Remember when you used to eat whatever you wanted with zero repercussions? Slamming pizza, beer, and fries on a Friday night and then hopping into a bikini Saturday morning without a second thought? Ah. Is this a distant memory? While we like to boil that down to metabolism, is it? Or is it a mindset? We asked Sarah Mirkin, RDN, CPT, founder of Kitchen Coach, to get to the grit, and she surprised us with some aha-moment news.
“Most people believe that we have a fast metabolism until we hit our thirties; that after that, it’s all downhill; and that maintaining a healthy weight becomes more and more difficult every year as we age. But hold the phone!
“Research from a large study done in 2021 suggests otherwise. Weight gain in our thirties and beyond isn’t necessarily tied to a slower metabolism. To clarify, your metabolic rate is the amount of energy (calories) our bodies expend on a daily basis. This also takes into account exercise and the thermic effect of food. The basal metabolic rate is the amount of energy our body uses when we’re at rest. Babies burn 50% more calories per pound than adults, and after the first year, metabolism begins to decline about 3% each year until we reach age 20. Then it doesn’t begin to decline again until age 60!
“Obviously, as a child’s grows, so does the total calorie need. For each pound of fat-free body mass, fewer calories are used until age 20. Believe it or not, your resting metabolism does not change during phases of life such as puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.
Eat enough protein throughout the day, not all at once
“Of course, there are some things you can do to keep your metabolic rate high. Since muscle burns calories and fat doesn’t, building muscle is key. The thing many people don’t realize about protein intake is that it needs to be spread out evenly throughout the day. The average person can only utilize 20-30g at one time for muscle growth.
“Another important factor is sleep. Research shows that inadequate sleep increases our hunger hormone, ghrelin, slowing our metabolism and making us eat more.
Don't majorly restrict your cals
“Lastly, stop yo-yo dieting or trying low-calorie diets. Your metabolism will respond by slowing down. When you diet, you also primarily lose muscle mass. When you go back to eating normally, you gain back fat. Every time you diet, you are slowing your metabolic rate.
Bottom line, it doesn’t matter how old you are. If you eat enough, and healthfully (with adequate protein!), stay active, and get adequate sleep, you should be able to maintain a healthy metabolism even when your thirties are far in the rearview.”
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