I was recently asked why it gets harder to lose weight as you get older. There are a number of reasons.
Why the Slowing of the Metabolism ?
First, it is commonly known in the medical community that your metabolism slows by about 5% every ten years after age 30. This occurs due to intracellular slowing of the mitochondria, the little powerhouses in each cell within your body. This leads to a significant decrease in the overall fuel you burn on a daily basis and leads to a decreased need for fuel intake over time. Interestingly, we frequently seem to increase our food intake over time and the sizes of our meals has become larger and larger over the past century.
With Aging We Burn Fewer Calories Each Day -
Second, the average person burns approximately 100 calories less per day for every ten years of age past thirty. That’s 36,500 calories less each year than in previous years when you and I were younger. The average American gains 1-3% of his or her body weight each year.
Shifting of Hormones -
Third, there is a hormone shift that occurs with aging as well. In men, and in some degree in women, testosterone commonly decreases. This lowering of testosterone leads to decreased stimulus for muscle mass and muscle gain. We see some natural wasting of muscle tissue as we age. The muscles are where most of the fuel is burned in the body and it is one of the main locations fat can be metabolized and burned as fuel. The less muscle you have, the less fat you burn.
Women also experience a decline in estrogen over time and recent studies show that a decrease in estrogen leads to an increase in retention of abdominal fat.
Decreased Activity -
Fourth, as we age, we frequently become less active. This can occur due to the decrease in muscle mass, decrease in bone density and increased fragility of the bones, increased pain due to arthritis and other medical conditions that are age related that make activity a little more difficult. This overall decrease in activity and lead to weight gain.
How Do I Avoid This?
This is the age old question asked throughout the centuries and the answer to which many have sought for the fountain of youth. However, what we do know about slowing the slowing is this.
- Exercise increases the number of mitochondria in our muscles cells. A healthy well balanced diet will provide the body with adequate protein, amino acids, omega 3 & 6 fatty acids and the essential vitamins and minerals necessary to keep the metabolism operating at its best.
- A diet low in simple sugars and carbohydrates has been show to decrease free radicals and oxidative stress at the cellular level.
- Getting adequate sleep is another key. Sleep gives the body time to repair and restore damaged tissues. Following up with your doctor to check hormone levels may be needed. These hormones can often be modified by dietary changes or can be supplemented through medications.
- Drink adequate water. Many people’s metabolisms are slowed for the simple reason that they are frequently dehydrated. Your urine should be the color of tap water. If its any darker, you’re probably not drinking enough water.
- Eat frequent smaller meals 5-6 times per day. Eating a small meal every 3-4 hours helps your body not to feel like it is starving and it will be less likely to store fat.
Age will affect us all in the end, but we can age gracefully and slow the process if we apply the simple principles listed above.