There’s no denying the fact that the ageing process presents us with many challenges which can cause various issues affecting daily life. Women, in particular, are faced with changes which aren’t exactly conducive to maintaining or transforming their physique.
One of the main reasons behind the issues I observe with many of my clients is an age-related reduction of metabolic rate. Unfortunately that is also often accompanied by other factors that can negatively affect the ability to lose weight or even simply maintain it.
Despite the fact that this age-related metabolic slowdown isn’t your fault, it still requires you to take action to help reduce its negative effects.
In this article, I’ll touch on some of the primary reasons why your metabolism slows, in addition to other similar issues, that all result from the same age-related hormonal changes.
If you find yourself having more and more difficulty with adjusting your physique as you age, here are the primary reasons and what you can do to address them.
Age-Related Estrogen Decline
It’s not unknown that with age comes a decline in the output and effectiveness of many hormones, most importantly of estrogen.
Most people know that, during the ageing process in women, there is a relative decline of estrogen output, causing the ovaries to eventually cease producing estrogen in adequate amounts or simply to stop almost altogether (1).
When this occurs, a myriad of side effects occur that are not just physical ones, such as hot flashes. Research indicates that abrupt declines of serum estrogen levels are also associated with increased risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis (2).
This is in addition to other symptoms such as cognitive decline and even a reduced metabolic rate. In essence, with age comes a declining estrogen level, which in turn, almost seems to speed up the ageing process.
Estrogen And Your Metabolism
Estrogen and other androgens play a significant role in your overall metabolic rate and also how the body metabolizes energy and delegates energy storage (1).
Therefore, along with the ageing process and the subsequent decline of estrogen production, there is a reduction in metabolic rate and also just how your body metabolizes energy in the first place.
In a young, healthy individual, both the hormone estrogen and its receptors on various tissues in the body act to limit how fat is stored. In fact, estrogen actually attaches to receptors within a subregion of the brain known as the hypothalamus.
This brain region is responsible for a number of different effects in the body, but, most importantly for this discussion, it’s key to know that the hypothalamus helps regulate issues such as hunger, body temperature and even energy expenditure.
Unfortunately with age and the subsequent decline of estrogen, it becomes increasingly difficult for an adequate amount of estrogen to be produced and thus, attach to receptors on the hypothalamus.
To better explain this scenario, consider estrogen and the hypothalamus to be completely independent of each other. However, in order for the hypothalamus to do its job of increasing energy expenditure and limiting weight gain, it first needs estrogen to tell it to do so, by attaching to the estrogen receptors on the membrane of the hypothalamus.
The catch is, in order to fully activate, (as would happen with a younger person), there needs to be sufficient estrogen available. Since there is a significant age-related decline, the hypothalamus simply can’t produce the same effects.
This reduction of estrogen production and lack of available hormone to stimulate the hypothalamus means that energy storage increases and energy expenditure declines. In essence, you gain weight with very few obvious reasons why.
Age-Related Thyroid Hormone Decline
Unfortunately, a decline in estrogen is not the only concern accompanying the ageing process (3, 4).
Hypothyroidism, or a significant deficiency of Thyroid hormone production, is also quite prevalent with age. This is yet another obstacle to maintaining your ideal body composition since the thyroid gland and associated hormones are primary regulators of metabolism.
Whereas the thyroid gland secretes the primary thyroid hormones known as T3 and T4, the production of these hormones is actually tightly controlled by both the hypothalamus and pituitary gland.
The process looks like this:
- The Hypothalamus releases a hormone known as thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH).
- TRH attaches to the Pituitary Gland, which then releases thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
- Once released, TSH attaches to the thyroid, which then releases the thyroid hormones T3 and T4, depending on which is needed.
Unfortunately, much like with estrogen, the release or production of these hormones being reduced, renders the thyroid gland less effective at producing the necessary hormones which regulate metabolism.
In essence, not only do you have a decline of estrogen production working against you, you’ll also experience an age-related decline in thyroid hormone production; both of these significantly affect your metabolic rate and subsequently, weight loss and gain.
How To Remedy These Issues
Exercise is easily one of the best things you can do to combat metabolic slowdown as a result of age. In fact, placing focus on metabolic resistance training is the best possible way to go about this.
Metabolic resistance training includes high intensity exercise with minimal rest. In fact, many practitioners use super and giant sets, where two or three exercises respectively, are completed back-to-back, with little to no rest.
The reason for using this style of exercise is much the same as for HIIT. When you complete high intensity exercise with little to no rest, you’re placing demands on the body it can’t handle (5).
Because of this, the body has to spend time attempting to make up for the fuel that was lost immediately during training. In essence, your metabolism is boosted significantly for many hours after exercise.
Following a regular exercise program and ensuring you get a good night’s sleep will help counteract the negative effects of hormonal changes and a slowed metabolism.
It’s no surprise that, with a slowed down metabolism, you should begin to adjust your eating habits to be in line with what your metabolism is capable of processing.
Certainly, menopause doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy food, it simply means that you need to pay closer attention to what you eat, placing a primary emphasis on nutrient rich, low calorie dense foods, such as lean proteins and fibrous vegetables.
Since your metabolism will have a significantly harder time metabolizing nutrients you ingest, placing emphasis on these types of foods can help mitigate potential weight gain, while helping to improve muscle mass, as a result of your exercise regime. Not to mention, the resultant muscle growth may significantly improve your metabolism.
Unless you’re considering hormone replacement therapy, it’s also suggested to consider natural supplementation to support your hormones and metabolism as you age.
Ingredients such as Cayenne, L-Tyrosine, Iodine, Soy Isoflavones, and Black Cohosh, are among the many ingredients that have been proven to improve symptoms of menopause and metabolic slowdown (6, 7, 8, 9).
Using these ingredients, in addition to exercise and nutrition, may significantly improve quality of life as you age.
Why Metabolism Slows With Age & How To Fix It
An unfortunate fact of life is that, with ageing, the body begins to slow down. Even worse, this holds true for many hormones such as Estrogen and Thyroid hormones, which significantly affect metabolic rates.
When this occurs, issues such as fatigue and unwanted weight gain arise, leaving us questioning what we can do to redress the balance.
Fortunately, there are fairly simple remedies, explained above, which you can begin to employ almost immediately to help take back control of your metabolism and life.
- Lizcano, F., & Guzmán, G. (2014). Estrogen deficiency and the origin of obesity during menopause. BioMed research international, 2014.
- Khosla, S., & Pacifici, R. (2013). Estrogen deficiency, postmenopausal osteoporosis, and age-related bone loss. In Osteoporosis: Fourth Edition. Elsevier Inc..
- Peeters, R. P. (2008). Thyroid hormones and aging. HORMONES-ATHENS-, 7(1), 28.
- Gesing, A., Lewiński, A., & Karbownik-Lewińska, M. (2012). The thyroid gland and the process of aging; what is new?. Thyroid research, 5(1), 16.
- Tremblay, A., Simoneau, J. A., & Bouchard, C. (1994). Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism. Metabolism, 43(7), 814-818.
- Zhang, L. L., Liu, D. Y., Ma, L. Q., Luo, Z. D., Cao, T. B., Zhong, J., … & Schrader, M. (2007). Activation of transient receptor potential vanilloid type-1 channel prevents adipogenesis and obesity. Circulation research, 100(7), 1063-1070.
- Fernstrom, J. D., & Fernstrom, M. H. (2007). Tyrosine, phenylalanine, and catecholamine synthesis and function in the brain. The Journal of nutrition, 137(6), 1539S-1547S.
- Zimmermann, M. B., & Köhrle, J. (2002). The impact of iron and selenium deficiencies on iodine and thyroid metabolism: biochemistry and relevance to public health. Thyroid, 12(10), 867-878.
- Vincent, A., & Fitzpatrick, L. A. (2000, November). Soy isoflavones: are they useful in menopause?. In Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Vol. 75, No. 11, pp. 1174-1184). Elsevier.