The Metabolism Mystery Explained

By Jane Sylvestre, RD - 4/27/2016

Why the Weight Gain?

Why is it that when you hit a certain age, you just start putting on more weight?  I sometimes hear that “my weight issues began later in life and I didn’t change a whole lot in my eating or exercise habits.  I can’t eat like I used to be able to eat or I can’t lose the weight like I used to be able to lose.”    I am not surprised.  This is not uncommon.  But, WHY???

Metabolism plays a huge roll.  As defined by, metabolism is defined as the breakdown of food and its transformation into energy.  Metabolism is often understood as the rate at which the body burns calories.  Many factors contribute to one’s metabolism including:  genetics, gender, fat and muscle mass, age, activity and meal schedules. 

Research suggests that that genetics play a major role in one’s weight. How often do you see an overweight family with them all having the same build?  I have a friend who is extremely thin as is her husband.  What do you think the kids look like?  Just like their parents, of course!   I don’t necessarily believe it is all diet.  There genes play a huge role. 

One of the major contributing factors to weight gain as we age is due to a decline in muscle mass.  Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the rate our bodies burn calories at rest, starts to decline in women in her 40’s and men in their 50’s.  The BMR will decline approximately 5% every 10 years.  Our metabolism is influenced by the amount of muscle mass we have in our bodies.  The higher the muscle mass, the higher the metabolism.  Every pound of muscle burns about 35 Kcal per day versus a pound of fat burning only 2 Kcal per day.  That is a big difference!

How can we prevent this weight gain with age?  Of course eating well should be your priority, but you should also do cardio most days of the week & resistance training a couple days per week to both burn more calories and build more muscle so that your metabolism can improve. 

Once again, I want to touch on meal schedules.  I think I mention this in every blog.  Metabolism is affected by one’s meal schedule.  If you do not eat all day and then eat just in the evenings, your metabolism will be lower. Spread your food out throughout the day.  Also, some people try too hard and almost starve themselves to lose weight.  There is truth to the fact that if you eat too little, your metabolism will slow down in an effort to conserve food as the body is in starvation mode.  Try using or  Try to achieve at least 1,000-1,200 Kcal (females) and 1,400 kcal (males) as a minimum to continue with weight loss.  The weight plateau or stalling of losing more is often because someone is eating too little after surgery. 

I also have to mention that there is NO MAGIC FOOD THAT INCREASES METABOLISM!!!  Green tea and chili peppers have been thought to increase metabolism, but the slight increase is so brief (30 minutes) that the effect on one’s metabolism is negligible! 

SO, what works?

·         At least 3 balanced meals per day with a focus on protein, vegetables, fruit & low fat dairy spread out throughout the day.

·         Eat enough calories (1,000-1,200 females and 1,400 males)

·         Cardio most days of the week

·         Two days of resistance training

What doesn’t work?

·         “magic foods” like chili peppers or green tea

·         Starving yourself

·         Sedentary lifestyle

·         Lack of resistance training

Time to get to work.  Fill that refrigerator with healthy foods.  Move that body and do some resistance training.  Achieving and maintain a healthier weight as we get older is more difficult; however, this is one battle you can win!  Enjoy the warmer days ahead.  Jane


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