How to Boost Metabolism at Any Age

We’ll start by explaining how to boost metabolism and what it is by dispelling a few myths about it: 

Metabolism is a complex chemical process that happens within the cells of living organisms to keep them healthy and functioning. Within a human being, metabolism is the process that combines oxygen and calories (which come from the food and drinks you consume) to create and release energy – and energy is the fuel that your body needs to function.

Certain functions fueled by metabolism are beyond your control and happen without you even thinking about them. For example, regulating your body temperature, repairing your cells, growing new cells, breathing, circulating your blood, and digesting food are all part of your metabolic processes. 

Other functions regulated by metabolism are within your control, such as any physical activity you undertake. 


Metabolism Myths


Slim people have faster metabolisms than other people.

This isn’t necessarily true. In fact, many slim people have slow resting metabolisms (a resting metabolic rate, or RMR, is the energy needed for your body to maintain itself while at rest). It is easier for overweight people to burn calories than slim people because it takes more calories to move larger masses.  


Eating many small meals will boost your metabolism. 

Although eating small nutritious snacks or meals is healthy if it keeps you from being hungry and overeating (or eating non-nutritious foods), it doesn’t speed up your metabolism. That has nothing to do with the timing or frequency of meals.


Eating before bedtime will slow down your body’s metabolism.

Metabolism performs two different functions:

  • Anabolism builds up energy stores and body tissues. This is also called constructive metabolism.
  • Catabolism breaks down energy stores and body tissues. This is also called destructive metabolism.

These functions continue while you are asleep, so eating before bed won’t necessarily slow your metabolism. It is far more essential to monitor the type of food you eat and how much of it you eat than to be concerned with how it is spaced out and what time it is consumed. That said, many people mindlessly snack after their evening meal (perhaps while watching television), and they may be eating calories their bodies don’t need. This can lead to weight gain, but not because of a slowed-down metabolism.


How to Boost Metabolism

Many factors influence your body’s BMR (basal metabolic rate), such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Body mass
  • Amount of fat in your body
  • Amount of lean muscle in your body
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Hormones (and hormonal imbalances)
  • Illnesses and infections
  • Extreme (very hot or very cold) temperatures
  • Dietary deficiencies
  • Physical activity

You can’t change all the factors above – but did you spot the ones you can change?


Ideas to Boost Metabolism

The biggest factor in how your metabolism works is your body’s fat and muscle. Muscle burns more calories than fat, even when you are at rest. So how can you increase your amount of lean muscle mass and decrease your amount of body fat to boost your metabolism?

  • Engage in physical activity. This should combine weight training, resistance training, and aerobic exercise. Here are some resources for exercising in San Diego.
  • Eat more protein. It makes you feel full, which prevents overeating as well as preventing muscle loss. Foods that include lean protein are white-fleshed fish (cod, haddock, and grouper), beans, peas, lentils, poultry (without the skin), plain Greek yogurt, tofu, and low-fat milk.
  • Eat spicy foods. Capsaicin, the chemical that gives chili peppers their heat, can increase your metabolism. It can also help reduce your appetite.  
  • Get enough sleep. Studies cited by the CDC show that sleep loss is linked to changes in hormones that affect appetite. Simply put, if you are sleep deprived, you are more likely to feel hungry and less likely to feel sated, even when your body has consumed sufficient calories. 
  • Drink water, particularly chilled water. Research has shown that drinking water stimulates heat production (called thermogenesis) in the body. In other words, your body has to expend energy to warm the water to your body temperature. Water is beneficial when replacing sugary drinks as you hydrate. Additionally, if you don’t drink enough water when you exercise, your dehydrated muscle cells will break down more quickly and build muscle more slowly. 
  • Drink green tea. Research from the NIH shows that green tea or green tea extract may help your body metabolize fat. Other benefits are increased hydration without relying on sodas or juices, which can be full of sugar.


Final Thoughts

As we age, we tend to gain weight. People blame this on the fact that their metabolism has slowed down, but weight gain doesn’t have to be a foregone conclusion when you reach a milestone birthday. The fact that we have more fat and less lean muscle (possibly because of a more sedentary lifestyle) contributes to our slowing metabolism. 

However, it is possible to make changes at any age that boost our metabolism and promote general health. 

For more tips on how to boost metabolism, menu planning, avoiding binge eating, healthy workouts, and hiking in and around San Diego, please visit the Healthy Lifestyles section of the Scripps Affiliated Medical Group’s website.

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