You used to be able to chow down on sugary donuts, creamy pastas and loaded burgers without loosening your belt buckle. But overnight it seems that even thinking about sugary or fatty foods seems to pack on the pounds.
We hate to break it to you, but it's probably not all in your head. As you grow older, you're likely to notice the weight creep on faster thanks to a combination of inadequate sleep, a lowered muscle mass and -- perhaps most importantly -- a slower metabolism. Some estimates suggest that it actually slows down by 5 percent every decade after your 40th birthday.
But you can do something about it. Here are five effective ways to boost your metabolism and stop packing on the pounds.
1. Spice things up.
Studies have linked various benefits with kicking up the heat-factor in your foods. Whether you're cooking with hot chili peppers or adding a spicy sauce, research has shown there might be benefits to spicy foods. One study from last year found that the capsaicin in chili peppers can boost your metabolism and even helped mice with a high-fat diet keep the weight off. Another study found that consuming 5 grams of chili peppers can boost your metabolism pretty much immediately, up to 20 percent, for about 30 minutes or so. Some research suggests that even one gram of chili can curb your appetite, if you're not used to eating spicy food.
2. Hit the weights.
Cardio has calorie-burning benefits, but it's maintaining muscle mass in middle-age that's critical. Muscle helps your body burn calories, more so than fat. Strength training can help you increase your muscle mass and also reduce fat. One study of older men found that a 16-week resistance training regimen helped them lose body fat and raised their resting metabolic rate. Other studies have similarly found modest improvements in metabolic rate with weight training, though some suggest men reap more rewards from it than women.
3. Fill up on protein.
No, we're not touting fad diets, but the body does need protein to build and maintain muscle mass which, as we just noted, helps you burn more calories. Studies have shown that people who eat more protein have a higher resting metabolic rate.
4. Don't skip breakfast.
We know that starting our day with some nutritious fuel is generally a good choice -- it can even help students perform better in school. Studies have shown that a high protein, nutritious breakfast actually curbs snacking later in the day. That's unhealthy, sugary, fatty snacking to be exact. Other studies have shown that having an unhealthy breakfast can cause metabolic problems later in life for teens. And one British study found that people who eat breakfast within two hours of waking up were more likely to burn more calories throughout the day.
5. Drink more water.
Metabolism aside, getting enough water can help you feel full and prevent overeating. But some small studies suggest that drinking water can actually cause your body to burn off more calories. One study called it a "thermogenic effect," with subjects who drank around 16 ounces of room-temperature water boosting their metabolism for about half an hour, just 10 minutes after drinking. Another study, involving overweight children, similarly found that drinking cold water very briefly dropped metabolic rate and then boosted it about an hour later. The change in metabolic rate is modest, but hey, every little bit counts.
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