Yes it’s true- and so unfair. As we get older weight gain begins to creep up on us. You hear people every day in the grocery store, around the water cooler, at parties complaining of this additional weight they can’t seem to lose. You used to eat anything and not gain an ounce but now it seems 2 chips will send your weight up another notch on the scale. So what is this weight gain mystery?
One thing we know for sure is that our metabolism is slowing down as we get older. Simply put, metabolism is the way our bodies burn the calories from the food that we eat. The shift of midlife weight gain actually begins in our 20’s – 30’s. We naturally gain body fat while losing lean body mass. This loss of lean body mass can greatly affect our metabolism. Starting at about age 25, a person’s metabolism declines approximately 5 percent every decade! So it seems we are entering into the battle of age vs. metabolism. We can’t control ageing, so what now? Do we wave our white flags and succumb to what seems a natural progression of unwanted, continuous weight gain?
Absolutely not! There are several simple and natural ways to triumph over this battle at any age.
•Increase Muscle Mass
The most important factor of metabolism is lean body mass. Muscle burns up to 90% more calories than fat. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you will burn in a day. By adding three to five pounds of muscle you could actually burn 100 - 250 additional calories a day. Try adding a weight bearing activity 2-3 times a week such as lifting free weights, walking, or resistance training. Simply carrying your groceries home could be considered weight bearing! Lifting 5-8 pound hand weights while watching your favorite television show could go a long way towards burning calories.
•Don’t Skip Meals!
The myth that skipping meals decreases your total calorie level and helps you to lose weight is not true. When people skip meals or decrease their calories significantly
(< 1000 calories/day), they actually decrease their metabolism. They go into “starvation mode” where the body tries to compensate for the low calories. Your metabolic rate can actually decrease as much as 10-15% and your body will hold on to the fat and burn lean muscle instead. Always eat at least 3 meals and avoid dipping below 1000 calories a day.
Regular exercise routines such as biking, walking, or hiking will help raise your metabolism during the activity and for several hours after. Even simple movements such as taking the stairs, house cleaning, or simple yard work can help increase your burn rate.
Protein provides the building blocks for muscle. Without adequate protein you may actually lose muscle. You need about .4 - .5 gram of protein per pound body weight. For a woman weighing 160 pounds she would need approximately 64 - 80 grams of protein daily.
A 1999 University of Chicago study showed that sleep loss affects the way we metabolize carbohydrates resulting in glucose intolerance and possibly leading to increased hunger and a slowed metabolism. Lack of sleep also can interfere with our energy levels during the day and cause us to skip our exercise routine because we are “too tired”. How often have you told yourself that?
•Decrease Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol may suppress your body’s ability to burn fat. Studies show that when you drink alcohol, your body burns fat more slowly than usual during that particular meal. Watch your alcohol intake.
•Try a cup of Green Tea
A small study showed that green tea appeared to raise metabolic rates and speed up fat oxidation. The calorie losses were small- around 60 calories/day. Green tea also has other health benefits because of its significant antioxidant components. You might as well add a little boost to your metabolism while protecting yourself from heart disease, cancer, and strokes.
Recent research shows that calcium -- three or four daily servings of low-fat dairy products -- can help adjust your body's fat-burning machinery. The more calcium in the cells resulted in an increase in fat metabolism.
Beware of Magic Cures
We have all seen the ads for products that increase our metabolism and promise miraculous weight loss. Metabolism boosters and Fat Burners – not only do the people they show us in the testimonials lose weight they also end up with a firm body and a six pack stomach. Can a pill do all this?
Generally, the answer is no. These weight loss pills are often ineffective, and they can also harm us. Many of them contain either human growth hormone, which can lead to joint or heart problems, or epinephrine type ingredients that are correlated with increased blood pressure.
The answer is the good old tried and true: eat a balanced diet that does not exceed your calorie needs, exercise regularly and sleep well. Realize that we may not be able to look 20 again but we certainly can look our best, increase our energy, and enjoy good health at any age.
© Meri Raffetto, 2004
Meri Raffetto is a Registered Dietitian and a recognized professional in the area of nutrition and wellness. She has developed online weight management programs to help people get off of diets and get into way of life. For more information or to sign up for our free newsletter, visit www.reallivingnutrition.com.