Updated: 8/21/2019

Many people are familiar with the idea that once you enter your 40s, everything in and outside of your body starts to go south. Our metabolisms begin to slow once we reach the tender age of 30 years old. The good news is that your metabolism doesn’t slow down that much. Most of the significant weight gain that happens in your life happens in your mid-life, also known as your 40s and up. However, new studies are showing that this weight change has very little to do with your metabolism.

The real truth is that as we get older, we tend to become less active. While this may seem depressing, the good news is there is something we can do about it. Before getting into the solution, let’s talk about what your metabolism really is and how it works.

How Your Body Burns Energy

Metabolic Rate

The resting metabolic rate, or the rate at which your body expends energy while at rest, is determined by a number of different factors. These factors include age, weight, height, sex, and the genes your parents so kindly passed on to you. Unfortunately, there’s very little you can do to change this resting rate.

Aside from the resting rate, our bodies have three distinctive phases of calorie burning. Most often these are the phases people are referring to when they talk about boosting your overall calorie burn. For example, when people say spicy food burns more calories, or that certain workouts boost your calorie burn more than others.

Most of the Things People Say Will Boost Your Metabolism Actually Won’t

cut calories

When we are eating, we are burning calories. However, this is only a small amount, roughly 10% of our total calories burned for the day. While 10% may seem like a lot, your ability to lose weight is dependent on your caloric intake. The 10% of calories burned is also known as the thermic effect. This is the first of the three phases mentioned earlier. Drinking stimulating beverages or eating spicy foods can turn up the thermic effect, but hardly enough to make a serious dent in your overall calories burned.

Foods like green tea or hot chili peppers are simply not enough to help you lose those pesky extra pounds. The ADAM Medical Encyclopedia states that “some may provide a small boost in your metabolism, but not enough to make a difference in your weight.”

Try Getting Active

Get Active

The most effective and often the most dreaded form of calorie burning is exercise. But exercise doesn’t have to be awful. There are ways to burn extra calories without having to spend hours in the gym. Things like taking the stairs, signing up for a hot yoga class, or walking at lunch are just some of the ways you can incorporate extra movement into your day. The second phase of calorie burning is physical activity expenditure. This occurs when, you guessed it, we exercise.

The third phase, known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, is the final phase of calorie burning. This is the phase where we continue to burn calories after a workout.

As far as weight loss is concerned, the phases of physical activity expenditure and excess post-exercise oxygen consumption are the two most important. But your best bet, when it comes to losing weight, is incorporating any extra movement into your day.

Related: 11 Metabolism Boosting Foods and Spices to Add to Water

What About Weight Lifting?

weight lifting

Many people believe increasing muscle mass through weightlifting is the only way to get serious weight loss results. While lifting weights is a part of losing weight, muscles really don’t burn as many calories as people would have you believe. In fact, your brain burns more calories than your biceps.

Brain function takes up about 20% of your resting metabolic rate. Next, your heart, which never stops working as long as you’re alive, contributes another 15-20% of your resting rate. Your kidneys and other tissues also have contributions as well. Your muscles contribute only about 20-25%, which may seem like a lot. However, it’s not enough to carry the weight of guilt for not lifting weights.

The idea that lifting weights burns hundreds of extra calories is a myth and one we hope you will stop buying into. In fact, maybe once you drop the guilt of not lifting weights, you might actually shed a few extra pounds. Guilt can be a heavy burden to carry.

Mindful Eating

portion control

As we age, not only do we become less active, we are also less mindful of our body’s nutritional needs. Our ability to control our food intake, like knowing when we are full, seems to slow down and almost stop entirely. Try eating smaller meals throughout the day to avoid gorging at meal times. Stay active and stick with smaller meals and you can completely avoid the theory that your body has to go south when you turn 40.

Related: Science Proven Ways to Boost Your Metabolism


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