As you move into your 30s, 40s, and beyond, (unfortunately) your metabolism starts to naturally SLOWWW DOWN. For many, the primary cause of this is muscle loss. The phrase: “if you don’t use it, you lose it” seems to hold true for muscles. They are incredibly adaptable, and when they aren’t used, muscles start to shrink and weaken. It’s not directly due to aging, it’s because people tend to move less and less as they age. There’s no reason for muscles to be big and strong if you are sitting around all day, for example.
Typically with less muscle mass, your body burns fewer calories per day. The problem is you don’t realize your muscles are shrinking and you continue to eat the same amount of food as when you had bigger muscles. Unfortunately, the only way the body can store excess energy (calories) is in the form of fat. Thus, resulting in weight gain.
On the other hand, the more physical work you do, the stronger your muscles become (with the proper nutrition that is). They adapt to the demands imposed on them—not just from one day, but from long-term use. Needless to say, the stronger and more muscle mass in your body, the faster your metabolism is likely to be. This is why males generally have faster metabolisms (and higher calorie requirements) than females—since women typically carry (and need) more body fat.
Proper nourishment along with weight training (using body weight or free weights) is essential for maintaining or increasing your muscle mass. It’s also a key strategy for weight management or aiding weight loss. Proper nourishment involves getting enough dietary protein, which your muscles need to rebuild themselves after training. The more intense the physical activity, the more protein you may need. Check out our protein calculator, to figure out how much protein you need each day.
By: Scarlett Full, in-house Registered Dietitian