COMBAT THE EFFECTS OF AGING & HORMONE CHANGES ON YOUR METABOLISM: "FAT LOSS AFTER 40"
It’s true that as we age, our bodies begin to change, hormones fluctuate, wrinkles appear, and we can start to believe that a slowing metabolism and weight gain is an inevitable part of getting older. However, weight gain and loss of strength and lean mass doesn’t have to an unavoidable part of aging. Understanding the factors that play into metabolism and the hormone changes that occur as we age will give us the tools to offset those changes, and slow down the aging process for a healthier body composition.
FACTORS THAT AFFECT OUR METABOLISM:
WHAT IS METABOLISM: Our metabolism is the result of all the processes in your body working together to create the energy that keeps you going. It refers to the rate and efficiency that your body uses food (calories) for energy, and thus determines the amount of calories you can eat to maintain, gain or lose weight.
WHAT FACTORS AFFECT OUR METABOLISM:
1. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Your BMR tells you the number of calories needed to maintain your current body composition in a rested state. It is affected largely by genetics, gender, height, muscle mass, body fat percentage, age and hormone levels. Your BMR accounts for about 60-70% of your metabolism.
2. Activity Level. How active are you? The amount of daily exercise and activity accounts for about 20% of our metabolism.
3. Food Thermogenesis & Caloric Intake - Food thermogenesis refers to the number of calories required for our bodies to digest and absorb nutrients from food. Some fruits and vegetables actually require more energy (calories) to digest and absorb than are actually contained in the foods themselves. Therefore, the types of foods and amounts we eat will affect our basal metabolic rate by 10%. Likewise, a drastic calorie restriction can decrease metabolism by conserving energy to prevent our bodies from starvation.
Therefore, anything that affects the major factors above would also change our metabolism.
And since hormones play a critical role in determining our basal metabolic rate, fluctuations and changes in hormone levels as we age will alter our metabolism.
WHAT METABOLIC HORMONES ARE AFFECTED BY AGING:
What hormonal changes occur as we age and how does it affect our metabolism? More importantly, how can we fight against the aging process and avoid weight gain?
1. Decrease in Growth Hormone in both Men and Women: Growth hormone (GH) enhances fat metabolism and muscle growth. This hormone decreases as we age – the amount of GH produced by our pituitary gland drops to 50% by age 60, resulting in loss of lean body mass and reduced fat burning. GH is produced during intense interval training, resistance training and deep sleep.
2. Decrease in Testosterone in Both Men and Women: Testosterone also promotes fat burning and helps the body build lean muscle. Our metabolism is highest in childhood, adolescence, and in our 20’s, partly due to our high levels of testosterone. In early adulthood, our muscle mass is about 50% of our total body weight! After age 30, testosterone levels begin to decline in both men and women, and by age 75-80 years, our lean muscle mass is only 25% of our totally body weight. Men experience a much more gradual decrease in testosterone levels than women. In both sexes, the decline in testosterone can result in increased body fat, reduced muscle bulk and strength, decreased bone density, loss of body hair, and fatigue.
3. Decrease in Estrogen/Progesterone, Menopause & Estrogen Dominance in Women: Not only do women experience a decline in testosterone and GH, but also a steady decline of estrogen. The decline in estrogen causes loss of our menstrual cycle, and we stop ovulating. Ovulation is a big calorie burner. This process fires up metabolism, increases body temperature and burns an extra 300 calories. Losing our menstrual cycle is an automatic reduction in basal metabolic rate. At the same time, there is an even larger decrease in progesterone (estrogen’s "balancer" & our sex hormone).
With the loss of estrogen, our bodies try to compensate and make more. It uses testosterone in our fat cells to make MORE estrogen. This means even lower levels of testosterone, less fat burning and less muscle development. The continual decline in testosterone and progesterone, and imbalance of estrogen in the body can cause midsection fat storage, fluid retention, mood swings, lower metabolic rate, raised cortisol levels, hot flashes, bone loss, and headaches.
4. Thyroid Function: A fluctuation or imbalance in sex hormones in women has also been found to alter thyroid function, which affects our basal metabolic rate.
5. Insulin Sensitivity: Insulin helps carry glucose (carbs) and amino acids (proteins) into cells to be used for energy. If there is too much energy, it is stored for later use as fat or glycogen stores. The more sensitive our cells are to insulin, the more efficient our bodies are in metabolized carbohydrates. However, insulin levels in our blood rise as we age because our cells become more resistant to it. This results in more fat storage and weight gain. Another factor against us!
The good news is we aren’t doomed to grow old, lose all of our lean muscle and get fat.
There are ways to fight the effects of hormone fluctuations on metabolism and change your body composition.
OFFSET HORMONAL CHANGES AND SLOW DOWN THE AGING PROCESS:
1. Strength Training and Exercise: Exercise is an extremely powerful tool to reset hormones and make fat loss easier as we age. Strength training is the most important! Adding muscle mass increases your basal metabolic rate as it requires more energy to maintain than body fat. Therefore, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest. Although performing steady state cardio exercise will burn calories, it will not build lean muscle, and thus increase your resting metabolism. Prioritize strength training for large muscle groups for greater testosterone release as well. Training large muscle groups will require more effort (exertion), and also increase balance, strength, and stability. Resistance training also offsets effects of declining insulin sensitivity, AND helps reduce stress levels from hormone fluctuations.
2. Increase intensity and volume of strength and cardio training within your limits. Growth hormone is released during higher intensity workouts and strength training. And greater intensity means a greater release of growth hormone. A challenging strength training session will increase both testosterone and growth hormone levels for up to 24 hours. Sprints and interval training, heavier resistance training, with shorter rest periods lifting light weights to take your cardiovascular system into anaerobic mode. This type of training will increase calories burned post-workout as compared to steady state running or biking.
3. Clean Nutrition and Supplements: Eat a high protein diet with lots of whole, non-processed foods and drink water. Protein requires high energy from body to digest and metabolize. It also supports testosterone production and supplies amino acids to muscles post exercise so that they may repair and grow. Lower carbohydrates and higher protein will also reduce insulin levels in body. Eating adequate calories is essential to build lean muscle mass. Restricted calorie diets will force your body to use muscle stores for energy and decrease your total lean mass and metabolism that you worked hard for. Finally, zinc, magnesium and vitamin D all assist in testosterone production, release and regulation.