Many of my clients think that with age comes slowed metabolism. It is true that when we are young, our body finds ways to balance energy expenditure and energy intake. As we age, we find that it is much more difficult to maintain that balance. And, given that one third of North American adults are at least 20% over their “ideal weights”, it is understandable for people to think that it is a natural process.

However, the truth is that we have much more control over our metabolism and weight than we give ourselves credit for. This doesn’t mean that it will be easy, but it does mean that we should not consider ourselves victims in the war on weight.

Eating properly and exercising regularly (the right way) will help maintain a high metabolic rate over an entire life span. Even as the considerable slow down that comes with age begins to take hold, one can reverse that trend and regain the metabolism of your youth.

The obvious question is HOW? As we get older, we tend to move our bodies less. Even if we eat less to compensate for this decrease in activity, we will still see a decrease in metabolic rate because of one key thing that is happening within our body: muscle loss. Researchers have determined that, starting between the ages of 25 and 30, most people lose roughly 5-10 pounds of lean body mass during each decade of life. Since muscle is a metabolically active tissue, that means that in addition to burning calories to move your body through space, it also burns calories to maintain itself. So, a loss in muscle can cripple your metabolism.

You’ve heard the term “use it or lose it”. This is the case with muscle tissue. It doesn’t “turn in to fat” like some people think. Rather, one will muscle while body fat mass increases as a result of the lost muscle and decreased metabolism. So, in order to increase that metabolism, you need to increase your muscle mass.

Here are a few tips that are essential to maintaining and increasing your metabolism:

  • Build the muscle needed to speed up your resting metabolic rate (the number of calories your body burns to maintain life). A gain of 5-10 pounds of lean muscle will rev up your metabolism by roughly 100 calories – each and every day!
  • Maximize something called the “afterburn”. Through a combination of strength training and cardiovascular work (a specific type called interval training), you can increase the number of calories you burn during (and after) your workouts. Interval training (alternating high intensity exercise with bouts of low intensity exercise) burns more calories that straight cardio workouts.
  • Make smart food choices – eat high quality, nutritionally sound food and eliminate highly processed, highly caloric foods. Your body knows the difference between whole foods and “manufactured” foods and it metabolizes them differently.

In the end, you will become a healthier, leaner, more efficient machine, if you pay attention to your exercise program and meal plan, regardless of your age.

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