How your metabolism changes each decade

“It really is all downhill after 30!”


“I used to be able to eat like a horse and not put on a pound!”


“That pesky middle-aged spread is hitting me hard.”


We’ve all heard or uttered the above sayings whilst half believing the idea that it’s harder to shift weight the older you get is just an excuse. Well… it’s not! The truth is, our metabolic rate – which is the rate at which we burn calories each day – slows down after 30, it’s a scientific fact.

So read on to find out exactly what’s been happening to your metabolism at each stage of your life…

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    On average, many women are more active in their early 20s, whether it’s because they’re working less desk-based jobs, have an energetic social life filled with dancing etc, or are more likely to play sport or go to the gym. This, on top of a naturally higher metabolic rate means that those in their 20s can get away with eating more whilst not seeing instant weight-gain. In your 20s you tend to lose some of the ‘puppy fat’ that is common in your teenage years and you'll likely feel your slimmest and fittest.   What to do: Your 20s are the best time to get into an exercise routine and stick to it. It becomes harder as the next decade approaches so the good habits formed now could help.
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    It’s at this stage that your muscle mass begins to decrease – and the more muscles you have, the more calories you burn, so of course the opposite is also true. It’s during this age that you may also be trying to juggle motherhood with work leading to an increase in stress – and it’s been proven time and time again that stress is linked to weight gain, especially around your middle as your body tries to protect its vital organs with a layer of fat. Fat in this area is said to be the most unhealthy.   What to do: Strength training is vital now if you want to build more muscle. Try to squeeze in 2-3 half hour sessions a week if possible. If not, try HIIT which can be a series of 6-minute workouts – you could even do these in the morning before work to fire up your fat-burning for the day. Also try to find ways to tackle stress – meditation or yoga can help with this.
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    It’s in your 40s that estrogen and progesterone production often starts to decrease which can result in a slower metabolism. Plus the structures within your cells that transform food into expendable energy start to die off after 40, so the calories consumed aren’t being burned off as efficiently. During this decade your muscle mass also continues to decrease. What to do: Try to continue finding time for strength training and start to take a really good look at your diet. Aim to eat more protein to help repair and build your muscles and cut back on sugar.  
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    It’s during your 50s that most women will experience menopause. With the changes in hormones often comes weight-gain, especially around the abdomen section. It’s around about this age that joints can become extra achy and bones weaker, making regular exercise that bit harder to achieve. The combination of the lowered metabolism and the lack of calorie expenditure through exercise of course results in weight-gain. What to do: Although it may be more of a struggle now, regular exercise is more important than ever. It can help keep your energy levels up and your bones healthy. Try to walk more if the gym isn’t your thing and give yoga and Pilates a go as these are great for stretching and keeping your joints limber. Again, if you hate gym classes, take a look at Pilates and yoga videos that are aimed at those aged 50 and over.

Laura Coventry