It’s no secret that as women age, we tend to realize that we don’t look like we used to, we can’t eat like we used to, and sometimes we realize we can’t move like we used to. These are all signs of aging, but can also be reversed. You see, we start to think that if something happens because of age, we can’t change it. That is just the way it is and the way it has been for years, but that is not true. Just because you aren’t as skinny as you were in high school doesn’t mean you can’t be again. And just because you can’t do the splits doesn’t mean that isn’t an option for you anymore, either.
If we don’t use it, we lose it. But we can work our way back into the size and activities we used to do, it just isn’t going to be easy. Let’s be serious, I used to weight 90lbs in high school and was super skinny. But I now weigh 128lbs and look pretty much the same, except with more muscle tissue. I think people confuse an IMAGE they want back with a NUMBER they once had. I won’t ever by 90lbs again, but that doesn’t mean I can’t look and move like I did back then, it just gets more complicated. Let’s chat about just how complicated it gets – why age slows your metabolism and how to combat it.
What Is Your Metabolism and What Affects It
Your metabolism is basically every chemical process your body performs to keep you alive. Everything from digesting your food to creating energy. A lot of people talk about metabolism in a sense that “I can’t lose weight because I have a slow metabolism,” but you weren’t born that way. The habits you have created, whether that be no exercise/fast food/portion sizes, all play a role in the speed of your metabolism. So while it is easy to blame your weight gain on genetics, that is just the easy way out.
You metabolism is directly correlated to the amount of movement you do in a day and the amount of food you eat. We know that (simply put) to lose weight we need to burn more calories than we consume. But if we are constantly in a caloric deficit (to lose weight) our metabolism is going to slow because we are not supporting our hormones. To learn more about this in depth, check out this blog post.
Along with chronic dieting, there are a few other factors that effect metabolism…
• Eating all your meals
• Muscle mass
• Hormone health
And because aging is the one on the list that we in no way can get past, let’s figure out how it all works.
Why Does Age Change Metabolism
The speed of your metabolism is influenced by a few different factors:
1.Resting metabolic rate (RMR): how many calories you burn resting or sleeping.
2. Thermic effect of food (TEF): how many calories you burn through digestion and absorption of food.
3. Exercise: how many calories you burn through exercise.
4. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT): how many calories you burn through non-exercise movement such as walking to your car, standing, doing dishes etc.
These forms of measurement never change no matter what age you are, but the numbers of calories you burn do change as you start to change your lifestyle.
Age changes your metabolism because as we get older, we tend to move less. We get busy with life and events that we typically start to put our health on the back burner, especially if disease or medical problems creep in. This is one of the reasons our metabolism “slows” as we get older.
Decreased Muscle Mass
If we are moving less, we are also losing muscle mass. Research shows that we tend to lose 5-8% muscle mass each decade after 30. Yikes! This decrease in muscle mass slows your metabolism because the more muscle mass you have, the higher your resting metabolism number.
Metabolic processes slow
As we age, there are a few metabolic processes that start to slow down – our sodium/potassium pump and our mitochondria. Both of which help increase the speed of your metabolism. The sodium-potassium pump generates nerve impulses to the heart and brain, and the mitochondria create energy for our cells. The slowing of both of these causes a decreases in calories burned!
So now we know there are a few factors we can control, and a few we cannot. This means a slowed metabolism does not have to mean losing the health and body you want!
Ways to Combat an Aging Metabolism
So if you read through thus far, you have probably figured out what I am going to tell you about combatting an aging metabolism. If it’s in our control, we can change the outcome!
A few ways we can combat an aging metabolism….
• Resistance training – if muscle mass decreasing slows metabolism, then we need a way to make sure we maintain or build more! I know most people think weights make you bulky, and the fact of the matter is…the average person will never eat enough food or lift heavy enough over time to make themselves bulky. That is just not going to happen. So grab some weights and push yourself, because burning calories are rest is the easiest way to speed up your metabolism!
• HIIT – another great way to burn calories and benefit your health. By using a range of anaerobic capacity work and rest periods you are taxing your heart in ways most exercise does not. This allows you to not only burn calories later in the day, but also use muscle fibers that aren’t typically used during resistance training.
• Consume enough calories – like I said earlier, if you are constantly trying to lose body fat, It is going to work against you. Make sure you are eating enough food to support your hormones, and feed the activity you do all day. By under eating you are actually causing a slow in your metabolism because your body doesn’t need as much energy to digest and break down your food. So EAT! And make sure you are eating enough protein. If we are wanting to build or maintain muscle, protein is the building block for that!
So yes, aging is an inevitable process we cannot get past. But, having a slow metabolism is something we can change. Don’t mistake your unwillingness to move and eat healthy for “aging”.
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