f you're reading this, then either your body has changed or someone told you it’s going to. Hips widen and carry stress. Thighs thicken. Stomachs, direct evidence of a Saturday-night mukbang. Say goodbye to the body of your youth, and hello to the body that will carry you through adulthood.

Now, this isn’t a strict rule. Some people easily maintain their physique into adulthood, but many find their bodies filling out with age. This physical transformation can be hard to accept. This is especially true if you’re surrounded by pop culture that identifies beauty as one specific build – a view which respectfully, we disagree with. These changes are your body's way of adapting to your life - legs that grow stronger to carry you farther and mid-sections that widen to carry children.  

But, why exactly does this change occur? It’s traditionally understood that as a kid or teenager, we are in the best shape of our lives. And, somewhere in our twenties or thirties, there begins a downward descent. Once you're on the flipside of this curvature you may start watching what you eat, counting calories, switching to pants with a stretchy wasteline, and holding onto clothes from when you were 18 just in case you morph back into your former self. This has commonly been attributed to a fast metabolism that slows down once you become an adult – a tenet of weight loss/gain that we hold as an undisputed truth. It’s as matter of fact as gray hair with old age. It just happens.

Well, in 2022 we don’t hold on so tightly to orthodox beliefs. We’re a generation that questions the information given to us. For your convenience, we’ve collected the latest on health research and scientific studies to make sure you get the most accurate, up-to-date information possible. In short, we’re here to set the facts straight. Keep reading if you want to find out:

  • How your metabolism changes in your 20s
  • Common myths about metabolism
  • How to work with your metabolism to shed unwanted weight

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The Metabolism Backstory

First off, allow us to introduce you to the metabolism:

  • Formally known as a series of chemical reactions that burn calories
  • Informally known as the reason some of us “can’t eat like we used to”

Well, what if we told you that we got it all wrong. 

We pinned blame on the metabolism for so long that it became an uncontested fact. But, this truth, it turns out, is not true at all. Research published in 2021 is turning our long held beliefs upside down.

In reality, there’s only two metabolism changes that occur in a lifetime and they don’t align with the typical developmental milestones. The first occurs around the age of 1. During infancy, the metabolism spikes drastically to 50% greater than the average adult. It then gradually declines and plateaus from ages 20-60. After 60, it steadily drops for the rest of life. 

From your first legal drink to your first senior discount, your metabolism stays the same. Take a minute to let that register. 

Pie chart of percentages of things that the metabolism burns calories are burned for
Most of your metabolism goes towards keeping your body alive. Sure, exercising will boost your metabolism... 10% of it. Image courtesy of Women’s Health

How Fast Is Your Metabolism in Your 20s and What Does This Mean?

In your 20s, your metabolism is slower than it was as a baby, but faster than it will be at 80. This is because as a baby, you need to have the energy to fuel maturation of the immune system, new connections of brain cells, and overall growth. At 80, it’s thought that the metabolism slows down because of a loss of muscle mass and less activity. This is another false belief. In actuality, the cells change during that period of life and require less energy. 

For the next 4 decades after you enter adulthood, your metabolism is a horizontal line. Your metabolism doesn’t suddenly fall off of a cliff as soon as you blow out your 25th birthday candles. The good news is this means that age alone can’t cause you to gain weight. If you keep the same diet and routine, you should expect your weight to be constant. The bad news is that if we put on 20 during our 20s, we can’t just blame it on our “slowing metabolism.” With more control comes more responsibility.

Because your metabolism has been acquitted of this weight loss/gain crime, there is no one else to blame but our good ole’ pals Diet and Exercise – otherwise known as Lifestyle. Think back to when you were in the best shape of your life or in better shape than you are now. Between now and then, your lifestyle has likely changed a lot. If you’re lucky, you work a 9 to 5. If you’re like a lot of us, you’re working constantly. You’re probably sitting all of the time, eating what is most convenient, and feeling pressure from various aspects of your life. 

The concept of keeping your apartment clean, keeping up with your laundry, staying ahead of your work, regularly going to the gym, and cooking healthy home cooked meals while maintaining a social life is nearly unheard of. The life of an adult - especially one who is just beginning to find their way in the world - is stressful and it shows in our bodies. 

Ideally we would conjure up more time in the day or lessen your workload, but because this is simply not possible, we will stick to giving you some game-changing tips for maintaining your weight. It is tempting - and we admit to doing it ourselves - to google up some quick easy trick to speed up your metabolism and lose fat immediately. But, like most things in life, there are no shortcuts. And, this google search will likely lead you to fake news. In fact, you may already have some. We want you to be successful in your attempts to stay healthy, so keep reading because we are about to bust some myths. 

Metabolism Myths

Myth 1: Drinking Water Helps Burn Calories

The amount of calories it takes for your body to use water is miniscule. Water won’t do anything to your metabolism, but it could be an asset for weight loss. If you switch from drinking high-cal drinks to drinking all water, you may be able to lose weight by creating a calorie deficit. Also, drinking water before eating is a great way to confirm that you’re actually hungry and it’s not just dehydration and stress talking. It’s always a good thing to drink your water and stay hydrated, even if it doesn’t help you burn calories!

Myth 2: Eating Small Meals Throughout the Day Will Help Boost Your Metabolism

You may have heard that by eating in small portions consistently, you keep your metabolism more active. The logic behind it is simple: eating causes us to burn calories and so constantly eating means constantly burning calories. It actually doesn’t matter how small your meals are or what time of day they're at. What matters is the amount of nutrition and calories. So, if you're eating 6 small meals a day but consuming the same or more calories than your body is burning off, you won’t see a weight loss. For some people this may help them consume less but for most people, once they start they can’t stop. Moral of the story: don’t focus on how frequently you’re eating, instead focus on your input and output. 

Myth 3: Certain Foods Will Burn Your Metabolism 

Ever wish that you could eat a magical “superfood" that would boost our metabolism and lead to weight loss? The internet probably told you things like green tea, spicy foods, ginger, or caffeine.

Allow us to be straightforward. There may be some truth to these claims, but switching your diet coke out for a green tea isn’t going to bring you down a size let alone transform you into your 17-year-old body. Caffeine may boost your metabolism a little at first, but eventually your body will get used to your tri-daily cup a’ joe and midday espresso kick. 

As far as spicy foods go, don’t burn your tongue trying to burn the calories. Please. However, switching your diet-coke for green tea, switching your fries for a salad, your ice cream for fruit, and adding walks to your daily routine may bring you closer to where you're hoping to be. The impact of green tea, spicy foods, ginger, and caffeine alone is very minimal but when paired with other lifestyle choices you are more likely to see an effect.

How the intermittent fasting, exercise, and caffeine affect metabolism
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it doesn't matter how you space out your meals or how much caffeine you drink. Your metabolism, for the most part, isn't changing or "restarting." Image courtesy of Healthline.

Myth 4: Eating Breakfast Will Kickstart Your Metabolism for the Day

There are many benefits to eating breakfast – energy, nutrients, satiation – but boosting your metabolism is not one of them. It appears that there is no difference in calories burned between those who eat breakfast and those who do not according to a 2014 study. The same study showed us that just because you skip breakfast, does not in fact mean you will eat fewer calories throughout the day, as you will likely compensate with larger portions later in the day. 

According to this line of reasoning, it comes as no surprise that another study found eating breakfast vs. not eating breakfast to have no effect on weight loss. So, eat your breakfast, don’t eat your breakfast, it’s really up to you.

Myth 5: Late Night Snacks Will Slow Your Metabolism

At night, when we are at rest and do not require energy, our metabolism can take a break. So, any food eaten before bed gets stored as fat, right? Wrong.

As mentioned earlier, a large portion of our energy expenditure is for staying alive itself. I’m talking about breathing, maintaining temperature, heartbeat, etc. These things don’t just shut off while you sleep. In fact, one study shows that metabolism can actually increase at night for people who are leaner. Second, our bodies are in a constant flux of breaking down and building up energy stores to meet our needs. We’re constantly pulling from energy stores and re-stocking said stores, even at night. Having a late night snack or dinner won’t change that.

The bottom line is this: the time of day and frequency that you eat will have no impact on your metabolism, and certain foods will have a negligible effect. Stick to the basics and adjust your lifestyle. 

Some Tips for Dealing with a Slower Metabolism in Your 20s

How you deal with changes to your body and metabolism in adulthood depends on a lot of lifestyle factors. Here are a few common culprits they may lead to your body hanging onto extra pounds -- ones that may have dropped off a few years ago, but are getting more and more stubborn.

If your office job keeps you sitting all day:

When we're kids it's easy to be active, and even marching between college classes is a good workout. If you find yourself stuck at a desk as an adult, try to find ways to incorporate physical activity throughout the day. Research over the last couple of years have suggested that "exercise snacks" - or bite-sized bits of physical activity sprinkled throughout the day -- can have major benefits for cardiovascular and metabolic health.

But how do you do it? If you're up and about the building throughout the day, making a choice to take the stairs can be a start. But if you're stuck in place, it might be worth investing in an under desk treadmill. If you have a standing desk, you can walk for as much of the day as you like. But even if you have a traditional desk, you can slide it out for a few minutes every hour or so to give your body a break from sitting still.

If you eat fast food often out of convenience:

Start meal prepping once a week. Force yourself to eat only what’s in the house and make sure what’s in the house is healthy – I’m talking fruits, veggies, nuts, grains, yogurt. 

How processed foods affect weight vs. how healthy, raw foods affect weight
Eating healthy won't change your metabolism, but switching processed foods for organic foods will make you feel better no matter your shape or size! Image courtesy of My Karuna

If you’re a stress eater:

Munch on some ice or chew some gum. If you have time to spare, hit the gym to let out the tension. 

If drinking leads to the drunchies (the drunk munchies):

This one is a one-two punch. Not only are alcoholic beverages high in sugar and calories, but overindulging can also make you less likely to make healthy choices the day (or let's face it -- now that we're in our 20s, maybe even a couple of days) after.

So what do you do? Stop drinking. Kidding. Limit how often you drink to the point of making poor eating decisions. Also, opt for lower calorie drinks like a vodka soda or gin and slimline tonic. 

There are also several supplements on the market designed to assist with the post-drinking blues. Cheers is DHM + L-Cytesine supplement that helps prevent hangovers from happening if you take it at the end of the night.

How exactly does this witchcraft work? Not sure, but it is magical. And they also have other products aimed at preserving liver health and helping you rehydrate the morning after drinking. It may not negate the calories in those frozen margs, but it will have you on your feet so you can eat something other than garbage fries and stick with your gym routine the next day.

If your problem is sleep deprivation:

If you’re up late trying to meet a deadline, by all means do whatever it takes to get you there – snacks, coffee, whatever. But, if you regularly find yourself up all night for no reason, this can mess with your body. Take melatonin, turn off the lights, plug your phone in an hour before bed, limit time on the TV, and honestly try reading something boring. If there’s not much more to it than a distracted mind and you rigorously apply these rules, you should see results. 

Healthy bodies have different goals at different stages life, which means changes in how it feels.

We understand that body changes can be a blow to your ego. This is especially true if you’ve been surrounded with the concept of one specific body type embodying beauty – a viewpoint that we respectfully, have to disagree with. But, at the end of the day, your body is meant to carry you through life from beginning to end. Your body is rolling with the punches that you throw at it, and trying to maintain some form of homeostasis. 

If you’re hoping to see a change in your body, you have to start with yourself. Unfortunately there’s no alternative to changing your lifestyle, but if you follow through with some of the changes we mentioned – eating right, getting exercise and fresh air, getting enough sleep – we guarantee that you won’t regret it. Even if you’re happy with your weight, you’ll find your body to be more energized and perky with these small adjustments. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Good luck!

Feb 24, 2022