Eve Matheny had been trying far years to lose 30 pounds. "Back in September of 2009, my girlfriend and I had a bet on who would drop the weight first. By April 2010, I was within 7 pounds of hitting my goal and winning, but then I put it all back on," says Eve, who's 49 and lives in Bristow, Virginia.
She finally vowed to lose the weight for good, and saw a nutritionist in August 2010 who helped her pinpoint a major obstacle: not eating breakfast. "1 always thought I was saving calories, but the nutritionist explained that my metabolism was in a resting state while I slept and would stay low until I refueled it with food," says Eve.
Of course, you have to cut calories to lose weight, but eating too few actually causes your metabolism to slowdown and hold on to the calories you're giving it, explains Jeffrey R. Garber, MD, the president+elect of the American College of Endocrinology. Plus, skipping breakfast (or any meal) makes you hungrier than usual, so you wind up eating more when you do cat- which was happening to Eve. Three months after making a healthy breakfast part of her routine, eating smaller portions and switching to whole+grain carbs, Eve had lost 28 pounds - just 2 pounds away from her goal weight.
The truth is, whether you're dieting or not, your metabolism slows down as you get older. But gaining weight is avoidable. Your diet, exercise and other lifestyle choices can go a long way toward preventing that extra padding. Here's what really helps rev up your calorie burn at any age.
PUMP UP THE PROTEIN
Eggs, chicken, turkey, lean beef and pork are all good sources of protein, which not only helps build muscle (and muscle burns more calories than fat), but is also more work for your body to digest. In other words, it takes a lot more calories for your body to break down a grilled chicken breast than it would an order of fries.
"About 25% to 30% of the calories from protein are lost in the digestive process," says trainer Brad Schoenfeld, author of The Woman's Home Workout Bible. Compare that with only 6% to 8% forcarbs and less than 2% for fats.
Schoenfeld says that every day, women who work out should eat about 1 gram of protein per pound of their weight (or per pound of your ideal weight if you're trying to lose). For a J50-pound woman, that's 150grams of protein, or roughly the amount in 2 eggs (13 g), 3 oz turkey breast (26 g), 6 oz tuna (40 g),6 oz salmon (34 g), 2 Tbsp peanut butter (8 g) and 1 cup of cottage cheese (28 g). One way to get it all in is to eat a small amount of protein at each meal and snack. But keep in mind that you won't benefit from the muscle-building power of protein if you're not exercising.
Or any ca ffeinated beverage (even green tea), which appears to kick up metabolism by at least a few percentage points. Many studies have also found that having caffeine before a workout can help you exercise harder and longer. Try having a cup of coffee or tea in the morning and an hour or so before you take a walk or work out.
Or really, make your everyday life more active. Working out regularly (at least 30 minutes three times a week) is important, but how active you are throughout the rest of your day counts, too. Experts say that increasing those little bits of exercise you get when you're doing laundry, grocery shopping or washing the dishes are key to staving off weight gain.
What's more, research from the Mayo Clinic found that obese people sit, on average, two hours more each day than those who are naturally slimmer, and they burn about 350 fewer calories a day just from sitti ng. "You can burn several hundred extra calories a day just by moving around more," says Schoenfeld.
So move more whenever you can. Walk around when you're on the phone; stand up during commercials; clean the house vigorously; take the stairs to a bathroom on a different floor at work.
Weaving bursts of speed or intensity followed by a short recovery into your workout boosts your metabolism and gives you a bigger bang for your workout time. Research has shown that exercisers burn 36% morc calories from fat during an interval workout and up to an extra 150 calories afterward. This can be as easy as weaving in three or four bursts of speed walking into your usual30-minutc walk.
Salmon, tuna and mackerel are rich sources - of omega-3 fatty acids, which research shows can boost your metabolism. One small French study found that adults who took 6 grams of fish oil daily had less body fat (which helps you burn more calories) than when they got the same amount of fat from butter, olive oil and sunflower oil instead. Aim to eat omega-3-rich salmon, tuna or mackerel at least twice a week and/or talk to your doctor about taking a fish oil supplement.
Resistance training - lifting weights, using resistance bands or doing exercises like crunches (in which you work against your own body weight)-is one of the best things you can do to boost your metabolism. That's because it builds muscle, which he lps you burn more calories all day, says Wayne Westcott, PhD, an exercise science researcher at Quincy College in Quincy, Massachusetts.
Research has found that the average woman will build enough muscle to burn an extra 15 calories a day by strength-training twice a week for 10 weeks. And she'll also burn an extra 100 calories per day in the 2 to 3 days post-workout.
To save time (and get a bigger calor ie burn), do your routine as a circuit, moving from one exercise to the next with minimal rest (try our "Rev up your metabolism in 15 minutes" routine, page 100). And be sure to mix it up: Change the type of exercise, the amount of weight you use or the order in which you do your exercises every 6 to 8 weeks to keep your muscles challenged.
Rev up your metabolism in 15 minutes
The single best way to fire up your calorie burn is with tota l-body workouts that combine card io with resistance training. "The goal is to use as many different parts of the body as possible, because the more you move, the more you 'll boost the burn," explains trainer Jonathan Ross, author of Abs Revealed. Adding some card io bursts between the strength exercises also ups the calorie burn while allowing your muscles to recover. The best part: You don't need to leave your house!
WORKS: Quads, glutes, calves, cote
Stand with feet hip-distance apart. Lunge back with your left foot, bending both knees about 90 degrees. At the same time, reach both arms to the outside of your right knee. Keep head up, core squeezed. Step back to starting position. Lunge back with your right foot, bending knees about 90 degrees; reach arms to outside of your left knee. (This is one rep.) Do 10 reps.
• 60-SECOND CARDIO BURST: Jumping Jacks!
WORKS: Upper back, arms, glutes
Stand holding a weight in your right hand, palm facing your body. lean forward, stepping your left leg in front and bending slightly, placing left hand on left thigh. lift weight toward right side of ribs, keeping head in line with spine and elbow close to body. Do 10 reps, then repeat on the other side.
• 60-SECOND CARDIO BURST: Jog in Place!
WORKS: Quads, glutes, hips, arms, shoulders, core
Stand with feet slightly more than shoulder distance apart, holding a weight in both hands in front of your stomach. Bend knees into a squat, pushing your bottom out behind you as if you're sitting in a chair. Try not to let your knees go over your toes. Push back up to original stance, Repeat 15 times.
• 60-SECOND CARDIO BURST: Run Up & Down Stairs!
WORKS: Thighs, glutes, abs, core
Lie on your back, knees bent. lift your pelvis off the ground, squeezing glutes and abs, so that your body (from knees to shoulders) is in a straight line, Hold for 2 seconds, then lower down, Repeat 10 times.
• 60-SECOND CARDIO BURST: Air Jump Rope (the motion without the rope)!
Take a couple of minutes to wind down, Walk around the room and do some light stretching.
HOW IT WORKS
Do th is routine twice, flowing from one exercise to the next without taking a break. You'll need a light (3-5 Ib) or medium (8 Ib) set of dumbbells.
YOUR METABOLISM EXPLAINED
Q) My friend can eat anything she wants and not gain an ounce, but i take one bite of a brownie and it goes straight to my hips. What gives?
Thank your parents for your brown eyes, your wavy hair and, in large part, your metabolism. Sorry to say, but your friend just naturally burns more calories than you do. That said, even though you're born with a certain metabolism, you do have quite a bit of control over it, notes Dr. Westcott.
Here's why: About 60% to 85% of the calories you burn during the day are spent on basic functions like breathing, digestion and circulation (this is called your resting metabolic rate, or RMR). Most women need at least 1,200 calories to support their RMR. The rest of your calorie burn is split between working out (going for a swim or a run) and everyday activity (walking to your car, carrying groceries). All of these areas (even your RMR) can be manipulated to make your everyday life more active, so you can eat more without putting on pounds.
Q) Do i burn more calories during the day than at night?
Yes. Although your RMR stays pretty consistent, you're more active during the day so you're burning more calories overall. Researh actually shows that people who eat the majority of their calories later in the day tend to eat more calories, weigh more and have more body fat. Try making breakfast and lunch your bigger meals.
Q) Does dieting hurt my metabolism?
You may have heard that yo-yo dieting (gaining and losing weight intermittently) can permanently throw off your metabolism, but research shows that's not the case. What does slow your metabolism is eating too few calories. Even just a day or two of a very low-calorie diet can have this effect, so make sure you're taking in at least 1,200 to 1,500 per day.
Q) Could a medical condition cause my metabolism to slow down?
Possibly. People often blame weight gain on hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid). but only a small percentage of people have it severely enough to make a noticeable difference in weight, says Dr. Garber.