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Metabolism's Age Discrimination: Another Reason Why Aging Stinks

Metabolism's Age Discrimination: Another Reason Why Aging Stinks

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The claim that your metabolism changes as you age used to be dismissed as an old wives' tale and an excuse for weight gain. But research shows that metabolism does slow as you age and may be a primary factor in creeping weight gain.

What the Heck Is Metabolism, Anyway?

In a nutshell, metabolism is the rate at which your body makes and burns calories. Various calculators are available to give you an idea of your metabolic rate; however, everyone's metabolism is different. Factors that contribute to the speed of metabolism include your:

• resting metabolic rate
• thyroid's ability to function properly
• amount of lean muscle

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) – Not Much You Can Do

Your resting metabolic rate is the amount of calories you burn simply by living (breathing, heart pumping, etc.). Your RMR is determined primarily through genetics, so you don't have much control over it.

Thyroid Function – Testing Is the Key

Your thyroid can affect your metabolic rate. Although thyroid issues may arise when you are younger, some problems with thyroid function appear as you age. This affects women ten times more than men. If you are over 40 (some experts say 30) and have noticed some unexplained weight gain, see your doctor for a thyroid blood test.

Lean Muscle Mass –Get Off Your Butt and Do Something

Your lean body mass, or amount of muscle, affects your metabolism. Each pound of fat burns only about five to ten calories per day. However, a pound of muscle will burn anywhere from thirty-five to fifty calories each day.

Studies show that women between the ages of 35 and 50 may lose as much as 10 pounds of lean muscle due to lack of activity. Men tend to lose muscle at a slower rate; however, the typical person over the age of 45 (male or female) may lose about 10 percent of muscle mass per decade. You can combat this pattern by changing your exercise routine and adding muscle.

Recharging a Slowed Metabolism

There are several ways you can counteract the effect aging has on your metabolism, including:

• add muscle through strength training two to three times per week
• increase your aerobic exercise (the American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week)
• eat smaller meals every three to four hours (eating only "three square meals" could slow your metabolism)
• reduce your caloric intake (if you're not going to increase your muscle mass, you must reduce your consumption by 350 to 500 calories per day just to maintain your weight)

There's no surefire way to maintain your weight other than hard work. But by taking these few simple steps, you can fight the creeping weight gain caused by your metabolism's age discrimination. Ultimately, you might not be victorious in the war against aging, but this is one battle that you can win.

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