Metabolism is the process by which your body breaks down food to produce energy. In youth, muscle mass stores up energy, preventing weight gain. That changes as we age however, and muscle loss gives way to more body fat. By the time you we hit 40, our metabolism starts to slow down by 5% for every decade, making weight loss more and more challenging.
The good news is you can beat this metabolic slowdown. By following these 10 habits, you’ll start burning calories faster than you thought possible.
1. Schedule your meals
We are creatures of habit and so is our body. It anticipates it will be fed at a certain time, and uses most of its energy by this time, expecting that it will receive more energy soon. But if your meal schedule is irregular, your body stores energy instead of using it, because it’s not sure if it’s getting any new energy soon. Make sure to eat regularly, which means three meals a day, plus two healthy snacks. And remember to eat within an hour of waking up to keep your body from going into hunger overdrive.
2. Drink more liquids
Abundant fluids intake contributes to better metabolism. When the body is deprived of water it burns fewer calories, as the liver is concentrating on restoring the water supply instead of burning fat. German researchers found that drinking 6 cups of cold water a day (that’s 48 ounces) can raise resting metabolism by about 50 calories daily—enough to shed 5 pounds in a year. If you are not used to drinking a lot of water, try drinking tea. Green tea is great when you need to meet your daily hydration needs.
3. Be physically active
All physical activity, be it jogging, walking, dancing, or exercising, contributes to a faster metabolism. Strength exercises are best, as they promote faster growth of muscular tissue. The most effective way to jack up your metabolism is to put on and maintain muscle mass.
Muscle is made up of what is called metabolically active tissue, which means that it requires energy to be built, used and maintained. That’s why the best way to speed up your metabolism is to do your resistance exercises regularly.
4. Wake up early
Interestingly, sunlight has an impact on metabolism as well. The morning sun helps your body regulate biological processes that depend on the alteration of day and night, which, in turn, are vital to energy consumption.
5. Protein, fats & carbs
Increase protein and omega-3 fatty acids intake, but don’t neglect carbohydrates, too. In order to properly synthesize serotonin, you need sufficient levels of carbohydrates. A lack of carbs may have a negative impact on your brain activity and is stressful for your body. Omega-3s not only balance blood sugar and reduce inflammation, but also reduce resistance to the hormone leptin, which researchers have linked to how fast fat is burned.
6. Dairy is your friend
Dairy contains a lot of nutrients that are essential for burning fat and building muscle. There’s some evidence that calcium deficiency, which is common in many women, may slow metabolism. 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.
7. Use iodized salt
Currently trending sea salt is not a supplement for good old iodized salt. Most of the body’s iodine stores are in the thyroid gland, which requires the mineral for synthesis of the hormones it secretes. An iodine deficiency leads to an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), slowed metabolism, and weight gain, as well as other symptoms of hypothyroidism.
8. Eat organic
Canadian researchers report that dieters with the most organochlorines (pollutants from pesticides, which are stored in fat cells) experience a greater than normal dip in metabolism as they lose weight, perhaps because the toxins interfere with the energy-burning process. Other research hints that pesticides can trigger weight gain.
9. Keep your iron level up
Iron is essential for carrying the oxygen your muscles need to burn fat. Until menopause, women lose iron each month through menstruation. Unless you restock, you increase your chances of low energy and a sagging metabolism. Shellfish, lean meats, beans, fortified cereals, and spinach are all excellent sources.
10. Stop stressing
When you are stressed, your thyroid slows down our metabolism and your body takes longer to process any calories that you eat. A 2014 study from Ohio State University shows women who reported being stressed out over a 24-hour span burned 104 fewer calories after they ate a meal of eggs, sausage and biscuits – a deficit that over the course of a year could translate to an 11-pound weight gain.
Take care of your health!
Melissa Bell has a strong background in nutrition education, fitness and yoga, and experience working on specialized stretching, bodybuilding and weight loss programs. She is actively studying Japanese, doing research and travelling for conferences while taking care of two children.