The truth about ageing and your metabolism

Personal Training in Ultimo - Enliven Fitness

Getting old.

It’s something we’re taught to fear, with visions of incontinence, frailty and misbehaving bodies haunting every birthday.

Rumour has it that our metabolism grinds to a halt at age 30, packing up and moving to Tahiti where it doesn’t have to work another day in its life and can sit by the pool drinking calorie-rich cocktails. Or something like that.

But is that the truth? Do our bodies suddenly stack on fat and stop cooperating once we hit a certain age? Are we all destined to become weak, plump and sedentary people, despite our best intentions? Is it entirely out of our control?

Not necessarily.

When it comes to ageing and a ‘slowing metabolism’, we’re setting the record straight.

Now, before we get to the empowering part (because rest assured, there is one), we need to share a few hard truths about ageing.

😭 Yes, your hormones change. For women, this is especially pronounced around menopause.
😭 Yes, your digestion changes, making it harder for you to access and utilise protein, vitamins and minerals, and in turn, affecting your metabolic health.
😭 Yes, your pituitary gland produces less growth hormone, and maintaining lean muscle mass becomes trickier.
😭 Yes, cell damage and inflammation can occur, promoting a loss of lean muscle tissue and reduced energy output.
😭 Yes, there are genetic factors at play.

These things can equate to weight gain, lack of energy, ‘slowing down’ and the kind of ‘ageing’ that society fears.

But in saying this (and scaring the spandex off you), let us also reassure you: these things aren’t as bad as they seem. In fact, they can provide ample inspiration to adopt healthier lifestyle practices and bring more mindfulness to how you move, eat and live. Silver lining!

You don’t have to age like everyone else.

Instead of succumbing to ‘inevitable’ weight gain and metabolic decline, you can stay proactive and empowered. Rather than follow the path of ‘most people’, you can see the challenges of ageing as opportunities to live better, and embrace some simple techniques to help your body stay youthful, strong and beautiful.

Because, are you ‘most people’?

That’s what we thought. Nuh-uh.

Lifestyle, attitude and habits.

A good place to start cultivating a youthful metabolism is, in fact, your habits.

As some people get older, they stop moving so much and expend fewer calories. This isn’t anything the body is doing to thwart you, this is imperceptible lifestyle change that’s about decision-making rather than physiology.

Think about it. Many folks gradually let go of active habits, choosing more ‘leisurely’ pursuits like coffee and cake (!) instead of social sport; taking the lift rather than the stairs; and hopping in the car rather than riding a bike, jogging or briskly walking to their destination.

These are choices, not facts of ageing.

Attitudes and habits can shift without you even noticing.

What about that cheeky afternoon gin habit? Bikkies with a cuppa every morning? The desire for comfort foods and cushy car seats? All these things can add up to weight gain over time that’s easily blamed on ‘a slow metabolism’, but is actually a product of a whole bunch of micro choices, social factors and ‘conventional’ ageing.

This isn’t said with judgement or accusation; it’s to illuminate the blind spots we all have that can undermine our best efforts to lead a healthy life.

Now, let’s address the metabolic nitty gritty.

Unfortunately, our bodies do change with age; there’s no denying it. If you need a refresher, just scroll up ;)

However, it’s possible to mitigate these changes and meet them head on.

In motivational speak… YOU HAVE THE POWER!

Step one: Build and maintain muscle by strength training

Sarcopenia is the term for what happens to your muscles as you age - they slowly degenerate. This is a known phenomenon, but one you can influence and arrest.

By doing regular, properly-prescribed strength training, you build and maintain lean muscle tissue and ward off sarcopenia, which is a very, very good thing for ageing bodies indeed.

Why? Muscle tissue is metabolically active, helping you burn calories at rest - not to mention, preserving strength, mobility and bone integrity. Strength training is one of the best things you can do to stoke the fires of your metabolism and keep it young and spritely.

Coincidentally, that’s one of the things we do pretty well here ;)

Step two: Do high-intensity exercise at your level to promote HGH release

If you haven’t heard of HGH, prepare to feel like a bodybuilder.

HGH = human growth hormone, and you’ll be pleased to know it’s made naturally in the pituitary gland, not something you have to inject into your pecs.

It’s another thing that drops off in the course of ageing, adding to the loss of muscle tissue and metabolic activity. But the great news is, certain high-intensity training releases HGH, mimicking a ‘youthful’ metabolism that is primed to build lean muscle mass, burn fat and maintain a healthy body composition.

You can start releasing HGH in our small, friendly, hands-on group classes anytime you want.

Step three: Reduce stress and inflammation

Sarcopenia (loss of muscle tissue) and reduced metabolic rate are fueled by inflammation, which is off the charts in our modern world of stress, processed foods, bad fats, excess sugar and chemical assault.

There are so many things you can do to reduce stress, inflammation and the speed of metabolic decline that we can’t possibly cover them all here.

However, it’s largely a matter of getting the foundations right - sleep, hydration, nutrition, movement, thoughts and breathing - which we constantly bang on about… so stick around, and you’ll be well versed in no time.

Step four: Optimise diet and digestion

As you age, a number of changes make it harder for you to stay lean, nourished and metabolically youthful.

For one, stomach acid production goes down, making it more difficult to extract nutrients and vital amino acids from food.

Further to that, micro nutrients that pay a huge role in metabolism and detoxification such as B6, B9, B12, zinc, magnesium and so on, are less available, contributing to hormonal disruption, inflammation, cellular damage and - yep, you guessed it - weight gain.

However, by adopting a digestible, nutrient-dense whole foods diet, you’ll go a long way towards avoiding these problems.

Things like bone broths and slow-cooked, pasture-raised meats provide accessible amino acids and digestion-enhancing factors; organ meats, seafoods and pastured eggs and dairy offer you fat-soluble vitamins and micronutrients in abundance, keeping your cellular processes running and metabolism high; bitter greens or herbal tonics before meals stimulate stomach acid secretions and enhance digestion; and of course, breathing properly, hydrating well and thinking good thoughts prime your body to absorb, rather than excrete, valuable nutrients, making a strong case for embracing a holistic template as we age.

Step five: Nurture healthy hormones

Anyone with a body has felt the effects of hormones.

These chemical messengers can make or break your looks, mood and wellbeing. As we age, both men and women experience altered hormonal states which can underscore sarcopenia, weight gain, wrinkles… the whole grizzly affair.

Luckily, a holistic plan for health and fitness is the best thing for fostering hormonal balance.

Strength, resistance and functional training impact your hormonal system positively, preserving lean muscle, bolstering testosterone and reducing stress (which, for women, is paramount for maintaining healthy levels of estrogen and progesterone).

As well as that, a whole foods eating plan provides ample nutrients for hormonal detoxification, and nourishing saturated fats to build new ones.

Oh, and prioritising sleep and mindfulness nurtures not just sex hormones, but hormones like melatonin too - vital for healing, repair, recovery and healthy body composition.

Are you starting to see how everything is connected?

It all rests on simple foundations - so simple, they’re often overlooked. We’ll be teaching them later in March if you’re interested, so head here to claim a spot. But we digress!

Step six: Manage your expectations

Last but most certainly not least, addressing age-related weight gain and metabolic decline involves expectations.

Unfortunately, our collective expectations have been skewed by marketing and the media, priming us to be dissatisfied with our bodies because they’re different to the top 3% of people who fit the ‘ideal’.

We wouldn’t be writing this article if we didn’t believe that everyone has the right to a beautiful, fit and healthy body they love, but we’re strongly against the homogenous, cripplingly-perfect representations of ‘hot bodies’ that appear all around us.

When our expectations of what we should look like, or the results we should expect from a certain program/diet/fad are inflated, we run the risk of constant disappointment, resorting to damaging regimes, and injuring our bodies - as a result of not doing the right thing for ourselves as individuals.  

So, we urge you to check-in with your expectations and investigate their origins. Are they informed by fitness fads and survivorship bias? Or have you come to terms with your unique (and wonderful!) self, who needs certain foods, certain exercise, certain accommodations in order to feel fit, strong and fabulous? There’s a difference.

Final words

Instead of telling you ‘there’s nothing to worry about!’, we hope that this article has furthered your understanding of what happens to body and metabolism as you age, and how you can take an empowered stance in the process.

We believe that a holistic approach that integrates mind, body, nutrition and movement is the only way to cultivate lasting fitness and health, which is why we’ll never a one-size-fits-all program that ‘guarantees’ you’ll be shredded in eight weeks.

Our friendly and super fun group classes are small enough that you can get the individual attention you deserve, while enjoying a relaxed, community spirit. Whatever your age, you can start building strength, mobility and supporting your metabolism - from the foundations, up. Plus, all our members have access to online coaching which allows you to keep track of your progress and get help whenever you need it.

Go on, break the mould and grow old with vigour!

 


 

Loved this article? Keen to learn more about the Enliven approach?

Reach out to us for a free 20 minute fitness strategy session. It’s an easy (and enlightening) way to get clear on your goals, hear our health and fitness recommendations and see if we’re a fit.

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To your health,

Michael Wilson

Director

Senior Exercise Practitioner

Holistic Health & Nutritional Coach

Manual Therapist

Functional Movement Specialist

Rehab Trainer

Posture Trainer

Personal Trainer




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