We all know about those pounds that tend to creep on as we age. Even if it seems that nothing else changes, our weight tends to creep up a pound or two each year, particularly once we hit 40. But, there are ways to beat this gain that seems to associate itself with aging. Here are some tips to help keep you from getting middle age spread.
First, it’s important to know what causes this weight gain. Beginning in our 30s, we begin to lose muscle mass, at the rate of about ½ pound each year. Because muscle burns more calories even while it’s resting than fat does, loss of muscle mass means a slower metabolism – which means weight gain. This loss of muscle mass and slower metabolism coupled with a tendency to engage in less physical activity as we age produces those pounds that we gain. On average, people gain about 1 pound of weight each year beginning at age 40.
Combating this middle age spread is possible, however. The most significant effect comes from exercise. It’s important that you get in some regular cardiovascular exercise- 30 minutes each day should do the trick. This cardiovascular exercise will burn calories and help speed up your metabolism. It will also keep your heart strong and healthy.
Most doctors recommend walking as the perfect cardiovascular exercise because everyone can do it and you can do it anywhere. There’s basically no excuse for not being able to take a walk every day. If you can’t manage 30 minutes when you first begin, work up to it over a period of time. Not only will walking help you burn calories more efficiently, but you’ll build some muscle in your lower body, too.
And, building muscle is the second key. You can prevent the muscle loss that comes with age by doing strength training. We’re not talking about turning into a body builder – but rather strengthening the muscle we have and building a little bit more so that we can burn more calories even when resting. In addition to increasing your metabolism, strength training will help you stay stronger as you age.
For maximum benefit, you’ll need to do strength training 2-3 times each week, for about 20 minutes each time. There are many books and websites that can help you put together a simple routine that will work all your major muscle groups to help you gain strength.
You’ll also need to recognize that you need fewer calories as you age, particularly until you get some significant muscle mass accumulated. One of the reasons that we gain weight as we age is that we keep eating the same amount of food after our metabolism slows down. This doesn’t mean you should starve; but you should watch your calorie intake and adjust it slightly. As exercise becomes more a part of your routine, you may be able to add some calories back to your diet.
Little Known Tricks
Now, in addition to the basics of diet and exercise, there are some little tricks that can help you combat middle age spread. They are simple, but can have an effect, particularly when used in combination with sensible eating and physical activity.
Eat More Meals
Yes, I said eat more meals. Notice, however, that I didn’t say eat more calories. Spreading your daily caloric intake into five or six meals a day, rather than the usual three can help you to burn more calories, because your metabolism doesn’t have the opportunity to slow down. It may also help you feel more satisfied, particularly if you’re trying to cut calories.
If you’re a breakfast skipper, now’s the time to stop. There are two ways to get your metabolism moving; one is exercise, the other is eating. By eating first thing in the morning, we get our metabolism going earlier in the day, so that over the length of the day we burn more calories. Be sure your breakfast contains some protein. This will help you feel satisfied longer.
Fiber means bulk, which makes us feel full longer. But, fiber also helps keep our food moving efficiently through our digestive system, which can help prevent fat storage. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and make sure that any bread or pasta you consume is whole grain. You may find that simply eliminating white flour and replacing it with only whole grains helps you drop a few pounds.
Increase the Caffeine
It appears that increasing your caffeine intake as you age can also help you prevent middle age spread by keeping your metabolism high. A study reported by the UK Tea Council followed participants over a 12 year period, in order to see how their weight changed as they aged. The study concluded that those participants who increased their caffeine intake as they aged gained less weight than those who decreased or maintained the caffeine intake they had when they were younger.
Be careful when choosing the caffeinated beverages you’ll choose for increasing your intake. Remember that regular sodas are loaded with sugar; you may offset any benefit the caffeine provides. In addition, many people find themselves sensitive to coffee. The caffeine in coffee sometimes causes jitters, and may cause upset stomach in some people, too.
Probably the best source for increasing your caffeine intake is tea. Tea is healthy, and is available in many varieties. And, if you really want to gain the most health benefits, in addition to increasing your caffeine, make your tea green.
Green tea is different from traditional black tea simply in the way that it’s processed. Black tea is fermented, while green tea is left in its more natural state. This lack of fermentation protects the healthful anti-oxidants in the tea. Anti-oxidants are critical for preventing disease and premature aging.
As our body converts the food we eat into energy, free radicals are created. If these free radicals are left unchecked, they damage our cells and DNA, which eventually leads to disease. Anti-oxidants combat the free radicals to prevent the damage they can cause.
Green tea contains EGCG, one of the most potent anti-oxidants you can find. In fact, in recent years, much research has concluded that green tea has a powerful preventative effect against cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Green tea also seems to have the ability to boost your metabolism more than other caffeinated beverages – even though its caffeine content is lower than coffee, soda or even black tea. For reasons we don’t fully understand, green tea seems to promote thermogenesis in the body, which helps burn fat. So, if your caffeine choice is green tea, you may speed up your metabolism even more than if you drink other beverages with caffeine.
And, the best news is that green tea is well tolerated by most people who have trouble with caffeine. Its overall caffeine content is lower than that of coffee, soda or black tea, and its caffeine does not seem to cause the jitters that many people experience from caffeine in other forms. Green tea appears to have no side effects, regardless of the quantity you consume.
Combating aging isn’t easy. But, with a sensible approach that includes a healthy diet, plenty of exercise, and some green tea each day, you might just find yourself feeling fit and healthy at a ripe old age.
Jon M. Stout is the Chairman of the Golden Moon Tea Company. Golden Moon Tea carefully selects the finest rare and orthodox teas, which are processed slowly and handcrafted with extreme care. At their website, you can learn more about their current tea offerings, including their exceptional green tea , white tea, black tea, oolong tea (also known as wu-long and wu long tea ) and chai. Visit goldenmoontea.com for all details concerning the Golden Moon Tea Company's fine line of teas.