Why it’s harder to lose weight as you get older
A doctor explains why your body changes – and how to fight it
- Hormones and muscle loss are key factors that led to age-related weight gain
- Dr Neerav Padliya insists these changes are more manageable than we may think
- He says too many older people focus on cardiovascular exercises rather than resistance training. He also urges over-55s to consume more protein
It happens to all of us: as the years go by, the scales slide up.
No matter how slender or fit you may be, everyone suffers physiological changes that make fertile ground for belly fat and chicken wings.
There is a number of reasons for this – from hormonal fluctuations to muscle loss.
It means a quick morning run simply won’t cut it for a 50-year-old who wants to burn off the calories from their burger lunch.
However, Dr Neerav Padliya insists these changes are more manageable than we may think.
Rather than cutting out calories, he claims it is a simple case of adjusting your approach to fitness and diet.
Here, Dr Padliya, vice president of research at supplement creator MYOS Rens, explains why weight loss becomes more difficult, and the exact steps to take to make it easier.
HOW YOUR WEIGHT CHANGES
Testosterone is the secret to men having naturally slender physiques.
The hormone – a hydrophobic molecule – likes to stick to fat, meaning less fat lingers around the middle.
It also helps to build muscle, fuels metabolism, and maintains insulin sensitivity (which prevents diabetes).
Lower testosterone levels make it easier for the body to store fat. Equally, obesity impairs the production of testosterone. It is, as Dr Padliya puts it, a ‘chicken and egg situation’.
As men age, testosterone levels naturally decrease, at a rate of about 1 percent a year after the age of 30.
This means belly fat starts to creep in.
The female body has a delicate balance of progesterone and estrogen.
Higher levels of estrogen contribute to fat tissue formation. In younger women, this is offset by strong levels of progesterone.
From the age of 35 onwards, levels of both hormones decrease, leading up to menopause.
However, progesterone levels decrease at a faster rate – causing fat tissue to form at a seemingly less controllable rate than before.
The loss of muscle mass is one of the greatest factors that leads to a slow metabolism.
Muscle tissue is the largest consumer of glucose in the entire body.
If you can’t contain your lean muscle mass as you age, there’s less to consume that glucose.
In turn, that glucose can convert into lingering body fat.
As a result, your body does not process carbs as swiftly as it once did.
HOW TO BEAT IT
WORK OUT LIKE A MILLENNIAL
‘Much of the exercise people do as they get older tends to be cardiovascular focused, like walking,’ Dr Padliya explains.
‘But it’s very important as people get older that they focus on resistance training. It’s more important than when you’re 25.’
While aerobic workouts are beneficial for heart health, Dr Padliya warns muscle building is just as important to protect yourself from developing inflammation and diabetes.
Resistance training is an umbrella term for any exercise that causes muscles to work against some form of resistance – either weights or your own body weight.
Some exercises include planking, squats and bicep curls.
EAT MORE PROTEIN
Protein shakes are marketed to 20-something gym buffs looking to beef up their muscles.
But according to Dr Padliya, the supplement is essential for older people to build muscle and keep metabolism stable.
‘It’s very important that people as they age receive a lot of protein on a daily basis,’ he said.
‘Protein is essential because it fills your body with the amino acids to repair and replenish damage – and you also need it if you want to build muscle.
‘Whey protein, for example, is very good. It includes many amino acids that trigger muscle gain and help metabolism.’
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