With age, your body changes. Where young people often eat what they want without consequences, people past 30 are not that lucky. How is it that you get heavy with age? And can you slow down this process?


Metabolism plays a central role in maintaining your weight. By metabolism, we mean the chemical processes within the body, which ensure that we stay alive. Examples of such metabolic processes are: the conversion of food into energy, breathing, wound healing, and maintaining body temperature. All these processes cost energy. The speed and the way these processes run determine how much energy you consume in a day. The faster your metabolism, the more calories you burn and the slimmer you stay.

There are three determining factors for the rate of metabolism:

  • The resting metabolism: This is the energy you consume at rest. The resting metabolism is mainly determined by your height, weight, age, gender and body composition. The resting metabolism covers about 60% of your calories burned daily.
  • Physical activities: exercise and sports promote the conversion of substances in your body. For example, more energy is needed to provide muscle work during physical activity as the heart rate and breathing rhythm go up. Physical activities amount to 10 to 50% of your daily energy consumption.
  • Thermogenesis: This is the energy that the body consumes when digesting food. This process covers about 10% of your daily energy consumption.

Metabolism and age

Metabolism slows with the increase in age. You use less energy, which puts you at risk of gaining weight. The main causes for this are:

  • The decrease in muscle mass. After the age of 50, muscle mass decreases by 2% per year. This decrease is partly due to people being less active as they age. In addition, there are age-related physical changes, such as decreased hormone production and an increase in inflammatory processes, which cause a decrease in muscle mass. Because muscles consume energy at rest, resting metabolism will decrease in the case of a decrease in muscle mass.
  • Older people are less physically active. As mentioned, 10 to 50% of your daily energy consumption is determined by physical activities. Because older people tend to move less, this share of energy consumption also decreases.
  • Metabolism becomes less effective with age. You can compare this to a car that gets a bit rusty and falters after many years of loyal service. For example, in the elderly, the body will be less able to burn fat. This is more likely to lead to an accumulation of fat, which results in weight gain.

Boosting your metabolism

As age increases, it becomes more and more difficult to maintain weight. Nevertheless, the above causes show that despite the natural processes of aging, it is possible to stay slim. You have an influence on the maintenance of muscle mass and on the amount of physical activity you perform. Below we give you some practical tips to stay on weight by boosting the speed of your metabolism.

  • Strength training helps to maintain muscle strength and mass. The more strength training you do, the greater the effect will be. Two to three strength training sessions per week for all major muscle groups is recommended.
  • In addition to strength training, it is important to stay active as much as possible. Endurance activities such as cycling and walking, as well as everyday activities such as vacuuming and cooking contribute to the speed of metabolism.
  • Protein-rich foods help maintain muscle mass with increasing age. In addition, foods high in protein, such as meat, fish and eggs, cause higher thermogenesis (energy combustion that occurs when consuming food) than high-fat and carbohydrate-rich foods. Both effects promote the rate of metabolism.
  • Although it is well known to everyone that overeating can lead to obesity, it is sometimes difficult for the elderly to take enough food. This is due to a decreased appetite. However, too low a calorie intake can lead to a delay in metabolism. Too little food is therefore, like too much food, to avoid.
Serena Page

A journalism student at the University of Florida, Serena writes mostly about health and health-related subjects. On her time off, she enjoys binge-watching her favorite shows on Netflix or going on a weekend get-away.