Over 50? Metabolism slowing down? There’s an easy weight-loss plan that was literally made for you! Wellness expert Naomi Whittel created it while looking for strategies that adapt best to a woman’s changing hormones, and the gist is this: Just start alternating between days with higher-and-lower-protein intakes.
“It’s such a simple strategy, yet research tells us it makes our cells act younger, slowing and even reversing the aging process,” reveals the author of Glow15 ($12.79, Amazon). Most notably, it targets age-related weight gain. In a University of Jacksonville study, scientists found that 100 percent of perimenopausal and postmenopausal “protein cyclers” lost weight — dropping up to 10 pounds a week as wrinkles disappeared, blood pressure improved, and sleep deepened. Whittel says, “You can feel totally rejuvenated in 15 days!”
We’ve long heard that protein speeds metabolism — and it’s true. Protein maintains muscle, which keeps us strong and stokes calorie burn. “You’ll still consume all the protein you need, but you’ll get it in concentrated doses on higher-protein days,” Whittel explains. And then on low-protein days, surprising and transforming things happen.
The Alternate-Day Secret
Whittel’s protein-cycling approach is inspired in part by Nobel Prize-winning research that found when our bodies sense a nutrient shortage, they sound an alarm and suddenly it’s “recycling day” inside of us. “The body gathers up what are essentially little garbage bags of cellular waste and old damaged cells” — most of which happen to be very rich in protein — “and hauls them to the ‘recycling center’ within each cell,” explains University of Texas metabolism expert Richard Wang, MD, PhD.
Recycled material is then used to meet the body’s protein needs. As an incredible bonus, experts say our healthy cells are purged of any toxic junk, while “broken” cells are destroyed and replaced with new ones. So lower-protein days not only make you feel younger, in a very real sense, they help you become younger!
One of the first things women using Whittel’s plan tend to notice is a huge increase in vitality. One big reason: “The tiny metabolic furnaces in each cell are able to turn fuel into energy much faster,” says Whittel, who first experimented with protein-cycling after she heard top researchers were using the technique personally.
Another key: Renewed cells optimize levels of many hormones, including ones that regulate hunger and mood. Dr. Wang says there’s evidence that levels of insulin — a hormone that stores excess blood sugar as fat — improve too. “And as insulin normalizes, diabetes risk is reduced and fat burning increases,” notes Whittel.
Improved insulin and reduced cellular waste are also factors that help soothe a type of internal inflammation linked to weight gain, brain fog, skin problems, and health conditions often blamed on aging. So all those problems start to disappear. Bonus: Though protein-cycling works at every stage of life, we tend to accumulate more junk and damage over the years — so the older you are, the more you stand to benefit!
How to Protein-Cycle
On three nonconsecutive days each week, have the special coffee (below), for breakfast (it jumpstarts the cell renewal process), then limit yourself to 25 grams of protein throughout the day — the amount in 1 1⁄2 cups of black beans or 3 oz. of meat. A free food log like the one at MyFitnessPal makes tracking protein easy. On higher-protein days, eating is unrestricted, but aim for plenty of protein (you want 100 grams total). To maximize results, opt for natural, unprocessed food on all days. As always, get a doctor’s okay to try any new plan.
A Sample Day to Get You Started
Breakfast: Fast-Metabolism Coffee — In a vented blender, blitz 2 cups hot brewed coffee, 11⁄2 Tbs. grass-fed unsalted butter and 1 Tbs. coconut oil or MCT oil until frothy (0 grams of protein)
Lunch: Greek Salad — Top romaine lettuce with sliced bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives, 1⁄4 cup feta and 2–3 Tbs. olive oil vinaigrette; 1 wholegrain pita (9 grams of protein)
Snacks: Chips and Fruits — 1 serving sweet-potato chips made with coconut oil and 1–2 servings berries or any low-sugar fruit, such as grapefruit or pomegranate (3 grams of protein)
Dinner: Mexican Rice — Toss 1⁄2 cup brown rice, 1⁄4 cup beans, 1⁄2 cup corn, half a diced avocado, 1 Tbs. olive oil, lime juice, onion, cilantro and salsa (11 grams of protein)
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.