Coping with an Aging Metabolism

If you think weight gain is inevitable as you get older, think again. Your metabolism does slow down, but exercising and eating nutritiously can keep you fit for life. Learn more about how your body changes and how you can keep it running more efficiently

How Your Body Changes

1. Get familiar with your metabolism. Your metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories. It's all part of the process of breaking down nutrients into energy. Many factors are involved, including genetics, age, how many calories you consume, and your level of physical activity. As you age, you need fewer calories to maintain the same body weight.

2. Understand the loss of muscle mass. Some studies show that the average person loses about 10 percent of their muscle mass per decade and the losses are greatest starting at about age 50. This is significant because a pound of muscle burns about three times more calories than a pound of fat.

3. Pay less attention to your scale. Your body composition is more important than your total weight. Health professionals can give you a body fat reading. You can also estimate it yourself by seeing if you can pinch more than an inch of fat on your abdomen or upper arms. By monitoring your loss of muscle mass, you can act quickly to stop the middle-aged spread.

Changes in Your Eating Habits

1. Eat frequent meals. Six or more small meals and snacks throughout the day will help you burn more calories because your body uses energy to digest food. Staying full will also make it easier to resist cheesecake or French fries.

2. Focus on low-fat proteins. Your body works twice as hard to digest protein compared to carbohydrates or fats. Plan meals around fish, lean cuts of meat, and beans.

3. Load up on complex carbohydrates. Get most of your calories from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. They provide essential nutrients and fiber, which helps you to feel more full.

4. Stay hydrated. Drinking water improves your digestion and helps you eat less. It also fights off fatigue so you'll have more energy to spend at the gym or playing with your grandchildren.

Exercise and Other Lifestyle Changes

1. Train for strength. Resistance training is essential to preserving your muscle mass. Lift weights or take a Pilates class. Two or three workouts a week is ideal

2. Engage in aerobic activities. Running, cycling, and swimming all burn calories. They're also good for your heart.

3. Try interval training. You'll get more out of any exercise routine if you keep challenging your body to adapt. If you walk, speed up your pace for a few minutes at a time. Gradually build up the intensity and duration of your more strenuous intervals.

4. Sneak more physical activity into your daily routine. Incorporate more movement into your whole day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Do leg lifts while you wait for your coffee to brew.

5. Get adequate sleep. Being well-rested keeps your metabolism primed up. Individual needs vary, but seven to eight hours is typical.

6. Manage stress. Cortisol and other stress hormones can interfere with your digestion and intensify food cravings. Practice meditation or listen to instrumental music.

7. Talk with your doctor. If you need more help with managing your weight, consult your doctor. They can test you for thyroid conditions or other issues that may be slowing down your metabolism

Stay active and eat healthy foods to protect your health and look your best. Strength training, aerobics, and a sensible diet will help you maintain muscle mass so you can better control your weight and enjoy your senior years.

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