You probably don't need scientists to tell you that your metabolism slows with age. But they're studying it anyway—and coming up with exciting research to help rev it up again. The average woman gains 500g a year during her adult life—enough to pack on 20-plus kilograms by her 50s, if she doesn't combat the roller coaster of hormones, muscle loss and stress that conspires to slow her fat-burning engine. But midlife weight gain isn't inevitable: By eating metabolism boosting foods and following the path, you'll sleep better, have more energy, feel firmer, and notice your clothes are looser in as little as 2 weeks. Here's how:
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1. EAT ENOUGH
You need to cut kilojoules to lose weight. But going too low delivers a double whammy to your metabolism. When you eat less than you need for basic biological function (about 5,000kJ for most women), your body throws the brakes on your metabolism. It also begins to break down precious, kJ-burning muscle tissue for energy, says dietition Dan Benardot. "Eat just enough so you're not hungry—a 630kJ snack midmorning and midafternoon between three meals (about 1,800kJ each) will keep your metabolism humming."
2. REV UP IN THE MORNING
Eating breakfast jump-starts metabolism and keeps energy high all day. It's no accident that women who skip this meal are 4 1/2 times as likely to be obese. If nothing else, grab a yogurt. Or try porridge made with fat-free milk and topped with nuts for an essential protein boost.
3. DRINK COFFEE OR TEA
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, so your daily java jolts can rev your metabolism 5 to 8%—about410 to 728 kilojoules a day. A cup of brewed tea can raise your metabolism by 12%, according to one Japanese study. Researchers believe the antioxidant catechins in tea provide the boost.
4. FIGHT FAT WITH FIBER
Research shows that some fibre can rev your fat burn by as much as 30%. Studies find that women who eat the most fibre in foods gain the least weight over time. Aim for about 25 g a day—the amount in about three servings each of fruits and vegetables.
5. BUY THE BIG BOTTLE
German researchers found that drinking 6 cups of cold water a day (that's 1.5L) can raise resting metabolism by about 210kJ daily—enough to shed 2.5kg in a year. The increase may come from the work it takes to heat the water to body temperature.
6. EAT MORE ORGANIC FOOD
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. Always choose organic when buying peaches, apples, capsicum, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, imported grapes and pears; non-organic versions tend to have the highest levels of pesticides.
7. ALWAYS INCLUDE PROTEIN
Your body needs protein to maintain lean muscle. Add a serving, like 90g of lean meat, 2 tablespoons of nuts, or 250g of low-fat yogurt, to every meal and snack. Research shows protein can up postmeal kilojoule burn by as much as 35%.
8. EAT IRON-RICH FOODS
It's essential for carrying the oxygen your muscles need to burn fat, says dietitian Tammy Lakatos. Until menopause, women lose iron each month through menstruation. Unless you restock your stores, you run the risk of low energy and a sagging metabolism. Shellfish, lean meats, beans, fortified cereals and spinach are excellent sources.
9. GET MORE VITAMIN D
This vitamin is essential for preserving metabolism-revving muscle tissue. Unfortunately, researchers estimate that a measly 4% of people over age 50 take in enough vitamin D through their diet. Get 90% of your recommended daily value (400 IU) in a 100g serving of salmon. Other good sources: tuna, shrimp, tofu, fortified milk and cereal, and eggs.
10. SKIP THE SECOND COCKTAIL
When you have a drink, you burn less fat, and more slowly than usual, because the alcohol is used as fuel instead. Knocking back the equivalent of about two martinis can reduce your body's fat-burning ability by up to 73%.
11. DRINK MILK
"There's some evidence that calcium deficiency, which is common in many women, may slow metabolism," says Lakatos. 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.
What to Eat, When on the High-Metabolism Diet
|A SAMPLE DAY|
|7 AM||Kick-start your day with yogurt and fruit for breakfast.|
|10 AM||Your morning java is full of antioxidants.|
|12 PM||A salad at lunch gives you a healthy dose of fiber.|
|2 PM||Drink a big glass of water. You need at least 6 cups a day.|
|4 PM||Organic grapes make a great snack.|
|7 PM||Lobster or chicken packs in the protein for dinner.|
|10 PM||Milk does a body good. Have a glass before bed.|
|11 PM||Sweet dreams!|
Quick Tip: 1-Minute Metabolism Booster
The easiest 1,465kJ you'll ever burn: Exercise is obviously important, but regular daily activity known as "NEAT" (nonexercise activity thermogenesis) is equally essential for a healthy metabolism. Small movements such as stretching your legs, taking the stairs, even just standing to talk on the phone can add up to an extra 1,465kJ burned a day.