In the last issue we looked at how metabolism doesn’t really slow down as we age and is not really the prime reason why we gain fat as we get older. The bottom line is that as we use our muscles less we do indeed start to gain fat, which then reduces our muscle mass and this sets us up for putting on more fat.
So, it all becomes a vicious cycle.
As our muscle mass falls, our calorie needs fall with it. According to the authors of Biomarkers, most people need to take in about 100 calories per day less each decade to maintain a level body weight. But, in general, most people continue eating the same. “Too many calories coupled with too little exertion, a reduced musculature, and a declining metabolic rate add up to more and more fat.”
So, what do you need to do to stop this cycle?
You need to start a program that increases muscle and restores lost metabolism.
Diet will always be key to control creeping obesity. You should avoid calorie-dense foods (yes, less cakes and cookies, and even beer) and emphasize foods high in fibre and bulk.
Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Even so, the main solution is exercise. Exercise burn calories while you exercise, and after exercise you continue to use more calories than at rest. Even mild exercise leaves you burning extra calories an hour later. If you exercise harder and longer, after 12 hours your energy requirements will still be elevated. Even at rest, your metabolically active muscles still use energy. The more muscle you have, the more calories you use, round the clock. That’s why weight training is so important. It builds and maintains the calorie-burning muscle tissue that makes – and keeps – you lean. Lifting weights keeps your metabolic fires burning strongly; and no, the weights do not have to be so heavy you do yourself an injury.
Equally, you’re not too old to start. You can increase your muscle size and strength as you get older. It has been noted by the US Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Center on Aging at Tufts University that, “the muscles of elderly people are just as responsive to weight training as those of younger people.”
In an amazing eight-week program of strength training by 87- to 96-year-old women confined to a nursing home the results showed a tripling of strength and a muscle-size increase of 10 percent.
Basically, “Much of the loss of muscle as we age is preventable – and even reversible.”
It comes down to this: Your metabolism won’t slow down if you don’t.