Feel like you can’t seem to lose weight as quickly as you used to? Notice that at each birthday, you have a few more lumps and bumps than you had the year before? You’ve likely heard that your metabolic rate—or how many calories you burn on a daily basis—declines as you age. But the good news is that there’s plenty you can do to give your slowing metabolism a big boost, says Matt Tanneberg, DC, a sports chiropractor and certified strength and conditioning specialist in Phoenix.
“It’s never too late to start making changes that can have a huge, positive impact on your metabolism,” says Tanneberg. “Some of my 70-year-old patients have faster metabolisms than my 30-year-old patients—proof that if you take care of your body, it will respond.” To start taking the right steps to give your metabolism a boost and keep it humming as you get older, follow this advice.
Yes, it can be tempting to skip it, but Tanneberg says it’s ideal to have a meal within 30 minutes of waking up. “This will replenish your body from the night’s sleep and set all of your systems up to function properly throughout the day,” he says. Tend to wait to eat breakfast until mid-morning, when you’re already famished? It’s a sign your metabolism has slowed down. “When you’re hungry, your body stops burning calories—and that’s a signal that your metabolism has dramatically slowed down,” he says. To keep it revved, make your morning meal a priority—and don’t forget to eat at regular intervals throughout the day, too.
Lift weights—preferably in the morning.
You know that exercise plays a key role boosting your metabolism. Yet if you tend to be a cardio junkie and shy away from your gym’s weight room, it’s time to cozy up to those dumbbells and machines. “Weight training helps you build muscle, which we know for a fact helps to improve metabolic rate and increases your fat-burning potential,” says Tanneberg. Phoenyx Austin, MD, a certified sports medicine and sports nutrition specialist agrees, adding that building muscle has the added benefit of keeping your metabolism revved even when you’re not working out. “Every pound of muscle uses about 6 calories a day, while each pound of fat burns only 2 calories daily,” says Austin. Tanneberg tells his patients to do their weight training in the morning, if possible. “When you lift first thing, your metabolism will be higher throughout the rest of the day,” he says.
Eat protein at every meal.
Research shows that protein, in particular, has an important impact on metabolism. In one study, researchers asked 16 healthy adults to follow a high-cal diet for 8 weeks—some with low protein (5%), some with moderate protein (15%), and some with high protein (25%). The result? All gained similar amounts of weight, yet those who were on the normal- and high-protein diets stored a whopping 45% of the excess calories as muscle, while those on the low-protein diet stored 95% of their excess calories as fat. Now, while this isn’t cause to swap all of your whole grains for turkey legs and eggs, Tanneberg says it is smart to have some protein every time you eat. “That may mean having eggs in the morning, a protein shake for a snack, some grilled chicken or nuts over your salad for lunch, and a lean protein along with loads of veggies for dinner,” he says.
Drink plenty of water.
Downing water is good for you on so many levels, so it’s no surprise that staying well hydrated helps boost your metabolism, too. “All of your cells need water to operate,” says Tanneberg. In fact, one study from the University of Utah found that if you’re dehydrated, you may burn up to 2% fewer calories. That study also found those who drank eight to twleve 8-ounce glasses of water a day had a higher metabolic rate than those who only drank four glasses.
Eat enough food.
When you’re trying to lose weight, it can be tempting to skip a meal here and there or restrict your calories drastically. However, when your body is hungry, it actually stops burning calories, because it’s trying to conserve everything you have, says Tanneberg. “When you’re not eating enough, you’d think your body would just burn through your excess, but in fact it does the opposite,” he says. “Your metabolism slows way down and it actually starts breaking down metabolism-boosting muscle for energy.” For most women, this happens when calorie intake dips below about 1,200 calories a day.
Stay with us here. This one might sound like a stretch, yet an increasing body of research is proving meditation’s undeniable role in optimizing our overall health—which includes our metabolism, says Tiffany Cruikshank, LAc, an acupuncturist, yoga teacher, and author of Meditate Your Weight. “As we age, our stress load becomes more layered with complexities, which can slow our metabolism,” says Cruikshank. “Meditation is a great way to combat so much of this stress and has been shown to have a hugely positive impact on everything from our metabolism and eating habits to optimizing cognitive function and heart health.”