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You used to be able to scarf down burgers and fries every day and not gain a pound. But lately, it seems, if you just look at a McDonald’s sign in the RV rearview, your waistline grows. You sigh and accept it. After all, isn’t a slowing metabolism just a natural part of aging?
Well, yes and no. Take heart, RV friends, there is hope. Becoming fat is not your fate!
FACTORS THAT AFFECT METABOLISM
According to John Berardi, PhD, author of The Metabolism Advantage, the average North American will lose 20-40% of their metabolic power over their lifetime. Pretty depressing, isn’t it? But wait! There’s a silver lining! You, my fellow RV friend, are far from average, are you not? Berardi goes on to cite research that shows with exercise, your metabolism need only decline 1-3% over your lifetime. That’s a huge difference from the average American, and more proof that exercise is the key to aging well. So while age is a significant factor for metabolism speed, you can keep it cranking by exercising regularly.
The more you have, the speedier your metabolism. The metabolic difference between a pound of fat and a pound of muscle is quite significant. A pound of muscle burns around 3 times more calories than a pound of fat. Think of it this way. If 2 women both weigh 130 pounds, but one has a body fat of 25% and the other one has 40% body fat, the leaner woman will burn about 200 more calories per day even while doing nothing, just because she has more muscle mass. Enjoy that yogurt parfait for dessert, lean lady! Your metabolism can take it!
RV FACTOID: There can be a lot of sitting in the RV lifestyle. We sit while we drive cross-country, we sit on our lawnchairs to enjoy the scenery, and if you have a little class B like we do – we sit in our RV’s since there’s not much room to do anything else. If you’ve been noticing a slower metabolism, it’s probably because your amount of muscle mass has declined. Time to get out of the lawn chair and crank up that motor (yours, not the RV’s)!
Stress causes cortisol levels to rise in the body. While cortisol does a lot of positive things for the body, excessive levels can mess with your cognitive ability, blood sugar, immune system, and thyroid levels (just a few examples). All this affects your metabolism rate. To counteract your stress, try doing some anti-stress exercises or other relaxation techniques to get those stress levels back under control.
Skimping on your pillow time causes your hormones to get wonky. Cortisol comes into play again, along with the body’s hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin. You’ll have around a 50% increase in cortisol if you get two hours less shut-eye than normal. And! The hunger hormones will trick you into thinking you’re hungry, those little devils. Put that comfy RV bed to use and keep those cortisol levels down if you want your metabolism revved up.
Skipping meals wreaks havoc on your metabolism. Your body goes into “starvation mode,” and stores everything up (just feel those fat cells expanding) to conserve energy. We RVers get on messed up eating schedules during those long days behind the wheel. Make sure you have some healthy snacks within reach to keep that metabolism rolling along.
Another of cortisol’s functions is to help your body use your calories to build muscle. Your cortisol levels are highest in the am, just after waking up. Take advantage of this natural torching process by eating breakfast shortly after waking. Your am calories are more likely to be used to build muscle, more so than any other time of the day, and the extra energy will get your day started right.
Many drugs out there, such as various anti-depressants and diabetes drugs, could affect your metabolism. Talk with your pharmacist or your doctor to learn if anything you take might be triggering your slower metabolism.
There you have it!
Older friends used to say to me, “Just wait till you hit 40! It’ll be Flabtown for you!” I was terrified on my 40th birthday that I’d wake up and it would be true. I turned 40 years ago, and haven’t noticed any slowing yet. I thank my lifestyle choices for that. Perhaps I’ll be one of the lucky ones who only loses 1% over a lifetime. My fingers remain crossed.
Here’s to keeping our metabolisms speedier than our RVs. See you on the road, RV friends!