What you need to know about how your metabolism really changes as you age

What you need to know about how your metabolism really changes as you age

What you need to know about how your metabolism really changes as you age

New research shows that metabolism changes with age–but not as we think. Here we discuss ways to adapt your lifestyle as you age to support a healthy metabolism.

The Found Team
Last updated:
November 9, 2022
5 min read
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We’ve all been told that weight gain—or trouble getting extra pounds off—has a lot to do with age. Your metabolism is on fire in your teens and 20s, and then it just starts tanking. But new research has found that it’s not that simple. And there are ways you can keep your metabolism revved no matter what the date on your driver’s license says.

Here’s the deal: Metabolism has been shown to max out at around age 1—when babies burn roughly 50% more calories in ratio to their body size than adults. After that, there’s a slow decrease each year (about 3%) until the age of 20. At that point, metabolism plateaus. 

For a long time, it was thought that your calorie-burning rate drops again in your 40s or 50s. However, the latest science shows that metabolism actually stays pretty steady until your 60s. Crazy, right? We know!

You’re probably asking, “Then why have I gained weight even though I’m not 60 yet?! This research must be wrong!” There’s no denying that many people put on extra pounds after, say, age 40. So if metabolism isn’t to blame, what gives? Let’s unpack this together.

Here are six reasons you might be experiencing weight gain and what you can do about it: 

  1. Eating a lot of super-processed foods
    We live in a world that focuses a lot on calories in versus calories out. And what we really should be talking about is the quality of the food we eat. Research shows that eating a lot of highly-processed foods can cause overeating and weight gain. But the opposite is also true: Studies have found that a diet based on whole, minimally-processed foods can lead to better weight maintenance. 
  2. Having a more sedentary lifestyle
    Do you find yourself getting less movement that raises your heart rate or challenges your muscles? Maybe you’re stuck at a desk all day, and exercise has just slipped through the cracks of your busy life. It’s a super common phenomenon! And that can contribute to weight gain. Try to make time for exercise no matter what—and aim for 3 days of movement per week that raises the heart rate. Also, make an effort to avoid sitting for more than 2 hours without getting up for a quick movement break, like taking a lap around the office. 
  3. Poor stress management
    In your 40s and 50s, you likely have more stress than you did in your 20s. Life’s just complicated. You’re working hard at your job, caring for your home and family–it’s a lot! How could that cause weight gain? Because when you’re frazzled, you might be tempted to reach for food for comfort. And there’s some evidence that stress triggers hormones that spur fat cell formation. Here at Found, we encourage stress-reducing activities that have been shown to reduce tension and feelings of depression and help you adopt healthier lifestyle habits.  
  4. Not prioritizing good-quality sleep
    Maybe you’ve heard: Missing out on sleep causes your body to pump out hormones that make you more hungry and dull your satiety signals. That’s why it’s SO important to get adequate rest (think: 7-9 hours a night). This has been associated with better appetite control and healthier overall food choices. Create a nighttime routine that helps prepare your body for sleep: Shut your phone down at least 30 minutes before bed (the blue light from electronics can mess with your Zzzs), do 5-10 minutes of meditation, or take a warm bath, etc. 
  5. Forgetting the H2O
    Drinking enough water is linked to better weight control. In fact, research shows that people who stay hydrated are more likely to lose weight than those who don't get enough water during the day. A great goal is to aim to sip half of your body weight in ounces. But if you’re starting at very little water per day, try setting realistic goals with water by adding 2 glasses each day and working your way up! A good rule of thumb is to monitor the color of your urine: If it’s pale yellow or almost clear, you’re good! 
  6. Putting self-care on the back burner
    Has it been a while since you’ve done something that fills your emotional bucket? Practicing more self-care activities—however that looks for you—is super important for managing stress and boosting overall happiness. Put it on the calendar just like any other meeting—a time when you can’t be bothered by anything else because it’s your time!


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Published date:
November 9, 2022
Meet the author
The Found Team
The Found Team

Sources

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  • Tasali, E., Wroblewski, K., Kahn, E., Kilkus, J., & Schoeller, D. A. (2022). Effect of Sleep Extension on Objectively Assessed Energy Intake Among Adults With Overweight in Real-life Settings. JAMA Internal Medicine, 182(4), 365. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.8098
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