It's easy to blame weight gain on metabolism but the reality is, we now know due to a recent study that metabolism does NOT slow down with age... until around 60 years at which point, it only slows a mere 1% per year.
What is metabolism?
The metabolism is a multitude of processes that your body goes through to convert food into energy (or store it if necessary). Even at rest, your metabolism is doing its duty... converting calories into energy or storing it as fat for later.
Because metabolism controls so many aspects of our bodies, we believe it's the core indicator of a healthy body. Not sure if yours is a powerhouse or a bit on the sluggish side? Check out our quiz here and find out!
What influences metabolism?
It may surprise you to learn that food isn't the only factor in optimizing how well your metabolism functions. Physical activity and the ability to manage stress are two of the biggest factors after food consumption. Closely followed by quality sleep, the amount and times of sun exposure, supplements, as well as other lifestyle decisions. Genetics are a factor as well, but as you can see from the study highlighted above, it's only a very small factor in comparison.
So if your metabolism has slowed as you've gotten older, it's likely a combination of food and lifestyle choices that caused it. Say, for example, if you're not as physically active as you once were, you may have less muscle mass and therefore burn fewer calories at rest than you used to. Or if you don't fuel your body with enough calories it needs to function optimally, then your metabolism will slow down to adapt.
It's likely not any one food or activity that's the culprit. More than likely, it's a combination of any of the above factors mentioned.
How does diet culture affect metabolism?
I also think it's important to mention that diet culture plays a huge part in slowing down metabolism. Foods marketed as "healthy", juice cleanses, fasting, and other quick fixes can all contribute a huge role in a sluggish metabolism. Many of these products or methods cut calories drastically without providing your body with nearly enough nutrients. That, in combination with no plan to increase caloric consumption back up, will cause your metabolism to slow down. (More on this coming soon).
It's hard not to fall victim to such good marketing. I know I have many times and I expect I still have more lessons to learn.
Now that you have a better idea of what metabolism is and how and why yours may or may not have slowed, what can you do about it?
6 Ways to Boost a Sluggish Metabolism
01: Prioritize Protein
First and foremost, prioritize protein. Protein is the building block for our bodies and it helps us feel satiated and full. Most of the women I work with are undereating protein and making this one simple change alone might make a huge difference for you.
Animal proteins are my preferred source as the nutrients are bio-available meaning they’re more easily absorbed and utilized by the body. And because it helps you feel full, you’re less likely to reach for processed foods that are usually full of empty calories and therefore lack nutrients your metabolism needs to function optimally.
02: Lift Weights
Second, start weight training. Walking is great but it just doesn't compare. Lifting weights will increase energy expenditure and your resting metabolic rate. And since muscle burns calories (as opposed to fat which stores it) the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn all day long... whether you're sitting around or being physically active.
03: Increase Your NEAT
The more you increase your NEAT, Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, the more you increase energy burned through other activities: basically, anything other than sleep, eating, or exercise. In other words, the more you move your body, whether it's walking, dancing, taking the stairs, parking farther away from the entrance, or playing with your kids, the more you increase your NEAT. Increasing your NEAT means a higher caloric expenditure and lower insulin levels which leads to improved metabolic efficiency.
04: Eat Breakfast
Eating a filling meal within 30 minutes to one hour of waking up gets your body in sync with your bio-circadian rhythm. And since your body is ready for a metabolic resurgence as soon as it wakes, giving it that immediate fuel helps your body feel safe. Studies suggest it may even help you burn more calories throughout the remainder of the day. Regardless, we believe that it gives your body the nutrients your metabolism needs and will help you make better decisions as the day goes on.
05: Don't Skip Meals
Don't make a habit of skipping meals. When you start to skip a meal regularly, your body will start to start to not expect any calories during that time. This means two things: One, your metabolism will slow to adapt to the lower calorie threshold. And two, when you do end up eating then, your metabolism will store it for later. Imagine it saying something like "Score! save all these calories for later (as fat) because we don't know when we'll get them again!"
06: Eat More Nutrient-Dense Foods
In order for your metabolism to function optimally, it needs nutrients, and a lot of them. Incorporate more real whole foods like high-quality animal products as well as vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Some especially nutrient-dense foods are unconventional ones like animal organs (you may have seen some of my stories on incorporating beef liver on Instagram), bee pollen, bone broth, collagen, camu camu, and more. The metabolism creates energy from the nutrients to allow the body to repair efficiently and better.
But what about fasting?
And because I always get asked, "But what about fasting? Isn't that good for you". There are studies that women are extremely sensitive to fasting as it can really mess with our hormones and lead to irregular periods, infertility, as well as other health issues. Men, there are lots of benefits to it, yes. But if you don't have your other health markers in place i.e. you already eat a healthy diet full of whole foods, get high-quality sleep, have good stress management, etc... then we personally believe you have no business fasting, intermittent or otherwise. (More on this coming soon. In the meantime, check out this post if you're still interested in giving fasting a try).
So how do you go about putting all this together? It can be very helpful to work with someone who gets you. Someone who knows what it's like to eat breakfast even though you've been told to fast (or when you're just not hungry), someone who was once terrified to eat more for fear of gaining weight... and someone who has helped others get through it all too. Apply for one-on-one online coaching today.