If you are just hitting the big 3-0 and already blaming your weight gain and poor digestion on slow metabolism due to age, or know somebody who does, this article is for you. Contrary to a common misconception, slowing metabolism and weight gain are more likely related to your lifestyle rather than age.
That’s good news because it means you have the power to make changes that can improve your metabolism at any time. With higher metabolism, you can get more energy, maintain your weight, have better sleep quality, etc. – something for all health-conscious Singaporeans to embrace.
|While we are on the subject of health and wellness, let’s keep in mind that life can take us in unexpected directions. Are you prepared for what lies ahead? Good protection starts with a good plan, and we’ve got them here!
SO, WHAT IS METABOLISM?
Simply put, metabolism is a complex network of hormones and enzymes that allow our body to convert food and drink that we consume into energy. It is related to how our body burns energy and calories throughout the day, even when we are sleeping or resting.
While metabolism varies greatly between people, in part due to genes and gender, the fact that metabolism is in every cell in our body highlights the importance of this internal body process. Every day, we expend energy that is used for our body’s basic functioning while at rest, energy for breaking down food and energy used in physical activity.
This energy enables our body to carry out main functions like blood circulation, breathing, food digestion, cell growth and repair, maintaining hormonal balance that can influence our emotions and body weight. In fact, this energy helps us to perform the smallest tasks such as getting out of bed.
More than just about controlling your weight, a healthy metabolism can ensure better health. A recent Ipsos survey reveals 9 in 10 Singaporeans believe that they need to do more to look after themselves physically. If you fall into this category, it’s time to boost and protect your health with the following lifestyle changes:
Ways to boost your metabolism easily
■ STAY ACTIVE THROUGHOUT THE DAY
Prolonged sitting and consistent inactivity (yes, watching Netflix all day falls into this category) can affect your metabolism greatly; not to mention various health risks such as obesity, diabetes, high-blood pressure, heart-related problems, etc.
Yes, there are work responsibilities, but nobody is expecting you to do a breakdance every other hour. You can start with the simple practice of breaking long periods of sitting. If you think that you’d be too consumed by work and lose track of time to stand, just set your alarm at each hour to remind you to stand and take a breather. A 5-minute stand or walk should suffice, and as they say, “a little rest goes a long way.”
You can also easily clock more steps by getting off your transport earlier or opting for stairs instead of taking the elevator. Remember that staying active doesn’t mean you have to be constantly doing hardcore exercises, though exercising will certainly help.
■ EXERCISE RIGHT
Not all exercises are made equal. Regular gym goers are most likely aware that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training (such as weight training) can create huge impacts on your metabolism. However, these vigorous exercises can be intimidating for many of us. The advice here is to know your limits and aim to have a sustainable exercise regime.
Go for a mix of activities that range from moderate to vigorous, and try to include some exercises to strengthen your muscles. Moderate exercises refer to those that will increase your heart rate slightly, so you breathe a bit harder but you can still hold a conversation. E.g. brisk walking, golfing, aqua aerobics, etc.
When you are ready, go for more vigorous exercises such as jogging, fast lap swimming, football or dancing, etc. To strengthen your muscles, consider doing some push ups or sit ups. Just carrying heavy shopping or the children’s school bag works as well too.
■ EAT AND DRINK RIGHT
Our metabolism increases each time we eat, digest and store the fuel in a process called the thermic effect of food (TEF). Before you start going on a binge, you should be aware that it’s not how much you eat but rather what you take in. Studies have shown that protein causes the largest rise in TEF, thereby increasing one’s overall metabolic rate by 15% to 30%.
Instead of over-calculating your calories, you may want to shift your attention to eating more proteins and mineral-rich food such as meat, fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Drinking more water and green tea helps as well. Research shows that drinking 0.5 litres of water can increase your resting metabolism by 24% for about an hour.
On the other side of the spectrum, it’s best to reduce your intake of sweetened food or sugar as they are known to slow your metabolism.
■ GET SUFFICIENT REST
We all know the ill effects of being sleep deprived, especially here in Singapore where only 27% of people get enough sleep. Insufficient quality sleep can induce crankiness, migraines and affected hormones that cause us to overeat. These are related to our affected metabolism.
To get the sleep required to maintain a healthy metabolism and overall health and wellness, it’s time to create a nightly routine that helps to facilitate rest. Turn off your mobile phone or put it to silent mode before you sleep. It’s a no brainer but you may also want to avoid having a large meal, caffeine or alcohol just before your bedtime.
Be it practising yoga moves, doing breathing exercises to calm you down or adjusting to a lower room temperature, a change in mindset and some degree of self-discipline are required to help you get into the snooze mode.
■ BE MINDFUL OF TIME
There’s a time for everything, and the same applies to your metabolism. While it works throughout the day and night, your metabolic rate does vary. That means that at certain times of the day, you are burning more calories than in other hours.
Ever wondered why some people prefer to take early dinner as they believe that helps with digestion before sleep? Where metabolism is concerned, the difference between an early dinner and a later one is a 10% reduction in fat burning overnight. When we fall asleep, our metabolic rate falls, hence chances of weight gain over time increases the later you eat, or rather the closer your eating time to your bedtime.
To help you stay mindful of time, try to create a regular routine for your meals and exercises.
■ TAKE ESSENTIAL SUPPLEMENTS
While the power to boost your metabolism lies in your own hands, there’s only so much that we can do to improve or maintain our personal health and wellness. That’s where supplements and protection come into play.
Wholesome food with good minerals and supplements such as Vitamin B, Vitamin D, calcium, iron and magnesium can help to keep your metabolism working effectively, ensuring the proper functioning of your body. As we all know, we should never take our health or life for granted. It is up to ourselves to protect what matters the most.
SLOW METABOLISM ≠ REASON FOR MIDLIFE WEIGHT GAIN
According to this study, our metabolism doesn’t start to decline until after age 60. Also, the slowdown is gradual, only 0.7% a year. To put into context, a person in their 90s needs 26% fewer calories each day than someone in midlife.
Metabolism has been taking the rap throughout different stages of our lives; i.e. for our hyperactiveness and voracious appetite during our youth, poorer digestion and weight gain for the middle aged and older. Well, it’s time to stop blaming metabolism for our weight gain or lethargy in midlife and start taking charge.
PS: Improving your metabolism doesn’t mean weight loss. The key lies in maintaining good health and physical wellness, and your metabolism happens to be at the heart of it.