Listen to just about anyone over the age of 40, and they will tell you that something happens to your metabolism as you age. Somehow it magically seems to slow down in this transitional year from 39 to 40. Well, we know from the research that this is not true. You should actually be able to maintain a healthy metabolism for most of your life. To avoid serious metabolic damage, follow these rules:
1.) Avoid Very Low Calorie Diets (500-1000kcal)
Anyone who tries a low calorie diet will see “results” in the mirror fairly quickly. They may even be dropping anywhere from 3-5lbs / week. It all sounds good on paper but they fail to realize they are drastically damaging their metabolism. Our bodies will always strive for homeostasis. The only way for our body to adapt to the stress of a low calorie diet is to reduce its metabolism. That is the only thing that explains two people of identical height, weight and activity level surviving on a completely different calorie intake. Our bodies will strive to survive within whatever “norm” we put them in. On a low calorie diet, your weight loss will plateau and all you are left with are 500 measly calories to eat every day, or you will simply gain fat mass. Not ideal!
2.) Keep the Carbs
Carbohydrates (CHO) are not only essential as fuel for exercise; which is the breakdown of the three constituent elements: carbon (C), hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O). These three elements provide a critical enzyme (aCOA) that is synthesized in the body; which is necessary for the breakdown of fat. But that is not all! Carbohydrates are also essential to keep the hormone Leptin elevated; Leptin is an appetite suppressing hormone that helps us avoid overeating, thus promoting weight loss.
3.) Do Not Eliminate Fat
The body will also adapt to a chronically low dietary fat intake. As a result of extremely low fat intakes, your body will hold on to fat because it perceives this as starvation. With moderate fat intakes, the body gets more efficient at burning fat as fuel.
4.) Stay Active!
When it comes down to it, our perception of a “slower metabolism” is largely a result of lower energy expenditure. Life gets busy and we become less active. As we become less active, we do not maintain our lean mass. Our lean mass is our most metabolically active tissue, so when we have less of it, we burn fewer calories daily. Am I saying you have to be as active and as strong as you were in your 20’s? No, but there is no excuse that prevents us from 4 hours of structured exercise/week. People often get away from exercise and it takes them years to get back on track. If you fail to exercise 4 hrs/week for 5 years, that is 1040 hours of physical activity you are missing out on. You don’t even want to convert that to potential calories burned! Does that help explain your “slower metabolism?”
Following these simple tips will help prevent you from experiencing metabolic damage. Our metabolism is maintainable, we just cannot cut corners. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Keep working hard and accept a slower, but progressive change in your body composition. Be patient and you will maintain your results for years to come!