjoy a hearty breakfast every morning
Eating breakfast jump-starts your metabolism and keeps energy high all day. It’s no accident that women who skip this meal are 4 1/2 times as likely to be obese. If nothing else, grab a yogurt. Or try porridge made with your choice of milk and topped with nuts for an essential protein boost.
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, so your daily cuppa (alright, plural) can rev your metabolism five to eight percent—about 98 to 174 calories a day.
A 2012 study from Obesity suggests that high-caffeine intake is associated with weight loss through thermogenesis—the way your body maintains heat—and fat oxidation.
Just off to boil the kettle.
3 Work more fibre into your diet
Incorporating more fibre-rich foods into your diet such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and other legumes, will make you feel fuller longer and keep cravings for unhealthy foods at bay.
Studies find that women who eat the most fibre gain the least weight over time. Women should aim to get 21 to 25 grams of fibre daily, and men 30 to 38 grams.
The vegetables and fruits with the most fibre include raspberries, pears, apples, green peas and broccoli.
Making sure you’re getting a good balance of protein, fibre, and fat every day will keep your hormone levels in check and help prevent you from gaining belly fat.
4 Stay hydrated
Research in the scientific journal Obesity suggests that drinking water can help promote weight loss by lowering calorie intake and altering metabolism.
Researchers believe it’s because you’re replacing sweetened, caloric beverages with water. They also believe that drinking water can help promote lipolysis, which is the break down of fats and other lipids.
Whatever the mechanism, ensure you chug those daily two litres.
5 Rev things up with HIIT
Studies have shown that high-intensity interval training is effective at burning belly fat and boosting your metabolism more than steady-state cardio.
Alternating between short bursts of intense effort and periods of lower intensity resets your metabolism at a higher rate, so you burn more calories hours after your workout. This is known as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption).
6 Start strength training
Strength training can help you build lean muscle mass, which starts to slow down once you hit your 30s.
According to a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, strength training increases your resting metabolic rate, so you burn calories even when you’re not working out. Smart!
When it comes to strength training, doing compound exercises is one of the most effective ways to work several muscles at once and save time at the gym.
Compound movements like a weighted squat to a shoulder press or a reverse lunge to a bicep curl will work multiple muscle groups, so you get more bang for your buck
7 Ramp up your protein intake
Your body needs protein to maintain lean muscle. Add a serving, like (approximately) 85g of lean meat, two tablespoons of nuts, or eight ounces of low-fat yogurt, to every meal and snack.
Just like fibre, protein keeps you satiated for a long period of time and curbs cravings for refined, processed foods, which tend to be calorie-dense. A win.
8 Eat iron-rich foods
It’s essential for carrying the oxygen your muscles need to burn fat, says dietician Tammy Lakatos, co-author of Fire Up Your Metabolism.
Until menopause, women lose iron each month through menstruation. Unless you restock your stores, you run the risk of low energy and a sagging metabolism.
Shellfish, lean meats, beans, fortified cereals, and spinach (Popeye, iconic) are excellent sources.
9 Get more vitamin D
Yup. This vitamin is essential for preserving metabolism-revving muscle tissue – and many in the UK don’t get adequate amounts.
The NHS recommends that from late March / early April to the end of September, ‘the majority of people should be able to make all the vitamin D they need from sunlight on their skin’.
However, it’s a good idea to prioritise getting enough vitamin D via your nutrition. You can get 90 percent of your recommended daily intake from a fillet of salmon. Other good sources include tuna, shrimp, tofu, cereal and eggs.
That said, you don’t need your food to do all the work. Per the NHS:
‘During the autumn and winter, you need to get vitamin D from your diet because the sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D.’
‘But since it’s difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.’
10 Limit alcohol
When you have a drink, you burn less fat, and more slowly than usual because the alcohol is used as fuel instead, especially drinks high in sugar.
Go for low-calorie alcoholic drinks at the next happy hour – or, choose from the booming market of booze-free alternatives. And if you’re in need of inspiration to swerve the sauce, check out all these celebrities who don’t drink alcohol.
11 Eat more calcium-rich foods
‘There’s some evidence that calcium deficiency, which is common in many women, may slow metabolism,’ says Lakatos. Research shows that consuming calcium through dairy foods such as fat-free milk and low-fat yogurt may also reduce fat absorption from other foods.
If you’re vegan or opt for dairy-free milks, remember to check the label to ensure whatever you’re using instead is fortified with calcium and other essential nutrients.
These are the top alt milks to buy, according to a dietician.
The Top Metabolism-Boosting Foods
12 Stay active as much as possible
Exercise is obviously important for a myriad of reasons that have nothing to do with weight or body composition. But regular daily activity known as NEAT (nonexercise activity thermogenesis) is equally essential for a healthy metabolism.
Small movements such as stretching your legs, taking the stairs, even just standing to talk on the phone increases your energy expenditure and can add up to an extra 350 calories burned a day.
When you’re looking to drop excess body weight in order to reach a health body composition – and crucially make those changes last – every little truly does help.
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