A declining metabolism is a tricky issue to navigate. Many experts offer different suggestions on how to deal with it, ranging from hormone reuptake to various types of diets that claim to reset your system.
Even here in this column, we’ve covered a number of issues related to metabolism. It’s especially relevant to those who are approaching 40, when getting the scale to move back even a little bit gets harder and harder.
While the concept of “resetting” your metabolism like flicking a switch on and off is a myth, you can still improve it.
In a nutshell, age plays a big factor in declining metabolism, but other factors play a role in in slowing it down too, e.g. hormonal imbalance, stress, poor diet, inactive lifestyle, and the biggest factor in slowing metabolism: a loss of calorie-burning muscle that occurs as we age.
Worrying too much about a slowing metabolism may actually be causing you the opposite of the intended effect. Because we’re impatient to see results, we’re won over by supplements and diet products that claim to deliver results in one week, and other such unrealistic timelines.
Delete whatever information you have about that new diet method or product claiming to boost metabolism. If there were shortcuts to long-lasting, fast metabolism, we would all be lean and rippled with muscles, and not struggling with that tummy bulge, fat ankles, or worse of all, obesity.
But there is good news in all of this: making improvements to your metabolism doesn’t need to be complicated at all. By being more conscientious about these basic, everyday practices, you will be able to see improvements to your metabolism in the long run.
Drinking green tea, as seen in this filepic, can help to speed up your metabolism naturally.
Eat a full, balanced diet to get a good range of nutrients and minerals. Include quality lean protein, complex carbohydrates and foods rich in fibre, iron, zinc and selenium.
These are foods that nourish the body, preventing discomfort like gas, bloating and that feeling of being in a “food coma”. Spice up your meals with ginger, cinnamon, cayenne and turmeric. Drinking green tea or some caffeine can also speed up your metabolism.
When your system spends more time processing and digesting food, you stay full longer and won’t consume excess food that ends up being stored as fat. Consult a nutritionist or read some books on nutrition, if you would like to learn more about eating well.
Reminding people to drink water seems unnecessary as we are taught from young to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
But the percentage of people who don’t get enough water may surprise you; for example, in the United Kingdom, nearly 90% of the population does not drink enough water on a daily basis, according to the UK National Hydration Council.
Staying hydrated is not very difficult at all if you split your daily recommended intake of water into several parts per day. When you wake up in the morning, start the day with 500ml of water, then again every three hours until you’ve reached about 2.5 litres in the day.
Good hydration is important for the elimination of toxins in the blood, which would otherwise accumulate in the body and be stored in the fat cells.
In modern society, stressful situations arise out of nowhere, sometimes in the least expected scenarios.
It almost seems like the odds are stacked against us, whether it’s the unreasonable amount of time we are stuck in traffic jams, car accidents caused by bad drivers, or work piling up at the office and no time to complete it all.
Prolonged elevated stress tends to cause imbalances in hormones like cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and adrenaline. Cortisol, in particular, may cause the accumulation of abdominal fat.
Instead of expecting solutions to these evergreen external problems, it is more reasonable to learn how to manage your stress.
Some things you can do include:
• Learning some basic meditation practices, such as proper breathing techniques that can be put to use in the mornings to help prepare you for the day and in the evenings to help release any stress from the day.
• Taking a five- to 10-minute walk after lunch as part of your daily routine at work.
This will get your blood circulation going, boost serotonin levels and decrease stress hormones that threaten to slow metabolism.
• Allocating time to wind down from the day and prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep.
Turn off as many light-emitting devices at least one hour before bed, brew a nice cup of calming tea, and have a do-it-yourself (DIY) aromatherapy session with essential oils like a relaxing lavender scent.
A deep, restful sleep aids in better weight-loss results. Studies have indicted that a lack of sleep impairs fat loss and lean muscle gain in people who only sleep five to six hours.
This was even when diet and lifestyle were the same otherwise. So, if you want to improve your metabolism, sleep early and sleep more. The lack of proper sleep can lead to insulin resistance, which can cause hormonal imbalances, weight gain and progress to metabolic syndrome.
If this sounds counterintuitive (how can I lose weight if I’m sleeping so much?), then be reminded that while you sleep early at night, your body is undergoing maintenance. Among the many things happening in your body while you sleep, is the release of hormones that let the body heal.
And all of this system maintenance that happens while you sleep actually burns calories, which is all the more reason to get enough sleep every night!
If you get enough sleep, ghrelin, the hormone that controls hunger pangs, will not go into overdrive and cause overeating. Also, growth hormones will be released that assist in burning and distributing fat in the body.
Being active becomes increasingly important as you get older, as the benefits are multifold. Our modern lifestyle is mostly sedentary as we have progressed to working in offices and moved away from daily manual labour like farming.
The lack of exercise, smoking and alcohol all contribute to greater abdominal fat. Instead of reducing physical activity as you get older, it is beneficial to start getting active, even if you are in your 40s or 50s and have been slacking in that area for the past couple of decades.
You’ll see improvement to memory and energy levels, your heart and joints will strengthen, and it will have a positive effect on your mood, allowing stress levels to drop.
Try weight-resistance exercises to increase your metabolism in the long term, because muscles burn more calories than fat does. But all things should be done in moderation. If you aren’t at peak fitness level yet, then going to the gym every day may not be a good idea.
Exercising too much can affect the production of oestrogen and testosterone, as well as slow thyroid function, which plays a key role in metabolism. Too much exercise can also affect the endocrine system, causing an increase in the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Fitness professionals generally advise people to do try “active resting” in between days of intense workouts like weight training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts.
This is when you do sessions of lighter exercise such as a mode-rately-paced bike ride, a slow swim or basic yoga exercises, in order not to stress your body too much.
By Datuk Dr. Nor Ashikin Mokhtar Published in Star Newspaper, May 20, 2019