Updated: Nov 19, 2021
"Once I turned 30 (or 40 or 50) my metabolism just stopped working!"
I hear that one a lot. Poor metabolisms everywhere have taken such verbal abuse by their owners over the years! haha! What if I told you that it isn't your metabolism that stopped working but instead, it's YOU that stopped working?
Ouch. Sorry. That was harsh. I want to just get straight the point though. Let's step outside ourselves for a second and just look at it:
We think young people have these fast metabolisms so they can eat anything and still lose weight. We think that as soon as we turn a certain age that our metabolism and bodies have just revolted against us and we will never be the same. However, I propose this: What do younger people generally have in common with each other that those of us well engaged in life, career, and family don't?
I'll tell you. They move more and often; their body has more muscle.
When we think about burning calories, we think about going to the gym or going for a run. What's funny, though, is that the majority of your calories aren't burned during exercise! Let's look at this chart and do a quick vocab lesson:
BMR: Basal Metabolic Rate - The calories you burn to stay alive. These calories are burned when your heart beats, when you breathe, and all of the other most basic live sustaining functions.
TEF: Thermic Effect of Food - The calories you burn digesting food. Protein takes the longest to digest so the TEF of protein is much higher meaning we burn more calories simply digesting protein than we do carbs and fat. (**AHA! One reason we recommend a high protein diet!)
Finally, we have the activity section. NEAT: Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis - The calories burned walking around your house, tapping your foot impatiently, doing laundry, etc...anything that requires you to move your body that isn't classified as exercise.
How do we increase our TEF? As mentioned above, protein! Digesting protein uses up 20-30% of the calories in that food. Compare that to only about 3% of calories from fat are burned and 5-10% of calories from carbs are burned in digestion. Bump up that protein!
How do we increase our NEAT? Just get moving!
Park in the back of the lot at the grocery store.
Take the stairs.
Stand up and stretch every 30 minutes while working.
At your desk, wear a resistance band around your thighs and push your legs out against it (nobody will know!)
Stand at your desk.
Fidget! Tap your foot, swing your arms, etc.
Clean your house. (I know, now I'm being unreasonable.)
Play with your kids or pets.
And, finally, last but certainly not least - EXERCISE! More specifically, resistance training of some kind. This can include body weight exercise, use of resistance bands, or traditional weights like dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells. But why? When we look at your resting metabolic rate (similar to BMR), muscle accounts for 20% of those calories burned while fat only accounts for 3%. Therefore, the more muscle you can add to your body, the more calories you burn while doing nothing!
Let's wrap it all up in a NEAT little bow: (See what I did there?) Your metabolism isn't "broken" you just need to make some lifestyle swaps to rev it back up again! 1) Eat more protein (aim for about 1g of protein per pound of body weight but build up slowly to avoid digestive issues). 2) Move your body often throughout each day. 3) Add in some kind of resistance training.
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