Remember eating 5 slices of pizza followed by a generous serving of birthday cake when you were a kid? You probably heard “enjoy your metabolism now, it won’t last forever!”
Many of us have been told that our metabolism slows with age. That is true, but only during certain periods of your life. Surprisingly, scientists have found it’s very stable for most of our adult life, so why does it feel like our metabolism slows, or is even “broken” as we age?
Before we answer how to reset your metabolism, let’s talk about what your metabolism is, and exactly how much it changes as you age.
Hi, I’m Jamie, a Registered Dietitian of 8 years. My passion is helping women just like you gain confidence in their food choices. Together we find the right balance to reach their healthiest weight without the food guilt or scale obsession!
Alright, back to metabolism! Let’s dive in.
What is your Metabolism?
Your metabolism is the total of all of the activities that happen in your body to keep you alive every day. This includes breaking down the food you eat for energy, inhaling and exhaling for each breath, taking each step, and each mile on your Peloton. Your metabolism also includes creating proteins, carbs, and fat to build your body’s tissues.
How metabolism influences weight
The rate your body burns energy determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain a consistent weight. Having a sluggish metabolism means your body burns energy more slowly, and stores the extra as fat.
A fast metabolism burns energy quickly, leaving less to be stored in the body for later.
What determines your metabolic rate?
We’re going to delve into some science here.
There are three parts to your metabolism. I’m sharing this info so that you know that your metabolic rate is complex and that little changes over time can influence your metabolism in a big way.
The three parts of your metabolism are:
- Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
- Activity-Induced Thermogenesis
- Diet-Induced Thermogenesis (DIT)
The basal metabolic rate, or the rate at which your body burns energy at rest, is controlled by genetics, age, sex, illness, body composition, and sleep habits. This process lets your body perform functions you don’t even think about, like breathing or staying warm in a chilly room.
Activity-Induced Thermogenesis is another way you use energy. When you’re moving your body it burns calories. It takes fuel to lift weights at the gym or push a stroller down the sidewalk.
Did you know you actually burn calories when you eat? Yep, it takes a lot of work to chew, swallow, and digest a delicious meal. Diet-Induced Thermogenesis is the process of your body burning calories and giving off heat as it breaks down your food. Eating boosts your metabolism for a short time and uses 5-15% of your daily energy.
Now that we have taken a full tour of your metabolism, let’s explore why and how it can change…and how much!
Why does my metabolism decrease?
You may have lived your whole life believing metabolism plummets the older you get, but now we know this isn’t entirely true. Your metabolic rate is sky high as an infant when you need a lot of energy to grow fast, and it slows down in adolescence. But by the time you reach age 20, your metabolism levels out and stays stable all the way up to around age 60!
Many people think their metabolism slows way down as they get into their 30s and 40s because they’ve gained weight or are having a hard time losing it, but it’s often not the case. As we age, it’s common to experience major lifestyle changes compared to our younger years.
We have busier jobs, kids to take care of, less free time to exercise, and more stress in general. Not to mention the effect that cyclic dieting, or yo-yo dieting, can have on weight!
Effects of Yo-Yo dieting on metabolism
Fad diets are all over our social media feeds and many claim to be the best solution to losing weight. Sure, those detoxes and cleanses can shed pounds in a short amount of time, but your body reacts by slowing down your metabolism.
When you heavily restrict what you eat, you aren’t consuming enough energy. So, what does your body do? To make sure you get the fuel you need it produces higher levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone. Ghrelin makes you very, very hungry and makes it impossible for you to stick to the severe restrictions. And the end result? Usually, weight regain (and possibly more than you lost with the strict diet!).
In one study, researchers recorded Biggest Loser contestants’ metabolic rates before the contest, right after, and 6 years after. Right after the contest the participants had lost weight and their metabolisms slowed. After 6 years they retested each one and the majority regained all of the weight they lost. The most surprising thing was their metabolism stayed slow and didn’t bounce back.
Even though this is a contest that involves extreme weight loss in just 30 weeks, researchers now know the long-term reality of rapid weight loss. What can you do instead?
5 ways to support your metabolism
A lot of quick fixes and detoxes promise to “reset” your metabolism, some in just 24 hours. But the fact of the matter is that your metabolism isn’t like a “broken” clock and doesn’t need to be reset. Instead, it’s better to support your metabolism!
Genetics plays a big role in your metabolism, but it can be “boosted” with consistent exercise, diet changes, getting more sleep, and staying hydrated.
Here’s what I recommend for my clients to keep their metabolism humming along.
1. Strength train
You don’t have to become a pro bodybuilder to reap the benefits of strength training! Studies have shown resistance training, even at low volumes can give your metabolism a boost for up to 3 days! If you don’t have access to a gym, cardio like biking is also a great way to burn more energy, and it lasts for hours after you stop exercising.
2. Increase your NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis)
Or as I like to call it, “natural movement.”
Instead of changing into workout clothes, consider increasing your non-exercise activities. This is a big one for people who work at home. Without distractions, it’s easy to sit in front of a screen all day without taking any breaks.
Take your dog on a walk, chop up some veggies for lunch, or clean up around the house. Every little bit of movement helps!
3. Eat a well-balanced diet
Remember the diet-induced thermogenesis we talked about earlier? When you eat protein, your body uses more energy to break it down than carbs or fats. Plus, one study shows eating more of it helps prevent regaining weight after intentional weight loss.
But there’s no need to go full carnivore (please, don’t!). The main idea here is to find balance with complex carbs + fiber, and healthy fats while prioritizing protein intake.
4. Hit the hay
Have you ever had a sleepless night and felt starved the next day? This is your natural biology at work!
It turns out that when you’re sleep deprived your body produces more hunger hormones and suppresses the ones that make you feel full. And researchers found a sleep-deprived body slows down fat metabolism and stores it instead of using it for energy.
5. Stay hydrated
Instead of starting the day with a cup of joe, try a glass of water first! And throughout the day, sip enough water to have pale pee when you go to the bathroom.
Focus on the big picture
If you’re craving a healthy change, it’s time to focus on your habits and overall lifestyle instead of searching for a quick fix to “reset” your metabolism. The reality is for most people metabolism isn’t the issue, it’s major changes in lifestyle and habits that are usually the culprit behind weight gain and declining health.
I’m excited to be able to support you as you explore how to reset your metabolism. This blog provided you with five science-backed ways to boost your body’s natural metabolism.
If you’re ready for a community of like-minded people who are learning how to find their best health with more ease, click here and get support from me, a Registered Dietitian. You’ll learn simple solutions and gain confidence in your food choices as you find your healthiest weight!