A human body is similar to a machine. Upon being oiled well, it works seamlessly, but if it isn’t, it is bound to act up! What determines the health of this living machine is how well it processes the oil. Just like a well-kept car gives perfect mileage, our body gives us a long healthy life with decent metabolism.
Metabolism is an umbrella term for all the chemical reactions in and out of the cells that keep our bodily functions smooth and sustain life. From the intake of food in the mouth, where the process of digestion begins, to the part where it is absorbed by the cells to extract energy, all of it is conveniently a part of the metabolic process.
Essentially, the whole cycle of turning your food into energy for further utilization by the body is called metabolism.
In order to understand what metabolism is, it is easier to understand it in terms of the energy produced and spent by your body determining how many calories are burnt by your body every day. Basal metabolic rate defines the minimum amount of energy required by your body to carry out the chemical process. And with time, metabolism slows down.
Why is Metabolism Important?
Remember the times you were told that eating healthy is the way to live a healthy long? While it is correct, it helps to realize that metabolism has a prime role to play in both sustaining your life and helping you lose weight. Many myths that come attached to metabolic rate claim that fast metabolism helps to lose weight quickly when compared to a slow metabolic rate. While It is true that metabolic rate plays a vital role in determining weight loss, it is also fascinating to know that metabolism is actually quite flexible.
Contrary to popular belief that obese people have a slow metabolism, they usually have a faster metabolism than thin people. Diet plans that claim to slim you down in just a week can usually result in an even slower metabolism. By following these diets, you are likely to lose muscle which is broken down to use energy in case of a deficit. Henceforth, when the muscle mass lowers down, the metabolism slows down.
Why Does Metabolism Slow Down with Age?
Aging and Metabolism
For humans, aging is complicated and is a popularly disliked phenomenon. It comes with its own set of bodily ailments. When we refer to slowed-down metabolism, it is the BMR that determines it. One of such developing ailments is losing body muscles. On losing muscle mass naturally, the metabolism ceases to function efficiently, burning calories at a lower rate.
As we age, our metabolism slows down which even means that the organs work less efficiently than they used to in our youth. The rate at which we break down food decreases by 10 percent each decade after the age of 20. So if you're in your 40s, you are most likely to have started to lose muscle mass naturally. This process is called sarcopenia.
In comprehensive terms, even after engaging in physical activity, you may still lose muscles in your body. And to fill in the space, fat will accumulate, due to which metabolism slows down, depending on how much muscle mass you have lost.
With age, even our joints slack a bit, and muscles aren’t as fuelled as they used to be, making people less active with age. This reduced energy expenditure in older people reflects a potential decline in the metabolism of their organs. The weight gain that is caused due to minimal physical activity is also interconnected to the slowing down of the metabolism.
The two distinct forms of activity that use encapsulated metabolism are activity exercise and non-activity exercise. The non-activity exercises account for 50-70% of your dormant metabolism. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) like household chores contributes to less and less burning of calories each day by aging.
Metabolic Processes Slow Down
When it comes to bodily processes, many factors are taken into consideration while calculating their efficiency. Age is one of the most constant factors that is taken into account to consider how well your body is functioning. Similar is the case when the changes in energy metabolism are kept in sight.
The basal metabolic rate decreases almost linearly with age which means that one of the major reasons for when metabolism slows down is the fall in the BMR that slows down due to the procedural lag and less oiled functioning of cells and organs. Additionally, factors like sodium-potassium pumps and the slowed efficiency of mitochondria also contribute to slow metabolism.
Men tend to have faster metabolism naturally as they have more muscle mass coupled with heavy bones. The role of genes and gender is something that cannot be accounted for and neither can it be neglected since they determine your muscle size and ability to grow muscles. In other words, your metabolism slows down if you have less amount of muscle mass, and it is women, generally, who have fewer amounts of it.
How to Prevent Metabolism from Slowing Down?
The concept of metabolism has been solidified over the years and one of the factual inaccuracies attached to it is that metabolism is rigid and derogatory in nature. While the other half is true, the martial reality is that metabolism is rather flexible and can be controlled if a few healthy habits are adopted.
Quality Sleep is the Key
Getting 7-8 hours of sleep is a solution to many potential ailments that your body might encounter. A healthy sleep cycle balances both physical and psychological health, whilst also being responsible for the release of hormones and maintenance of metabolic processes. This regulatory process is inferred as metabolic homeostasis. A poor and unpatterned sleep schedule has immense effects on metabolic rate and implications can even expand to hormonal disbalance along with low-grade inflammation.
It is believed that aggravated sleeping patterns can alter the glucose metabolism and hormones involved in regulating metabolisms, such as decreased leptin levels and increased ghrelin levels. Therefore, you might want to switch to a healthy routine that has been a golden rule of life for centuries now.
Keeping Stress and Stressors in Check
It is no news that stress is a correlated factor to metabolism. In fact, when it comes to reducing weight, stressors in your life prove to be quite a hindrance. Chronic stress, i.e. prolonged exposure to distress, can disrupt the release of glucocorticoids and neuropeptide Y, which is one of the reasons why metabolism slows down.
The endocrine system, which is responsible for regulating the hormones while also being responsible for your metabolism, has to be taken care of. An intake of a healthy balanced diet with more proteins could help increase your metabolism for a few hours after a meal as your body uses more energy to digest them and so proteins in any form, be it meat, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts, or seeds, can save the day!
Since these food items can lessen the load on one’s endocrine system, it depreciates the risk for obesity and can affect metabolism in a good way. So, to prevent the stress of when the metabolism slows down, take care of what goes into your body.
Doing the Right Form of Exercise
Even though you might lose muscle owing to your age, thanks to sarcopenia it is not impossible to retain some of it. Given that you get a headstart on your years, the right kind of exercise can help you in the long run. Indulging in fitness activities like weight training and muscle training can prove to be advantageous. Resistance training and HIIT and the concomitant Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) can also increase lean body mass, thus boosting your metabolic rate.
From the above-presented facts, it is clear that metabolism and its rate are affected by activities undertaken by the human body coupled with its distinct muscle mass and several other factors. Ergo, it wouldn't be wrong to say that the rates differ from person to person. According to a scientific study, metabolism slows down after the age of 60; however, if one experiences sluggish metabolism, it can be due to various factors.
Obesity, however, in your teenage and young adulthood cannot be blamed on your slowed metabolism. It is most probably your sedentary lifestyle that has your scale drifting. Aging, undoubtedly, is in congruence with numerous other physiological changes that it has been difficult to parse what drives the shifts in energy expenditure and so accepting that the decline is inevitable after your 60s is not a bad idea.
Fortunately, there is a possibility to offset it for a considerable time by placing checks and balances on your diet and exercise routine. Resorting to beverages like caffeine and green tea does boost up your metabolism, but it is only temporary. In conclusion, keeping up your age-old golden rules of a healthy lifestyle and dodging stress are the best friends of your long-lasting metabolism.
Authored by: Bhavishya Pahwa
About the Author: Bhavishya Pahwa is a budding writer who has always confided in a pen. He believes that art is a cure-all and that introspection followed by writing can add to the sanity of the world.