In your early 20’s your metabolism was in peak condition. Taking down a 6-pack and whole pizza barely made an impact on your waistline. Now, you can’t make it through a few beers and a slice without feeling your jeans cinch. That’s because as you age your metabolism — the way in which your body burns off sugar — slows at a rate of one to 2 percent a year. If you’re not careful, this slowdown can lead to an increase in cholesterol, insulin (and therefore diabetes risk), and a whole batch of not-so-fun downsides. Aging sucks big time.
But there are a few ways to roll the big hand back on your biological clock. Dr. Caroline Apovian, Director of the Nutrition And Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center and author of The Age-Defying Diet, has a few medically proven tips to rebuild your metabolic rate. Besides, it’s probably been a few thousand miles since you gave your internal engine a tune-up.
Hit The Weights
“Metabolic speed is determined in large part by the amount of lean muscle mass,” says Dr. Apovian. And since you start to lose muscle mass at a rate of 1 percent per year beginning at 30 (a pace that quickens after you reach 40) you need to work to build more muscle to replace the deficit. Dr. Apovian says the best way to counteract this process and speed up your metabolism is to hit the weights a couple times per week. Don’t worry about your calves — that’s the hardest place to gain mass.
Eat Lean Protein + Whole Grains
All your body processes require energy, including your metabolism. You can’t expect it to reset to its natural calorie-burning pace by simply cutting out calories. But Dr. Apovian says it’s important to consume the right amount of calories, but from sources like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (in moderation). The biggest diet fail: more protein.
No, you don’t have to ask everyone at Crunch if they even lift — but you need to up your consumption of lean protein. It’s necessary to preserve, protect, and rebuild the muscle that maintains your metabolism. Dr. Apovaian advises her patients to build meals around lean protein sources like fatty fish (like the mighty salmon) and chicken (like the mighty … chicken). Enjoy protein shakes? She’s on board with that if you’re trying to lose weight, because “this encourages the body to tap into excess fat for energy while protecting muscles.” Any unsweetened protein powder gets the job done. If you just bought a giant container of Tang, you’re doing it wrong.
Say Goodbye To Metabolism-Slowing Foods
Like a supercharged V8, your metabolic engine can get gummed up when it’s fed the wrong fuel. Avoid anything with added sugars and processed foods in general. “They contain empty calories,” says Dr. Apovian, and adds that after you eat sugar your “testosterone levels drop, slowing the metabolism further.” And on the topic of low T, she advises middle-aged men lay off the soy consumption because it imitates estrogen in the body and can contribute to weight gain in men. Now you have an excuse for your wife when she asks “why is all my tofu in the trash?”
And Hello To A Diet That Helps Hormonal Balance
Yes, your testosterone levels are going to decrease as you age. And since this hormone helps with everything from staving off bad LDL cholesterol to maintaining lean muscle mass (oh, and your sex drive — can’t forget about that), Dr. Apovian says to start adding foods that increase it. “Men need to eat foods that increase or imitate this important hormone in the body,” she says. In particular, she says you should eat whole eggs (cooked, or Rocky-style), as well as foods rich in zinc, such as oysters. Although be aware that oyster omelets are nobody’s idea of an aphrodisiac.
Handle Your Stress
“Cortisol, the stress hormone, prompts us to replenish energy by causing cravings for foods, especially sweet and fatty foods,” says Dr. Apovian. “It also makes the body think it is under siege, and it tends to hold onto fat in the event of a famine when we’re stressed.” In other words, stress messes with your metabolism. Apovian says do what you gotta do to manage it. Sleep more. Meditate a bit. And yes, exercise — but watch out, because science has found stress and spin class is a dangerous combo.
Go To Bed
You know what else messes with your metabolism? Children. Especially ones that don’t take the hint when it’s dark outside. But if you want to kickstart your metabolism, you have to try to go the f–k to sleep. As Dr. Apovian says, proper rest is a key factor in reducing stress, repairing the body, and stoking your body’s furnace. “The body repairs the muscles and brings hunger and satiety hormones into balance as we sleep,” she says. And without that recharging time, which may or many not be in your control, metabolic retuning is a near impossibility. So … challenge accepted!