It’s no secret that it gets harder to lose weight as you get older. Many celebrity-endorsed products and fad diets claim miracle results, but is there really a shortcut to slimming down? Samantha Davis, associate professor in TCU’s Department of Nutritional Sciences, gives the skinny on boosting metabolism, the importance of exercise, and the pros and cons of intermittent fasting.
Why is age significant when considering a person’s metabolic rate?
Part of it is hormonal. Typically as we get older, we experience decreased activity and our lean body mass decreases. Doing exercise is the single safest way to increase the metabolic rate. When you increase exercise, you increase muscle mass. The more muscle on your body, and the less fat, the higher your metabolic rate. That's because muscle uses a lot more energy than fat while at rest.
How can those over the age of 40 boost their metabolism with their diet?
It would be great if you could boost your metabolism strictly by changing your diet. Even though it’s often presented that way, there isn’t a metabolic booster. Products out there that claim they can increase metabolism are unsubstantiated. Again, exercise and maintaining or increasing muscle mass is the best bet.
Do you believe that intermittent fasting is beneficial? Why?
That’s a loaded question. There are all different kinds of fasting. Some are as simple as, “I’m not going to eat after 8 o’clock.” Other fasting plans allow you to eat 25 percent of your allotted calories a few days a week and then eat normally the other days. But are you going to do that forever? Is it sustainable? Food is incredibly social for us. Any event we have, food is related. My thought is that fasting can affect you participating in gatherings with friends and family or may negatively affect your mood.
FOUR SCIENCE-BACKED WAYS TO BATTLE THE BULGE OVER 40
- Focus on healthy foods and portion control.
Increase fruit and vegetable intake and decrease the amount of sugar and processed foods you eat. You also want to prioritize whole foods — vegetables, beans, nuts, and fruit — that are full of fiber.
- Stay hydrated.
It’s easy to confuse the sensation of thirst for hunger. Staying hydrated with water also ramps up metabolism, increasing the breakdown of fat.
- Increase activity.
Give your major muscle groups a workout by adding strength training to your exercise routine. With more muscle, you burn calories more efficiently and you’re going to be more active because you have better balance and you have more stamina. Also, try to incorporate a half hour a day of aerobic exercise such as jogging, walking, or biking.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
If you don’t wake up feeling energized, you will be less active during the day and will burn fewer calories as a result. Try to get somewhere between seven and nine hours of sleep per night.
Learn more about TCU's Department of Nutritional Sciences.