Do you find yourself, more and more often, attempting to stuff yourself into your favorite skinny jeans? Those skinny jeans that are suddenly making you feel not-so-skinny? (No, they did not shrink in the wash, folks; although I have often used that excuse, while at the same time nearly dislocating my wrists trying to pull on those suckers.) Are your old eating habits, which had kept your weight at bay for years, suddenly not working for you any more? (I’m sure many of you are raising your hands about now.) Have you found yourself slowly buying bigger and bigger clothes, even though you are eating the same amount as you used to? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then… UGHH! As to why it’s happening? It may be that your metabolism is slowing down with age. UGHHH.. again!
If you are like many of my readers (myself included), your metabolism peaked years ago. Long gone are the days when we could eat junk food on a daily basis and nothing seemed to stick to our “problem areas.” When unwanted weight slowly starts accumulating, it’s often an issue with your metabolism. But what good is knowing the problem, without knowing what that really means and, more important, without a plan to fix it?
“Metabolism” seems to be a bit of a mystery to most of us. What we mean when we say our metabolism has slowed down is that the rate at which our body utilizes energy from food has slowed down. In other words, our bodies aren’t requiring as much energy as they once did. Yet, we are still eating just as much which means those “extra” calories are most likely stored as fat. Now, many of us believe that our metabolism is pre-destined by our genetic makeup. And part of that is true. However, studies show that we have more control over our metabolism than we think. We can, with a few lifestyle changes, actually make our metabolisms work at their genetic peaks. And if you’ve ever read one of my blogs, folks, you know that I do not go down without a fight. So, here are my top 10 metabolism boosters that keep my body working like it did in my 20’s. Hooray!
My Top 10 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism
1. Build muscle: This is my number one tip. After the age of 30, we begin to lose muscle mass, which is directly correlated to our metabolism. We need to increase our muscle mass in order to keep our metabolism working to its max. And the best way to do that is to pick up some weights! Here’s why: when you weight train, you actually create tiny tears in your muscle fiber. Tears that need to be repaired by your body. It takes time (3-5 days) and energy (calories) to fix those muscle tears. So, long after you’ve taken off your weight lifting gloves, your body is still hard at work repairing the damage you’ve created. Repairing the muscle takes energy. The more energy your body needs, the higher your metabolism will be.
2. Eat: Eating should start soon after you rise. So, eat breakfast. We have just starved ourselves (which slows down our metabolism) for the (hopefully) 8 hours of solid sleep. When we awake from our slumber, the first thing we need to do is feed our bodies in order to jump-start our metabolism. But this tip isn’t only about breakfast. Many of us go all day long without eating, only to inhale anything that happens to be in front of us at the end of our busy day. This is self-sabotage for your metabolism. Our bodies are designed to hold onto food in times of deprivation, so… Hello! Don’t deprive it. As for the advice of “don’t eat after 7 p.m.,” ignore it. That makes no sense to me. I finish dinner around 7:30, have a snack at around 10 p.m. (usually a high-fiber snack like celery & peanut butter or popcorn made with sunflower oil and a little sea salt), and then hit the sack between 11 and 12. I want my stomach to work while I’m sleeping because, in that way, my digestion is always active and my metabolism remains high. I’m up at 7:15 a.m., drink a full glass of water before ever getting out of bed, and eat within 30 minutes.
3. Eat a fiber-rich diet: When we don’t get enough fiber in our diets, everything gets blocked up, and slows down. Uhm… Ewww. We need fiber not only to keep our digestive systems working to their max, but also to keep us feeling full. (In that way we are far less likely to scarf down that random bag of Doritos.) In order to insure that our metabolism is working to the best of its ability, we need to keep our digestive tract moving. It takes fiber to do this, folks.
4. Drink extra water: Just like adding extra fiber to your diet, adding extra water keeps your digestive tract moving. Water suppresses your appetite, eliminates toxins, and reduces fat deposits. It is absolutely essential to great skin and thinner thighs. That’s right. You heard me… THINNER THIGHS! Nothing thins your thighs like drinking a gallon of water. It seems counterintuitive, I know. “Won’t drinking a lot of water cause me to bloat up even more?” No. Quite the contrary. Our bodies are composed of approximately 60% water. If we don’t consume enough of that H2O, our thirsty cells will hold onto it for dear life, for fear of running out. This is what causes us to bloat. But if you give your cells an excess amount of water,it relieves them of the fear of deprivation, triggers them to release what they’ve been holding onto, flushing out the system. You are left with happy cells, free from the anxiety of dehydration. And no bloating!
5. De-Stress: I’ve long believed that if you “De-stress and you will weigh-less.” Why? Because when we are stressed out and frazzled, we tend to make poor dietary choices. In addition, in times of stress, our bodies hold onto fat. So, not only are people under pressure more likely to stress-eat and devour an entire bag of Oreo cookies, they are more likely to store those cookies as fat than are their more Zen, stress-free counterparts.
6. Drink Green Tea: You might be dependent on your morning coffee fix to start your day, but tea has been shown to burn 100 additional calories within a 24-hour period, and to burn more fat (hooray) when compared to a placebo. Researchers aren’t sure exactly why, but some suggest the combo of healthy antioxidants in tea and caffeine gives the metabolism an extra boost.
7. Add little boosts of exercise throughout the day: Let me say up front that this next piece of advice is, in no way, intended to replace your 3-5 weekly sessions of rigorous exercise. But if you are on the lower end of that range, if you have to miss a day of your normal routine, or if you are trying to boost your metabolism, then this is for you. I know you’ve heard a million times that you should take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator, but here’s the thing: Take the freakin’ stairs! Done. In addition, there are many other tricks that add little bursts of exercise throughout the day. Click here for my favorites.
8. Spice up your meals: If you’ve ever had dinner at my house, you know how I feel about spicy foods. Chili peppers have been used for centuries throughout Asia and the Americas as an herbal remedy to suppress the appetite and boost the metabolism. Cayenne, Chili, Jalapeño, Habanero… It doesn’t matter which pepper you choose. Even the common bell pepper is beneficial. The real hero is in the capsaicin which is contained in the peppers. The amount of capsaicin varies from pepper to pepper, but here’s the general rule (and here’s why, at my house, be ready to sweat when you eat): the hotter, the better. Peppers stimulate digestion, reduce appetite, and increase circulation. There are many theories as to how peppers accomplish this. Some believe that capsaicin blocks the communication between the digestive system and the brain, signaling that you are not hungry. I have a personal, additional theory which is all about putting out the fire. See, it’s often painful to eat peppers, right? They burn your mouth and tongue. This burning causes you to drink extra water as you are eating. I’m no scientist, BUT I HAVE noticed my behavior when I eat spicy food… I drink more water. (See #4 above) Whatever the reasoning behind it, it works. Just do it. Spice things up .
9. Eat protein at every meal: Many studies show that protein may have a huge impact on your body fat percentage. People who eat a high protein diet are more likely to store their extra calories as muscle, whereas individuals who consume less than 20% of their calories as protein are more likely to store extra calories as fat. So, the logic is simple: by increasing your consumption of lean protein, you can increase your muscle mass. And since those extra muscles require more energy to maintain their mass (see #1 above), the math is simple: Eating more protein = More muscle mass = A boost in your metabolism. Hooray!
10. Eat organic: The benefits of going organic just keep stacking up. There is a lot of current research suggesting that pesticides can contribute to a sluggish metabolism, resulting in weight gain. But if y0u’re confused by all of the organic options in your supermarket, here’s a good rule of thumb: if you eat the skin, buy organic. For example, organic bananas may not be worth the higher price, but when it comes to strawberries, grapes, apples, lettuce, bell peppers, etc… buy organic. (If you’re wondering about organic meats and fish? Blog on this to come)
So there you have it. Don’t go purchase larger jeans, folks. That’s a big no-no. And don’t just give up and give in to getting older. I’m not going down without a fight, and neither should you. Let’s keep our metabolisms working as they did in our youth. That doesn’t mean we can chow down on Chili Cheese Fritos, like we did when we were 20’s, but it may help us avoid the 5 pounds per year that people over 40 typically gain. So set your sights on those skinny jeans, and let’s get them sliding on just a little bit easier, shall we?
Contributed by Darnell Cox