Q: How can I improve my metabolism? Although I don’t need to lose weight, at 41, I notice it is much harder to maintain my weight. I run about three to five miles (four to five times per week) and eat a balanced diet.
A: You’re right, metabolism does decrease with age. In fact, research has shown that between the ages of six to 18 there is a whopping 25 percent drop in resting metabolic rate and a two to three percent drop every decade after 20 years old. These facts are enough to make anyone throw in the towel and reach for the bonbons. The good news is there are plenty of ways to offset natural decline in metabolism. All it takes is a few tweaks in your lifestyle.
Improve your NEAT factor
A new area of research has emerged that studies the effects of living a sedentary lifestyle. The technology that has made our world wonderfully convenient is also contributing to our inactive behavior patterns. When evaluating metabolism, it is important to consider your activity level at all times. One recent study found that people who fidget expend 352 additional calories per day (the same as you would in a three to four mile run). By increasing your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) factor (standing, walking, fidgeting) you’ll burn more calories daily, boost metabolism and more easily maintain your weight. Small, frequent moves make a significant impact on overall daily activity.
● Set a timer every 45 minutes at work to get up and move or do a set of squats.
● Park farther away from the entrance and take the stairs.
● Sit on a balance ball instead of a chair to activate your core muscles.
● Stand up and walk around time you’re on the phone.
Run fast, slow, short and long
Runs that are done at a harder effort will burn more calories for a longer time post-workout than easy-paced runs. In contrast, running longer at an easier aerobic effort increases the use of fat as a fuel source. Varying your workouts will increase energy expenditure during and after your runs, have a positive effect on your metabolism and keep your running program fresh and balanced.
De-stress your life
Chronic stress can raise cortisol levels, which leads to weight gain, especially in the stomach. Studies have shown that getting less than eight hours of sleep per night can also increase cortisol production. Make time for sleep and weave in calming activities such as yoga, deep breathing and massage to decrease the cycle of stress and its negative effects on metabolism.
Train for strength
Including two to three resistance exercise workouts in your weekly regimen will increase lean muscle tissue and burn an average of 50 additional calories per day. More importantly, it will preserve lean mass as you age, which will help to maintain your metabolism. Developing lean muscle tissue is like putting money in a savings account. You’ll profit from the investment for years to come.
Improve your fuel economy
Skipping meals and under nourishing your body, especially when training, can lower your metabolic rate. Just as you plan your running program, it’s important to plan your diet as well. Stick with small, frequent meals throughout the day to keep energy high. Also, try to “eat clean” by replacing processed items with plant-based whole foods. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains are easier to digest and pack a much more powerful nutritional punch than highly manufactured foods. Take small steps by swapping out one manufactured meal item for a natural food to strengthen your diet over time.