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Video: Master your metabolism to shed weight

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    AL ROKER reporting: This morning on TODAY'S HEALTH , speeding up your metabolism . The average woman gains one and a half pounds a year during her adult life. That's enough to pack on 40 pounds by her 50s. But here's some good news. Midlife weight gain isn't inevitable. Executive editor of Prevention magazine, Courtenay Smith , is here with the latest research and eating strategies to help you tackle your stubborn metabolism . Courtenay , how you doing?

    Ms. COURTENAY SMITH (Executive Editor, Prevention Magazine): I'm doing great, thanks, Al .

    ROKER: OK, so let me -- let's get started. First of all, there are tips that you can actually -- you actually can rev up your metabolism .

    Ms. SMITH: You really can. Women's metabolism starts to slow in their 30s when they lose muscle and you really can by strength training twice a week maintain that lean muscle mass. But also there are there really easy diet tweaks that are surprise metabolism revers...

    ROKER: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. SMITH: ...and they make weight loss easier.

    ROKER: The first one's kind of a surprise. You don't eat enough.

    Ms. SMITH: I know. You know what, the average woman of average activity level needs about 1600 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight. And many will lose on that amount, but if you drop too low below what your body needs you go into starvation mode.

    ROKER: Your body thinks you're starving.

    Ms. SMITH: Yes. And your metabolism will slow drastically to hang onto the fat. And what is worse is that you will start to break down that lean muscle mass that burns calories for energy.

    ROKER: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. SMITH: And so it's a double whammy against your metabolism .

    ROKER: All right, so -- and then so you should -- for women, 1600 calories . What about for men?

    Ms. SMITH: Yes. For -- men can go up to 2,000 calories a day to maintain.

    ROKER: Hm.

    Ms. SMITH: But some people have to cut more than that to lose but never drop below 1200 calories a day. That's where you get into the starvation danger mode.

    ROKER: All right, the next one is avoiding caffeine. There's some confusion here, because some diets say avoid it altogether.

    Ms. SMITH: You know what? Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. So that means a daily coffee habit really does rev your metabolism ...

    ROKER: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. SMITH: ...5 to 8 percent. So that's an extra 100 to 175 calories . And green tea is even better. One cup revs your metabolism by up to 12 percent.

    ROKER: Really.

    Ms. SMITH: So it really does help.

    ROKER: Does it matter whether it's iced or hot?

    Ms. SMITH: It's the caffeine that's revving...

    ROKER: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. SMITH: ...so it doesn't matter.

    ROKER: Oh, OK. Now, you should avoid eating white carbs.

    Ms. SMITH: Yes. You know what, white carbs -- if you're eating refined carbohydrates...

    ROKER: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. SMITH: ...you're probably not getting enough fiber and that's the metabolism revving secret. There are certain types of fiber that can rev your natural fat burn by up to 30 percent. So switch to whole grains, whole grain carbs, whole grain pasta and cereal and try to get fruits and vegetables to get 25 grams of fiber a day.

    ROKER: Now this next one somebody had told me this and I didn't believe it, I thought it was -- it was one of those old wives' tales. But switching from cold water instead of room temperature water can actually help boost a resting metabolism . How?

    Ms. SMITH: It really can. Is this not the easiest thing you've ever heard? German researchers found that drinking six cups of cold water a day boosts resting metabolism by 50 calories a day. That adds up to five pounds over a year.

    ROKER: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. SMITH: And it is simply that your body is working harder to heat the water from cold temperature to body temperature .

    ROKER: Uh-huh. So the director wanted to know, so you should drink cold beer instead of warm beer .

    Ms. SMITH: We're going to get to alcohol a little later. But you have the cold beer, but only one.

    ROKER: OK. All right. Well, he's not interested now. So you should be buying organic because food covered with pesticides can be a problem.

    Ms. SMITH: You know, yes, this is new and fascinating. Dieters who had the most residue from pesticides in their fat cells , they experienced a greater than normal dip in metabolism as they lost weight. And some research hints that pesticides may trigger weight gain . So buy organic produce especially for the fruits and vegetables you eat the most.

    ROKER: If you don't have iron in your diet that can be a metabolism slowdown.

    Ms. SMITH: It can, because iron carries oxygen to your muscles and oxygen is essential to burning fat. So you want to eat iron-rich foods. That's shellfish, lean meats, fortified cereals, spinach and beans.

    ROKER: And then a lack of vitamin D. What role does that play?

    Ms. SMITH: Vitamin D is crucial to maintaining that lean muscle mass that burns calories . And you know what, only 5 percent of people over the age of 50 are getting enough, which is 200 to 600 international units a day.

    ROKER: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. SMITH: So supplements, direct exposure to sunlight for 10 minutes a day and fortified low-fat dairy products and fish.

    ROKER: And alcohol.

    Ms. SMITH: Alcohol. You know what? You don't have to eliminate it entirely. Skip the second drink because your body will burn the alcohol for fuel instead of fat and slow your fat burn. Drinking the two cocktails, that can slow your fat burn up to 73 percent. One drink, Al .

    ROKER: And calcium?

    Ms. SMITH: Calcium, if you're deficient, that's been linked to a lower metabolism for women also. So get your 1,000 to 1200 milligrams a day.

updated 5/20/2010 11:39:32 AM ET 2010-05-20T15:39:32

You probably don't need scientists to tell you that your metabolism slows with age. But they're studying it anyway — and coming up with exciting new research to help rev it up again. The average woman gains 1 1/2 pounds a year during her adult life — enough to pack on 40-plus pounds by her 50s, if she doesn't combat the roller coaster of hormones, muscle loss, and stress that conspires to slow her fat-burning engine. But midlife weight gain isn't inevitable: We've found eating strategies that will tackle these changes.

But first, the basics: To boost over-40 weight loss, make sure your meals are around 400 calories, the amount needed to fuel your body while keeping you satisfied, translating into effortless weight loss.

The following metabolism-boosting food rules were developed by Dan Benardot, PhD, RD, an associate professor of nutrition and kinesiology at Georgia State University, and Tammy Lakatos, RD.

Learn how to adjust your eating plan and keep your fat-burning furnace ignited all day long.

You don't eat enough
You need to cut calories to lose weight, but it's important not to overdo it. Going too low delivers a double whammy to your metabolism. When you eat less than you need for basic biological function (about 1,200 calories for most women), your body throws the brakes on your metabolism. It also begins to break down precious, calorie-burning muscle tissue for energy, says Benardot.

"Eat just enough so you're not hungry — a  150-calorie snack midmorning and midafternoon between three meals (about 430 calories each) will keep your metabolism humming."

By eating a meal every 3 to 4 hours, you'll stay satisfied and keep from overeating later in the day.

You avoid caffeine
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, so your daily java jolts can rev your metabolism 5 to 8% — about 98 to 174 calories a day. A cup of brewed tea can raise your metabolism by 12%, according to one Japanese study. Researchers believe the antioxidant catechins in tea provide the boost.

Your carbs are white
Boost your fiber intake by switching to whole wheat bread, pasta, and eating more fruits and vegetables. Research shows that some fiber can rev your fat burn by as much as 30%. Studies find that women who eat the most fiber gain the least weight over time. Aim for about 25g a day — the amount in about three servings each of fruits and vegetables.

Your water is room temperature
German researchers found that drinking 6 cups of cold water a day (that's 48 ounces) can raise resting metabolism by about 50 calories daily — enough to shed 5 pounds in a year. The increase may come from the work it takes to heat the water to body temperature.

Your food is covered with pesticides
Canadian researchers report that dieters with the most organochlorines (pollutants from pesticides, which are stored in fat cells) experience a greater than normal dip in metabolism as they lose weight, perhaps because the toxins interfere with the energy-burning process. Other research hints that pesticides can trigger weight gain. Always choose organic when buying peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, imported grapes, and pears; non-organic versions tend to have the highest levels of pesticides.

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Your meal lacks protein
Make sure protein is a component in every meal. Your body needs it to maintain lean muscle. Add a serving, like 3 ounces of lean meat, 2 tablespoons of nuts, or 8 ounces of low-fat yogurt, to every meal and snack. Research shows protein can up post-meal calorie burn by as much as 35%.


Your diet needs to pump iron
Iron-rich foods are essential for carrying the oxygen your muscles need to burn fat, says Lakatos. Until menopause, women lose iron each month through menstruation. Unless you restock your stores, you run the risk of low energy and a sagging metabolism. Shellfish, lean meats, beans, fortified cereals, and spinach are excellent sources.

You're missing this crucial vitamin
Vitamin D is essential for preserving metabolism-revving muscle tissue. Unfortunately, researchers estimate that a measly 4% of Americans over age 50 take in enough through their diet Get 90% of your recommended daily value (400 IU) in a 3.5-ounce serving of salmon.

Other good sources: tuna, shrimp, tofu, fortified milk and cereal, and eggs.

You’ve had one tipple too many
Skip the second cocktail. When you have a drink, you burn less fat, and more slowly than usual, because the alcohol is used as fuel instead. Knocking back the equivalent of about two martinis can reduce your body's fat-burning ability by up to 73%.

You're not getting enough dairy
"There's some evidence that calcium deficiency, which is common in many women, may slow metabolism," says Lakatos. Research shows that consuming calcium through dairy foods such as fat-free milk and low-fat yogurt may also reduce fat absorption from other foods.

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