Gaining weight as you age doesn’t have to be inevitable
Look, you probably don’t need scientists to tell you that your metabolism slows with age.
Research shows the average woman gains 1 1/2 pounds a year during their adult life—enough to pack on 40-plus pounds by their 50s.
If you’re cool with this, fine. We’re not here to tell you that there is one type of beautiful body. However, if those extra pounds are unwelcome guests, then it pays to combat the roller coaster of hormones, muscle loss, and stress that conspires to slow your fat-burning engine.
Thankfully, there’s a way to help rev it up again. Midlife weight gain isn’t inevitable: By eating metabolism-boosting foods you’re likely to sleep better have more energy and hopefully feel a bit firmer around the edges.
Cut calories—but not too much
Sure, losing weight involves cutting calories, but limiting your calorie intake too much can deliver a double whammy to your metabolism. When you eat less than you need for basic biological function (about 2,000 calories for most women), your body throws the brakes on your metabolism.
It also begins to break down precious, calorie-burning muscle tissue for energy, says Dr Dan Benardot, associate professor of nutrition and kinesiology at Georgia State University. ‘Eat just enough so you’re not hungry—a 150-calorie snack midmorning and mid-afternoon between three meals (about 430 calories each) will keep your metabolism humming.’
Enjoy a hearty breakfast every morning
Eating breakfast jump-starts your metabolism and keeps energy high all day. It’s no accident that women who skip this meal are 4 1/2 times as likely to be obese. If nothing else, grab a yogurt. Or try porridge made with your choice of milk and topped with nuts for an essential protein boost.
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, so your daily cuppa (alright, plural) can rev your metabolism five to eight percent—about 98 to 174 calories a day.
A 2012 study from Obesity suggests that high-caffeine intake is associated with weight loss through thermogenesis—the way your body maintains heat—and fat oxidation
Work more fibre into your diet
Incorporating more fibre-rich foods into your diet such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and other legumes, will make you feel fuller longer and keep cravings for unhealthy foods at bay.
Studies find that women who eat the most fibre gain the least weight over time. Women should aim to get 21 to 25 grams of fibre daily, and men 30 to 38 grams.
The vegetables and fruits with the most fibre include raspberries, pears, apples, green peas and broccoli.
Making sure you’re getting a good balance of protein, fibre, and fat every day will keep your hormone levels in check and help prevent you from gaining belly fat.
Start strength training
Strength training can help you build lean muscle mass, which starts to slow down once you hit your 30s.
According to a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, strength training increases your resting metabolic rate, so you burn calories even when you’re not working out. Smart!
When it comes to strength training, doing compound exercises is one of the most effective ways to work several muscles at once and save time at the gym.
Compound movements like a weighted squat to a shoulder press or a reverse lunge to a bicep curl will work multiple muscle groups, so you get more bang for your buck.
Ramp up your protein intake
Your body needs protein to maintain lean muscle. Add a serving, like (approximately) 85g of lean meat, two tablespoons of nuts, or eight ounces of low-fat yogurt, to every meal and snack.
Just like fibre, protein keeps you satiated for a long period of time and curbs cravings for refined, processed foods, which tend to be calorie-dense. A win.
Get more vitamin D
Yup. This vitamin is essential for preserving metabolism-revving muscle tissue – and many in the UK don’t get adequate amounts.
The NHS recommends that from late March / early April to the end of September, ‘the majority of people should be able to make all the vitamin D they need from sunlight on their skin’.
However, it’s a good idea to prioritise getting enough vitamin D via your nutrition. You can get 90 percent of your recommended daily intake from a fillet of salmon. Other good sources include tuna, shrimp, tofu, cereal and eggs.
That said, you don’t need your food to do all the work. Per the NHS:
‘During the autumn and winter, you need to get vitamin D from your diet because the sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D.’
‘But since it’s difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.’