Most people have heard that as we get older we can no longer eat like we did when we were younger. The reason for that is that the metabolism usually slows down as we age, so it becomes easier to gain weight and much more difficult to shed pounds.
Some of the reasons behind metabolic slow-down include becoming less active over time, muscle loss, and the body’s natural metabolic aging processes. Fortunately, there are several things that you’re able to do in order to combat age-related metabolism slow-down. So, let’s take a closer look at your metabolism, how it works, and what you can do to maintain it.
Metabolism – What Is It?
Metabolism is the term used to refer to all the chemical processes that keep the body functioning. It determines too the number of calories you can burn every day. A faster metabolism means you burn more calories.
Metabolic speed is affected by four factors including:
- RMR – Resting Metabolic Rate: This is the number of calories burned while you’re at rest or sleeping. It’s the minimum amount you need to continue functioning.
- TEF – Thermic Effect Of Food: This is the number of calories burned by digesting then absorbing food. Usually, TEF is 10% of the daily amount of calories burned.
- NEAT – Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis: The number of calories burned during non-exercise activities like standing, washing dishes, and fidgeting etc.
- Exercise – The number of calories burned during exercise.
Age, muscle mass, hormonal factors, and height can all affect metabolism too.
People Become Less Active When They Age
Activity levels have a significant effect on your metabolic speed. Non-exercise and exercise activities make up around 10% – 30% of daily burned calories. In the case of extremely active people, the figure may be up to 50%.
NEAT represents the calories that are burned during activities that aren’t exercise such as household chores and standing. Older adults typically are less active, so they burn less calories during activities. This metabolic drop can be prevented, though, by staying active.
Muscle Loss With Age
For every decade after we reach the age of 30 we lose between 3% and 8% of our muscle mass. By the time we get to 80, we have around 30% less muscle mass than we had at the age of 20. As a result, we can experience weakness and fractures as well as a slower metabolism.
As activity levels affect muscle mass, if you’re less active, you’ll lose a larger amount of muscle as you get older. Some other reasons for losing muscle include eating less protein and fewer calories, and a lower production of oestrogen, growth hormone, and testosterone.
Slower Metabolic Processes As We Get Older
The number of calories burned when you’re at rest is affected by the chemical reactions that take place in the body. Mitochondria and sodium-potassium pumps are two key cellular components driving these reactions. Both lose efficiency as we get older and so our metabolism slows down.
How Much Will My Metabolism Slow As I Age?
Metabolic speed is determined by your level of activity, and your muscle mass, among other factors. That means that metabolic speed will always vary between individuals. Nevertheless, on average, people aged between 60 and 74 burn only around 24 calories fewer than younger people, while people aged 90 and over only burn around 53 calories less per day on average. Staying active, though, can reduce the rate at which metabolism slows down.
Preventing Metabolic Slow Down
While your metabolism will usually naturally slow down as you get older, you can do several things to combat it including:
- Starting resistance training
- Trying HIIT Training
- Getting more high-quality sleep
- Eating sufficient food each day
- Eating foods that are rich in protein
- Drinking green tea
If you implement the above strategies as part of a healthy lifestyle as you get older, you should find that your metabolism will not slow down as much or as quickly as it otherwise would.
Although it is completely normal for metabolic rate to drop as we get older, evidence from research shows that the impact of this slow down is not as dramatic as was once thought. It’s true that we do burn fewer calories on average each day when we get older, but the number of calories burned, even when we are aged 90 or over, is only slightly less than the number burned by much younger individuals.
Also, if you continue to maintain a good level of activity in your everyday life, you should find that you can easily combat the change that this metabolic drop can bring in your body.
Losing more muscle mass, becoming less active, and the natural aging process of your body’s internal components will all contribute to your sluggish metabolic rate. But if you take care to add resistance training and HIIT training into your regime, eat sufficient calories and consume plenty of lean protein, get enough good-quality sleep and start drinking green tea on a daily basis, you should find that your metabolism maintains a relatively fast level, even as you move towards old age.
When I Get Old, Will I Have A Slow Metabolism?
It’s clear from all of the above that, although older people do naturally experience a slow down in their metabolic rate, the drop is nowhere near as dramatic as was once believed. Until quite recently, people thought that as the human body ages, its metabolic processes slowed down to a crawl making it much easier to put on weight and far more challenging to lose it again, but recent research has revealed that this is not the case.
Nevertheless, if you fail to maintain an active lifestyle as you get older, you could easily fall into the weight gain trap, regardless of your metabolic rate, so take care to ensure you are active on a regular basis before you reach old age so that you can continue living healthily for many years to come.