Why your metabolism is slowing down and what you can do about it
January makes me alive with wonder, thinking of fresh beginnings, a bare calendar of opportunity and a salutation to an upcoming healthy and skinny new year! But... in reality, when January hits, I feel as sluggish as a bug in a rug.
And, not one to ever blame myself, I say thanks to the holidays for that. I was born with the willpower of a flea, so when you put eggnog, shortbread cookies, any cookies, popcorn tins, sea salt caramel-filled chocolates, Baileys Irish cream or anything else considered to be horrible for you in front of me, Imma eat it — and will probably take seconds.
So, as I enter January, my brain and my body are worlds apart: my head launching forward with the gusto of Hyperbole, while trying to drag my lethargic, eggnog-nostalgic metabolism along with it. So maybe the secret to a fresh new year is a tip-top metabolism?
A plummeting metabolism
Let's look at this: "There are many signs that show the metabolism has plummeted. The most obvious are weight gain, not been able to lose weight, sugar cravings, dry skin, hair loss, loss of elasticity of the skin," says Dr. Brian Garrett — a certified chiropractic sports physician with the American Chiropractic Association Council (who works with MMA fighters and is a sixth-degree black belt!).
He explains that some of the top reasons for a slowed metabolism are thyroid problems, cortisol levels (stress), adrenal gland issues — and poor diet and lack of exercise (which sums up the holidays for me). Consider these slow-metabolism instigators as well:
- Low muscle mass
- Hormone changes
- Lack of sleep
Reversing the damage
The good news is... drum roll... our metabolisms can change! Or, more specifically, our metabolisms can change if we smarten up our lifestyles. "Metabolism is not necessarily set in stone," Dr. Lynn Anderson, yoga instructor, naturopath and author of Sex Matters, explains. "We may just need to 'trigger' our genes. We can, through lifestyle choices, trigger our metabolic rate to work more effectively and efficiently. Eating healthy and exercising are two ways to improve metabolic rate."
Health expert Peter Bedard, M.A., C.Ht., agrees, explaining, "The number one way to increase your metabolism is to build muscle. Any strength training exercise, whether it is yoga, weight training or simply doing a few push-ups, will speed up your metabolism." Essentially, more muscle mass requires more heat and fuel, which causes muscle to burn more calories and, in turn, increase metabolism.
But, you don't have to become a professional weight lifter and bulk up to reap the benefits of muscle mass. Anderson notes, "When you aerobically exercise you trigger your metabolism to continue to burn calories at a faster pace for the next fourteen hours after a vigorous workout? It’s called the 'afterburn effect.'" So, roll out your yoga mat, head to the gym or drop and do 20 push-ups. Even just a little bit of effort can make a big difference.
Speed up by chowing down
To further support muscle mass and boost metabolism, Karen Owoc, a clinical exercise physiologist, recommends eating "foods that help build muscle and offset muscle loss." Here's a collection of foods — everything from muscle building to metabolism boosting — that our experts recommend:
- Egg whites
- Lean meats or fortified cereals rich in iron
- Soy beans
Fruits and vegetables:
- Citrus fruits, like lemons and grapefruits
- Chili peppers
Herbs, spices and other:
- Green tea
- Ginger Cloves
Owoc notes that it is important to eat "real" food and eat regularly (no skipping meals!). And, as mentioned earlier, dehydration can slow your metabolism down, so be sure to drink water throughout the day.
With the right mindset and opportunistic new year ahead (or impending January birthday), we can take the reigns on our slothful metabolisms and light the fire they need to get pumping. Hello, 2016!