Turning 40 sets off midlife crisis alarm bells in most women and it’s no wonder. This milestone age brings grim realities like a slowing metabolism, resulting in seemingly unexplainable weight gain. Indeed, after 40 your metabolism winds down 5% every 10 years, which means you have to consume fewer calories and work out more just to maintain your normal weight.
What is Metabolism?
Metabolism is the process the body uses to convert food into energy. Your body either uses this fuel right away or stores it in body tissues, like your liver, muscles or as body fat. Many factors influence metabolism including sex, age, thyroid levels, the ratio of muscle to fat and your emotional state.
Here are the answers to your biggest questions about metabolism after age 40, followed by simple ways to rev it back up again.
1. Why am I gaining fat in new places?
Answer: Mitochondria—the structures within cells that convert food into energy— slow down or die off after age 40. Subsequently, you can’t burn calories like you did before and can start gaining weight.
Solution: To combat the loss of mitochondria, cut 100 calories from your daily intake. Easy ways to trim 100 calories include removing skin from chicken breasts; using skim instead of whole milk in coffee; swapping mustard for mayo on sandwiches; and eating plain hamburgers rather than cheeseburgers. Studies show that eliminating 100 calories a day helps to keep weight off long term.
2. Why am I hungrier now than ever before?
Answer: After 40 your estrogen levels drop which causes insulin levels to go up and thyroid levels to go down, both of which increase hunger. You wind up eating more and burning fewer calories, which adds to the fat deep inside your belly known as omentum fat.
Solution: Soluble fiber is your best defense against hunger and belly fat. It fills you up fast so you eat less and stay satisfied. At 40 you should consume 25 grams of fiber daily. Consider these excellent sources:
1 bowl of steel-cut oats = 9 grams of fiber
1 cup raspberries = 8 grams of fiber
1 cup brown rice = 8 grams of fiber
Total = 25 grams of fiber
Click here for some of Dr. Oz’s other fiber-rich favorites.
3. Why can’t I even lose a pound anymore?
Answer: Muscle burns 3 times more calories than fat cells, which means loss of muscle mass causes weight gain and an inability to shed pounds. Key factors that create loss of muscle mass include a drop in testosterone levels, crash dieting and disuse from aging. Recent studies suggest that at 40, women lose muscle mass twice a fast as men. You lose the most muscle mass on the body’s largest surface areas like the core muscles supporting your shoulders and belly, as well as your thighs.
Solution: To fight muscle loss in your back and shoulders try plank exercises; you can do them during commercial breaks while you’re watching TV. Simple squats are great for firming up thigh muscles; try doing them in the kitchen while you wait for dinner to finish cooking.
Metabolism Boosters for Under $5
Here are 4 more ways to fight metabolism slow down without breaking your bank account.
Oolong tea contains polyphenols that help block fat-building enzymes. This young tea is low in caffeine so you can drink it throughout the day for continued results. Research shows that your metabolism will be raised for 2 hours after every cup of Oolong.
Black pepper contains the alkaloid piperine, which helps speed up metabolism. Add black pepper to tomato juice for a double metabolism boosting effect—tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that helps protect your mitochondria. Reach for the pepper mill when you’d normally use salt; you’ll boost your metabolism and reduce your sodium intake.
Beans are chockfull of soluble fiber to help lower insulin levels so you store less fat and also feel fuller. Eat 2 cups of red, white or black beans to get your recommended daily fiber intake of 25 grams.
Here’s a surprise: drinking ice water forces your body to burn calories by bringing your body temperature back to normal. Eight glasses of ice water a day works off 70 calories. Drink ice water before a meal to feel fuller quicker.
Click here to discover other metabolism-boosting foods.