Avoid Weight Gain as You Age

To speed up your metabolism, you'll want to boost all three ways your body burns calories. Here's how:

Add muscle. Each pound of muscle burns about six calories a day, versus two calories a day for fat. If you're able to replace 5 pounds of fat with 5 pounds of muscle, you'll burn an extra 20 calories a day. Although this translates into a difference of just 2 pounds a year at 3,500 calories a pound, that's 20 pounds over a decade.

Strength training exercises, such as lifting weights or doing squats, lunges or sit-ups, can help you build muscle.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautions about the potential dangers of using body building products that contain anabolic steroids or steroid-like products - including serious liver damage, increased heart attack and stroke risk, and others. Talk to your health care provider before taking any dietary supplements.

Get moving. Just 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise five days a week can burn about 1,000 calories a week. That works out to about 15 pounds a year. High-intensity workouts, such as jogging or using a stairclimber, may have an additional benefit - increasing your resting metabolic rate after a workout.

Eat more often. The American Dietetic Association recommends eating three meals and one or two snacks a day. "Studies suggest that eating smaller, more-frequent meals does increase your metabolism slightly," says Carmen Roberts, M.S., R.D., a dietitian at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. Just make sure to choose healthy snacks, such as fruit or yogurt, and don't increase your overall caloric intake.

Eat breakfast. Starting your day on a healthy foundation, such as a bowl of high-fiber cereal, makes it far less likely you'll grab a fattening Danish later on. Another benefit to breakfast? Studies suggest that it gets your metabolism going. "When you haven't eaten all night, your body is in a sluggish mode," says Roberts.

Consume enough protein. Although your body needs a combination of carbohydrates, protein and fat each day, protein is especially important for people who want to lose weight. One reason, explains Roberts, is that your body uses up extra calories digesting protein because it's the hardest food source to break down.

Another reason is that getting enough protein ensures that any weight you lose comes primarily from fat and not from muscle. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is approximately 56 grams for the average adult male and 46 grams for the average adult female.

Don't overdo the protein, though. Eating too much protein can be hard on your kidneys and liver and may also weaken bones.

Drink plenty of water. Your body runs more effectively when you're well hydrated—and that includes your metabolism. Water is your best calorie-free choice.

A small study has shown that the process of digesting two cups of water can speed up your metabolism by about 30 percent for the next half hour or so. Although 40 percent of the effect comes from the body's warming the water from room temperature to body temperature, there's no evidence that chugging ice water burns extra calories.

Get your zzzs. Running short on sleep boosts levels of the hormone ghrelin, which research says can make you hungrier, slow your metabolism and promote fat retention. In one study, dieters randomized to get 5 1/2 hours of sleep a night lost only half as much weight as those who got 8 1/2 hours of sleep a night.

Don't crash diet. If you go on a very low-calorie diet, your body will go into starvation mode - slowing your metabolism instead of speeding it up to make full use of every calorie consumed. That's why most people shouldn't trim more than 500 calories a day from their normal intake. The exception is people whose caloric intake is very high to begin with.

Turn down the heat. Earlier generations generally lived in chillier homes and used up extra calories trying to stay warm in the winter. Although there's no need to be uncomfortable, lowering the thermostat by a couple degrees in the winter may accomplish two goals: reduce your heating bills and burn a few extra calories.

Exercising outdoors in cooler temperatures instead of inside a climate-controlled gym may also help you burn additional calories.

Consider caffeine and chili peppers. Small studies show that drinking caffeinated beverages, such as tea and coffee, increases your heart rate and leads to a temporary boost in metabolism. Tentative research also points to the power of chili peppers—both the hot variety that contains capsaicin and the milder sweet peppers containing capsinoid - to help increase metabolism. But don't start up a coffee habit or make your food unpleasantly spicy in an effort to lose weight.

In 2014, the FDA warned against powdered pure caffeine—and advised consumers to avoid these products. According to the agency, a single teaspoon of pure caffeine is equivalent to the amount in about 25 cups of coffee. Caffeine overdose can cause the following:

  • Confusion, disorientation
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Irregular and/or rapid heart beat

Caffeine toxicity can also cause seizures and may be fatal.

The best approach

The most important components of keeping weight off remain the same: increasing activity and limiting calories. But by following the metabolism-boosting pointers above, you may have an easier time keeping those extra pounds from creeping up on you.

Source: Prepared by the Editors of The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter: Health After 50; Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 08 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 19 Mar 2015