How Metabolism Changes as We Age

You’ve probably heard it – and likely even said it – that your metabolism isn’t what it was when you were younger.

In a way, that is true. Metabolism does often slow somewhat as you age, but not for the reasons that you may think. Those stubborn extra pounds that you are blaming on an age-slowed metabolism may be fairly easy to lose after all.

A study in the journal Science, published on August 13, 2021, explored the mysterious aging metabolism and uncovered some very interesting findings.

Four Factors that Influence the Speed of Your Metabolism

Your metabolism is the system processes within your body that keep it functioning and alive. The number of calories you burn each day is determined by your metabolism so if it is sluggish, you will struggle with losing that extra weight. If it is fast, you won’t have much trouble at all.

So this metabolic speed in your body is affected by these four factors:

  • Resting metabolic rate (RMR) – The number of calories your body burns while it is at rest or asleep. This is the minimum amount of calories you need to sustain life.
  • Thermic effect of food (TEF) – The number of calories your body burns during the digestion process. This is typically about 10% of a person’s daily caloric usage.
  • Exercise- The number of calories your body burns when engaged in moderate activity such as walking or exercise.
  • Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) – The number of calories your body burns when engaged in non-exercise activities such as standing, doing housework, cooking, and other activities.

Hormones, muscle mass, height, weight, age, medication, and some medical conditions can also affect your metabolic rate.

Your Surprising Metabolic Peak

Traditionally, it was thought that age slowed metabolism was the oncoming train that could not be stopped. We get older and our metabolism declines. While that is partly true, there’s a little more to the story.

The researchers who conducted the study found that a person’s metabolism peaks when they are about 1 year old. A 1-year-old child burns calories at a rate that is 50% faster than adults.

After that first year, there is a very interesting timeline:

  • 2 years to 20 years – metabolism declines by about 3% per year
  • 20 years old to around 60 years old – metabolism plateau with little natural change
  • 60 years and older – metabolism begins to decline by around 1% per year

Reasons for a Decline in Metabolism After 60

If metabolism doesn’t decline the way we once thought, then why is it so difficult for older people to lose weight? There are some very good reasons that this can happen:

  • Health conditions that affect metabolism, such as thyroid conditions and diabetes
  • Medication that affects metabolism
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Drop in activity level
  • Change in diet
  • Hormonal changes
  • Mobility issues that impact activity
  • Loss of muscle mass (this is a natural age-related occurrence)
  • Cellular changes in the body that are often related to change

Some of these can be managed, such as diet and exercise. Some, though, cannot be changed. If you have a medical condition or are taking medication that affects your metabolism, you should talk to our doctor and see if you can come up with strategies to boost your metabolism.

Boost Your Metabolism No Matter Your Age

There are some things you can do to give your metabolism a boost. Eating a healthy diet that consists of lean meats, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables is a great start. Also limiting your sugar intake and drinking plenty of water is good for your health as well as your waistline.

At Sandstone Family Medicine, we have a variety of services that can help you be your healthiest and may even increase your metabolism. With family medicine and annual wellness exams to lay the foundation, you may also find our weight management services, nutritional and lifestyle counseling, and hormone replacement therapy helpful. If you have mobility issues, our chiropractic services can help.

Call today for your appointment and start your journey to becoming a healthier, happier you with a healthy metabolism regardless of your age.


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