May 2, 2022

We’ve all heard of the dreaded middle age spread and I don’t know about you, but I always just assumed that this was something that we just had to accept. However, after doing some research for Optimise Your Age I am pleased to report that it doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of aging. I am always telling people that OYA is about changing the narrative and showing people that there is another way, so I am thrilled to be able to share with you all what we have learnt about how you can prevent your metabolism slowing down with age and therefore prevent those extra pounds creeping on.  

But what is our metabolism? Simply put it’s all of the chemical reactions that help keep your body alive, but it also determines how many calories you burn per day. The faster your metabolism, the more calories you burn. As we age our muscle mass begins to diminish and at the same time our lives begin to slow down and we become less active day to day. Research shows that these two changes are the biggest reasons for our metabolism slowing down in the second half of our life.  

But don’t panic! There are many simple ways we can counteract this. The average adult loses 3-8% of muscle during each decade after 30, so the most important thing you can do is to make sure that you are doing some regular resistance training or weightlifting. One study I read found that people aged 16-77 who took part in resistance training three times a week for six months increased their RMR (resting metabolic rate) by 6.8%. I would also recommend trying high-intensity interval training (HIIT) once or twice a week. HIIT can help prevent a slowing metabolism, as you continue to burn calories long after you finish training, and it can help build and preserve muscle mass.  

But it’s not just your gym routine that is important to focus on. As we age we are no longer running around after young children and are less likely to be in a physically demanding job, so our day to day lives are less active. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) are the calories that are burned through activity other than exercise. This includes things like household chores or walking the dog. Don’t underestimate how important these daily tasks are to keeping you fit. So if you have time maybe reconsider that online shop and instead walk down to the supermarket instead!  

As we age our calorie needs also change and this is often another reason why that spread starts to appear. It’s estimated that we need around 200 calories a day less at 65 than we do at 45 and although that doesn’t sound like a lot it can have a big impact on our weight. And it’s not just how much we eat, but what we eat. As we age our body becomes less able to move glucose into our cells as efficiently, so the glucose that won’t enter our cells is ultimately stored as fat. Then due to hormone shifts, as we get older our body stores more fat and loses muscle. To boost your metabolism it’s really important to add more protein to your diet. As a guide it says we need about 0.75g - 1.0grams of dietary protein per kilogram of body weight. Along with protein rich foods, try to fill up on wholegrains, fruits and vegetables and fibre. High levels of protein and nutrient-dense food will keep your body fuelled for longer, which will help you stop reaching for the biscuit tin! It’s also important to eat enough. If you find you struggle with a lower appetite try to add some high calorie snacks like cheese and nuts to your diet.  I find that if I eat smaller, more frequent meals and always include protein I don’t get hungry and I fuel my body well for all the exercise I do.  

Drinking water could also help your metabolism. When you drink water, your body goes through thermogenesis (body heating) to process the liquid and heat it to body temperature. Using energy to create heat requires burning calories and therefor add a boost to your metabolism!  In the past it has also been suggested to include a cup of green tea to your diet. Green tea contains caffeine and plant compounds, which have been shown to increase your resting metabolism.

Finally in an effort to combat a slowing metabolic rate, make sure you are getting enough sleep. Getting better sleep helps your body burn more calories and use those nutrients more efficiently. One study found that four hours of sleep reduced metabolism by 2.6% compared to 10 hours of sleep. A good night's sleep can also help the body with hormone regulation, including the ones that control our appetite. If we don't get enough sleep, our bodies will likely compensate by promoting cravings for high-sugar foods to give us energy, which isn't what we want!

So now you know that middle age spread is not inevitable! Just a few small changes can stop that big change creeping in.  

Sally & Jon x