Here, what you need to know
You can’t change the metabolism you were born with. That’s the bad news.
The good news is you’re burning calories every time you eat – just by chewing and swallowing and digesting. In other words, when you eat, your gut is exercising.
But once we reach our 50s, our body metabolism naturally starts slowing down, so here’s a little more bad news to digest: no matter what foods you eat to try and speed up your metabolism, it won’t be enough to counteract the loss in metabolic rate that comes with age, according to Jason Hagan, an expert in aging and the owner and founding partner in Calgary-based Fit Metabolism, an award-winning company that tailors health programs to clients’ goals, some as far away as Dubai.
Between the age of 10 and 90, explains Hagan, a woman’s metabolism will slow down the equivalent of a chocolate bar – roughly 250 calories. In other words, at age 10, she’ll typically burn about 1,600 calories a day. By age 90, that drops to roughly 1,350 calories, he says. “It’s not much but, over time, it can make a difference if not paid attention to.”
So, that the spare tire you may be carrying around your waist can’t wholly be blamed on a slowing metabolism, but it could be adding to it. The bigger factor, Hagan emphasizes, is your lifestyle and the types of food you eat, when you eat and how often you eat.
Hagan’s main message?
“Food and exercise have to go together,” he says. “But there’s no need to be defeatist because there’s lots we can do to maximize our health.”
Here are Jason’s tips for boosting metabolism, increasing energy and staying trim:
1) Eat more frequently: Instead of two or three big meals a day, eat four to six small meals. By eating more often and eating less, you avoid being hungry and your metabolism is kept revving by the digestive process.
2) Eat more protein: “Protein gives you a higher return on investment,” says Jason, explaining that the body uses 20 per cent more energy to metabolize proteins. That means incorporating more poultry, fish, legumes and lean meats into your diet. Nuts are good too, but are also high in fat.
3) Don’t skip the carbs: “So many people typically take these out of their diets – which is really more about dieting than it is about living,” says Jason. He’s a big advocate of “good carbs,” things like whole grains, brown rice and whole wheat pasta, as well as fruits and quinoa. If it’s more energy you’re after make this your fuel.
“The also brain uses mostly carbohydrates,” he adds. “So if you’re looking to boost awareness, energy and acuity, those come from your carbohydrates. That’s why people who go on a low carb diet start to feel more sluggish and start forgetting things.”
4) Get moving: You simply have to exercise if you want to increase your metabolism, since roughly 20 to 25 percent of your metabolic rate is directly tied to exercise. If you’ve done nothing for years, Jason emphasizes it’s important to start slow. For example, go for a walk one day a week, then gradually move up to two days a week, then three days a week.
“Play with the frequency, not the intensity,” he advises.
Overall, Jason recommends a diet consisting of roughly 50 per cent carbs, 20 per cent protein and 20 to 30 per cent fat, combined with exercise three times a week.
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