Let’s talk about metabolism and aging. Fun, right?
But seriously, there’s a lot to unpack here and it’s pretty interesting based on some recent research findings.
First, we know that metabolism does slow down as we age, BUT, based on a 2021 international study, we have a better understanding of this rate of decline. What this study showed us is that metabolism doesn’t decrease as rapidly as we previously thought.
You might have heard that metabolism “decreases by 10% each decade after 20 years old” before, but this is far too generalized and, honestly, a shot in the dark.
Research shows us that metabolism, in general, is very stable from about ages 20 to 60 years old. There’s no evidence to say that our metabolisms fall apart after age 30 or 40, even though it may feel like that.
And I should note: metabolism has the potential to be very stable and efficient under the right circumstances. That’s the key here: if your metabolism is downregulated or inhibited in any way, you’re more likely to see weight gain as you age.
So, what causes the pounds to creep on as we age?
There’s a lot that can affect our weight and metabolisms as we age. We all have different genetics, environments, dietary patterns, exercise routines…different life experiences in general.
Also, pregnancies, breastfeeding, oral contraceptive use, and peri-and post-menopause changes are all definitely noteworthy for impact on weight.
Think back to those college years – your routine became totally different. Maybe you stopped playing sports after high school and you went to the dining hall or bars with friends pretty often. We can all relate to this phase of life impacting weight.
Maybe after college you started a sedentary job. Your stress levels skyrocketed. You started all the fun “adulting” parts of life….and you saw some weight gain.
You got married and had kids. Your schedule was not your own anymore. Your typical exercise routine flew out the window and you’re lucky if you have time to cook a vegetable.
If you’re 30+ years old, you can probably also relate to years and years of trying to combat weight gain. You tried diet after diet. You tried different workout programs. Without knowing it, you slowly decreased your metabolic rate. Read more on why this happens here.
So…do you see how there’s a lot more to it than simply “you’re getting older.”
If you’re still reading this, I can bet that you don’t accept this answer either. You want to age with a good metabolism! You want to feel good in your skin and your age shouldn’t be a reason that you can’t.
How to support your metabolism as you age:
1. Lift weights
Muscle is the BEST way to keep your metabolism functioning at a higher capacity. Why? More lean muscle tissue on the body means you burn more energy while at rest. This means you don’t have to play the game of getting in enough cardio workouts to maintain your weight as you go through your 30s, 40s, 50s, and more.
Having more muscle means you can work out LESS. Yup. You shouldn’t have to work out 5-6+ days a week to prevent your weight from creeping up. 3-4 days of strength training and lots of walking in between is really all you need on average. Granted, we all have different preferences for movement, so this will vary. But the point is that you shouldn’t be chained to the treadmill or elliptical your entire life.
No matter your current age, if you want to increase your metabolic rate, the most effective method is putting more muscle on your body and also maintaining it. You do this by being consistent with your strength training and eating enough protein.
If you were to sit in the cockpit of your “metabolism airplane,” there would be lots of buttons and levers you could choose from to help you navigate. But the lever with the most bang for your buck to get you where you need to go is the one labeled “blood sugar.”
What does it mean to keep your blood sugar balanced? It means eating meals with adequate protein, healthy fat, and fiber in them. All three of these food groups help to maintain stable blood sugar and prevent spikes as you digest carbohydrate sources.
The benefits of doing this include keeping your energy stable, your cravings minimized, and it allows the body to burn fat most efficiently.
So when it comes to aging with a healthy metabolism, balancing your blood sugar sets you up to be able to maintain your weight much more easily because the body stays in a “fat-burning mode” very often.
Balancing your blood sugar as you age also has the added bonus of reducing inflammation, which, in turn, supports a happy metabolism as well.
3. Get serious about reducing your stress
Seriously. Stress wreaks havoc on your metabolism long term. Why is this?
Long story short…being chronically under a lot of stress eventually catches up with us. That feeling of running off cortisol 24/7 is all fun and games until one day you wake up and your adrenals and thyroid are TIRED. This in turn has the ability to downregulate our metabolic capacity.
The body can’t live in the “fight-or-flight” state all the time. And we were never meant to in the first place, but our current reality doesn’t support healthy stress levels unless we intentionally do something about it.
What does it look like to “manage your stress”?
Take out things from your life that just don’t serve you (toxic friends, a job you hate, lack of boundaries, watching the news, doom scrolling on your phone)
Stop overdoing “healthy” things like working out way too much or eating way too low carb (like less than 50 grams a day)
Get enough sleep. Period. You absolutely need it.
Regular practices of things that increase your stress resilience like yoga, meditation, breathwork, journaling, going to therapy, spiritual practices, your favorite hobbies, laughing, etc.
It’s unrealistic to say you should just avoid all stress to maintain a good metabolism as you age, but the more you can reduce it and be more tolerant of it, the better off you will be.
4. Stop the dieting
This is the one I want to shout from the rooftops. If you’re really serious about aging well and not worrying about your metabolism your whole life, you have got to stop doing the crazy diets.
I’m talking about things that prevent you from eating more than 100 grams of carbs a day. Things that prevent you from eating more than 1500 calories a day. Things that push you too hard in the gym without enough fuel. Things that aren’t sustainable in general for the long term.
If you’re in a place where you just don’t know what else to do to lose weight at this point, and so you keep trying diet after diet, then you have to stop the crazy cycle. There’s a reason nothing is working, and that’s because of your current metabolism. It needs a makeover!
What I mean by that is that your metabolism needs you to start fueling it properly, it needs you to be more strategic about your movement, and it needs you to understand how it actually works. Because the truth is that you can’t just keep eating fewer calories and expect your body to have a happy metabolism magically one day.
Your metabolism doesn’t have to slow down like you think it’s “supposed to.” Come work with us and let’s set your body up with decades of food freedom, crazy good energy, and overall good metabolic health.