We‘ve probably heard that once a person hit 40, it’s all downhill when it comes to bodyweight.
This happens due to that inexplicable force we call metabolism which begin to grind a bit slower every year from age 30 onward.
Let’s read the good news: The rate at which your metabolism slows down is actually rather minimal. In reality, most weight gain that happens in midlife is not a result of a slower metabolism!
Instead, it comes down to a simple truth: As we get older, we get less and less active.
Although this might sound depressing, it’s actually great news. There is plenty we can do to counteract the slow, seemingly inevitable onset of poundage. But first, here are some basics about what metabolism is – and what it is not.
How your body burns energy
Our resting metabolic rate is a measure of how much energy we expend or burn, when we are at rest. It’s determined by many factors, including your height, sex, and the genes you got from your parents, and it cannot be altered much, no matter what we do.
Also, our bodies appear to enter into three distinct phases of calorie burning, which depends on what we’re doing. These three are the types of metabolism that most people are referring to when they say doing certain things, like eating spicy food or working out, can “boost” your metabolism.
Most of the things that people say will boost your metabolism won’t
When we’re eating, we burn a small number of calories, around 10% of total calories burned for the day.
This is so-called the thermic effect of food, and it’s the first of those three phases. We can turn up the heat on this process a tiny bit (but not by a whole lot) by doing things like drinking stimulant beverages like coffee or eating large amount of protein.
“Eating foods like green tea, caffeine, or hot chilli peppers will not help you shed excess pounds,” notes an entry in the ADAM Medical Encyclopedia.
“Some may provide a small boost in your metabolism, but not enough to make a difference in your weight.”
Instead, get active
The most important calorie-burning activity we engage in is just that – activity, which is not surprisingly at all.
It is our choice the type of activity we’ll choose, whether taking the stairs, stepping away from our desks for a coffee, or sweating it out in a hot yoga class. We’re expending energy. This is the second phase physical-activity expenditure.
And the third one is the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or the continuous after workout calorie burn.
When it comes to counteracting weight gain, these two phases – the ones related to physical activity – are the most important. Your best bet for burning more calories throughout the day is to increase your levels of any kind of activity, be it running or walking.
Many people think strength training or weight lifting fits into this category, but the evidence suggests otherwise.
Weight lifting can only do so much for your metabolism. As the NIH points out it is because muscles don’t burn a whole lot of calories. As far as calorie-melting organs go, your brain is actually far more efficient than your bicep.
Dr. Claude Bouchard, a professor of genetics and nutrition at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center of Louisiana State University, told The Los Angeles Times: “Brain function makes up close to 20 percent of resting metabolic rate.”
“Next is the heart, which is beating all the time and accounts for another 15-20 percent. The liver, which also functions at rest, contributes another 15-20 percent. Then you have the kidneys and lungs and other tissues, so what remains is muscle, contributing only 20-25 percent of total resting metabolism,” Bouchard said.
So there is another reason why you should do strength training. While is a healthy habit, it will boost your metabolism.
“This idea that one pound of muscle burns hundreds of extra calories per day is a myth,” – Gary Foster, Weight Watchers’ chief scientific officer and an adjunct professor of psychology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, told Business Insider.
Our natural appetite-control mechanism seems to dull. A good way to be more mindful of how full you’re getting is to eat smaller meals and get more only when you’re still hungry, rather than sitting down with a large plate of food, which might encourage you to overeat.
“By staying active and sticking with smaller portions of healthy foods, you can ward off weight gain as you age,” the NIH website says.