A recent study published in Science By Pontzer found that much of what we thought we knew about our metabolism is wrong. The common assumption is that your metabolism slows down after age 40 and the main reason women in that age group tend to gain weight. Another common belief is that men's metabolisms are faster than women's.
The study found that regardless of your gender, your metabolism stays steady from about age 20 to about age 60, when most people start to become less active. Men also do not have faster metabolisms than women, rather, they tend to burn more calories per day for their size because they have more muscle, which uses more energy than fat does.
So the question becomes, why do so many people struggle with weight gain as they age? The answer comes down to the amount of total calories you consume. While there may be many reasons our body experiences change, there are things we can do to try and circumvent weight gain as we age.
As we get older we may be eating more and more calories, particularly if we're consuming processed foods, which will inevitably lead to weight gain. By the time we get to our forties we may have gained a significant amount of body fat over the years. Most weight gain occurs over a period time and if it is not addressed early, people will continue to add body fat.
The other very interesting piece of information coming out of the study is the fact that physical activity has no affect on the metabolism. You read that right. When you exercise you may initially lose weight, but eventually you will adapt to the workout and your body will adapt to the new activity level and you will no longer lose weight.
The bottom line is, it's all about the food. When you consume far more calories than your body needs, you will start to put on weight. So why it is so hard for people to lose weight? We often don't realize the amount of calories we are eating on a particular day. The best way to clearly look at this information is to track everything you eat in a day for period of 2 - 3 days using an app such as myfitnesspal.com. Once you see the exact calories you're eating, you can decrease or increase calories depending on your goal. You may find that you are mindlessly snacking, or that you consume far more calories on the weekends.
Here are a few rules you can start adapting into your daily routine to ensure you're not overeating:
Avoid processed foods. In a nut shell, do not eat anything packaged or anything that you can't prepare yourself with the listed ingredients in your own kitchen. It is important to read labels and make a rule not to buy anything with ingredients you can't pronounce. Aim to eat more foods in their natural form, such as plants.
Don't drink your calories. Only drink water, tea or black coffee, as long as you're not adding artificial sweeteners. Even a little creamer in your daily morning coffee can pack on extra calories if you're not careful. Avoid soft drinks and fruit juice.
Load up on vegetables as much as possible and be careful with nuts and seeds which can pack on a ton of calories without filling you up.
Avoid processed oils and use olive oil, coconut oil and macadamia oil sparingly. Opt for homemade, fat free dressing in your salads.
A couple of glasses of wine won't throw off your calorie total by too much, but be mindful that those drinks don't prompt you to drop your guard and have you running toward the junk food.
No snacking. If you're eating sufficiently at breakfast, lunch and dinner there's no need to snack. Snacking between meals adds unnecessary calories to your total daily intake.
Track every food that goes into your mouth. If you change nothing, the awareness itself with have an impact on your subconscious mind.
While exercise may not play a role in metabolism, it does play a role in everything else - building muscle, stronger mind, better immune function, reduces inflammation, less energy on stress activation, reproductive health, and it impacts every part of your body. So move your body as much as possible and weight train to build muscle and burn fat.
If you follow the above steps to a tee and leave yourself one day a week to indulge, you will be adhering to the popular 80/20 rule. Eat healthy 80% of the time and indulge the other 20%. Easy!