It may seem obvious, but as we age, so do our bodies — hormonal patterns and protein production can change. Beginning in our 30s, people lose approximately 3 percent of their muscle mass each decade. This loss is often accompanied by a slow gain in fat, which, along with decreased physical activity, can make it difficult for individuals to maintain a healthy weight.
So what exactly is metabolism? The term itself is viewed as a catchall that describes all of the biochemical and hormonal reactions that keep our bodies functioning properly. There are two components to metabolism.
The first is anabolism, which refers to the synthesis of all biological compounds our bodies need to function, otherwise known as constructive metabolism. The second type is catabolism, which occurs when molecules get broken down for energy. Most people are talking about this second stage when referring to metabolism.
Misconceptions About Metabolism
A first instinct for most people when trying to boost their metabolism is to cut back on the calories they consume. But studies show that cutting calories for as little time as three weeks lowers the number of calories your body can process daily by 72 calories. It might not seem like much, but that decrease can have major effects on your overall health.
There are several other common myths people fall for when it comes to metabolism. First of all, it’s thought that skinnier individuals must have higher metabolisms, but the opposite is generally true. Their metabolisms may actually be slower comparatively, according to a University of Ottowa professor: “There is literally less [calories] to burn while at rest,” Yoni Freedhoff says.
Additionally, people often believe that skipping a meal will slow down your metabolism. But the frequency with which you eat has little to do with metabolic speed. Whether you’re eating three meals a day or smaller ones every four hours, your metabolic rate will probably stay the same. The same goes for people who believe that time of day influences how fast their bodies burn calories. Hormones, food quality, and energy expenditure have a far greater effect on your body’s fat storage than time ever could.
Food That Help Boost Your Metabolism
Instead of just cutting the number of calories they consume, it’s crucial for individuals to focus on fueling their metabolism. Here are five foods to add to your diet to help speed up your metabolism:
1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fatty foods aren’t the first to come to mind when you think of speeding up your metabolism, but the right kind of fats actually can. Fats like polyunsaturated fats, saturated fats, trans fats, and monounsaturated fats should be taken in moderation. On the other hand, extra virgin olive oil — a monounsaturated fat — can assist your body in burning calories.
Lean proteins like chicken and turkey are known to elevate your metabolism without giving you too much cholesterol. Your body uses more energy to metabolize those proteins, which is why exercising and eating lean proteins increases your muscle mass.
3. Green Tea
Whether consumed hot or chilled, this beverage has long been viewed as metabolic magic. Green tea is packed with catechin polyphenols like epigallocatechin gallate, an effective antioxidant that assists the body’s efforts to neutralize harmful agents, as well as protecting cells from damage. It’s suggested that EGCG also naturally speeds up your metabolism by helping the liver transform fat into energy.
This super nut is loaded with monounsaturated fats and should be eaten in moderation. (Eat too much, and it’ll have the opposite desired effect on your weight.) Consuming almonds helps lower bad cholesterol levels and lowers the possibility of diabetes and heart disease. And, along with many other nuts, they can help you maintain a healthy weight.
For the longest time, eggs were believed to be bad for your health, but they’re actually quite healthy. Studies show that eating eggs, yolk and all, has no adverse effects on your cholesterol. Eating nutrient-dense foods like eggs helps you feel full, decreasing your likelihood of overeating and helping maintain your metabolism.
Keeping your metabolism quick benefits your overall health in myriad ways: It helps you recharge and feel energized all day long; it also helps you perform your best. Eating foods that naturally boost your metabolism will help you stay active no matter what your age is.
Kristine Don is a big time science nut who dabbles in the world of health and wellness from time to time as the Editor and Content Manager at SmartyPants Vitamins, home of The Good Gummy and one of Inc.'s 500 Fastest Growing Companies of 2015.