No one means to lose their metabolic edge — the energy that propels not just our movement for the day, but also fuels our brain and uses the calories we eat as fuel to keep our body going. But life happens, and one thing leads to another, slowing us down, messing with our bodies natural rhythm. One choice leads to another, whether it be in our dietary, exercise, or sleep habits, and then there’s the effects of aging that can all greatly affect our metabolic health. Before we know it, we feel run down, our weight isn’t where we’d like it to be, or we just can’t seem to feel our best no matter what we try. Hormones also play a part in metabolic health making the process even more complicated.

Though we can’t completely deter time’s effects on our bodies, we can make some choices each day that preserve our metabolism as we age as much as possible. The key is to stay aware of these whenever you can, and remember how big of an effect they have on not just how many calories you burn, but also how you feel, think, and how much energy you have on an ongoing basis. Several of these can also prevent major forms of disease, so why not give them a shot?

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Stoke your metabolism each day with these age-defying practices!

1. Clean up Your Diet

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A clean diet is often said to be one of the best things you can do for lifelong wellness and your weight, but what is clean eating? Essentially, it’s eating real food, not processed foods whenever you can. Each one of us take in various amounts of processed foods, but we should all be mindful and reduce these whenever we can. If it comes with a label that has more than five ingredients, most likely, our bodies would prefer something else. Vegetables, fruits, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and whole grains – these are real foods. Cleaning up your diet improves your metabolism by reducing the amount of work your body has to go through to process these foods into nutrients. Remember, your body views food as directions for your metabolism. It recognizes real foods, goes through less to turn them into fuel for your body, and as a result, your metabolism improves.

2. Eat Regularly, but Also Listen to Your Hunger

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Skipping meals tells your body to go into starvation mood, so it slows down to preserve calories and burns less from the food you eat because it fears it may need to store those calories for a time of famine, which is assumes its in due to you not eating on a regular schedule. It’s important to eat regular meals, preferably within the same 30 minutes to an hour each day. Your metabolic clock will regulate itself when you do this, and it will start to send you hunger signals around those times every day. This is a good thing, so listen to your body and eat! The key is to listen to your hunger and not to ignore it. This means eating when you’re hungry, but also listening when your body says you’re full and stopping when satisfied.

3. Drink More H2O

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Water doesn’t just keep you from getting thirsty, but it also prevents your body from slowing down. Your body needs a certain amount of water just to function everyday. If it doesn’t get enough, it slows down just like it would if you didn’t eat enough that day. Drink one glass of water as soon as you wake up, and make it a point to drink at least 48 ounces throughout the day. You will need more if you’re especially active. Smoothies made with water, herbal tea, and decaf coffee also count.

4. Up the Fiber and Protein

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Fiber and protein take awhile for your body to break down, which burns more calories and stimulates your metabolism as a result. The key to increase your metabolism with fiber and protein is to choose real food sources, not supplements or unhealthy options like red meat. It’s important to choose clean sources of protein such as seeds (hemp, pumpkin, chia, sesame), almonds, lentils, oats, quinoa, amaranth, teff, black beans, and also produce items like spinach and broccoli. Since these foods are also great sources of fiber, they make it easy to add this tip to your day if you eat one or two at each meal. See how to pair seeds and greens together for a protein, fiber-rich meal that your body will love!

5. Exercise Smart

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Exercise is a well-known way to improve your metabolism, but it’s important to be mindful of what kinds you choose, when you do them, and how often. The metabolism needs variety. One reason is that if you do the same exercise each day, it adapts to the stress you’re putting it under and receives less of a workout as a result. Your metabolism will adapt to whatever you do, so provide it some variety through your activity levels. Another reason to try different exercises is because your metabolism needs both lower stress and higher stress forms of activity to prevent hormonal decline, or metabolic and adrenal burnout. A high-powered, stressful workout is good a few times a week, but you also need low-key exercises like yoga, mild weight-lifting, walking, stretching, or even a casual bike-ride every now and then too. These exercises reduce cortisol, the stress hormone in the body, which if chronically high for too long from stressful activities can lead to adrenal burnout and metabolism decline.

6. Take Care of Your Thyroid

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Your thyroid is a regulator; your metabolism needs your thyroid to function properly for optimal cellular health. A plant-based diet provides some of the most powerful nutrients you need for well-functioning thyroid. Add more of these to your day so your thyroid (and metabolism) will help you feel more energized around the clock. Using the exercise tips above is also a great way to take care of your thyroid as well, so don’t leave them out!

7. Balance Activity With Rest

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Staying active might burn calories, but resting is essential to preserving lifelong energy. This means getting enough sleep but also taking some time throughout the day to rest your mind from work, life duties, or just general stresses you may be facing. Resting might mean lying down for 10 minutes, sitting in the quiet for five minutes, or taking a long bath at night before dinner. Whatever you need to zone out, do it. Your mind needs to rest to reduce the amount of stress hormones in the body that can interfere with a healthy metabolism. It’s also one of the best ways to fight the effects of aging without doing anything else. And of course, don’t forget the good old recommendations for obtaining enough sleep (7-9 hours) at night for a well-functioning metabolism either — it works!

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How to Improve and Preserve Your Metabolism for Life:

It’s also important to keep in mind some food-based hormone tips you can use that will naturally improve your metabolism. Part of that is eating anti-aging foods more often, which will reduce the stress load that your body is under and preserve your metabolism as a result. Remember, to take care of your metabolism, it’s not just about improving how many calories you burn. You also have to consider lifestyle practices that are kind to your body, eat foods that reduce the stress your body is under, and ultimately, reduce the stress you suffer from daily so your body has more energy to let you live the life you want to live for longer.

Lead Image Source: Moyan Brenn/Flickr