Losing weight might seem challenging for youngsters, but it becomes increasingly difficult as we age. You may be living a relatively healthy lifestyle and start gaining pounds after a certain age without making significant dietary changes. Are hormones the ones to blame for these changes? Or is there something else lurking behind and contributing to the problem?
Metabolic changes that slow down weight loss
Hormones do change a great deal as we age. Both men and women experience a drop in circulating sex hormones, and they interact with almost everything, including fat storage and metabolism.
Estrogen and testosterone drops encourage fat to start building up and settling around your belly and predispose to cardiovascular diseases in the process. But they also contribute to a reduction of muscle mass, which slows down your metabolism and makes you gain weight faster.
From middle-age onwards, the production and release of growth hormone in both men and women start to decline. This hormone is required to create and maintain your muscle mass. Moreover, testosterone drops in men lead to further reduction of their total muscle.
Age-related muscle loss usually starts after age 40, especially if we do not exercise regularly, and it is more pronounced in older adults. When muscle loss is severe, it leads to frailty, and there’s a medical condition known as sarcopenia that features significant muscle waste in older adults.
The thing is that lean muscle has a very high energy requirement, even at rest. That is why one way to speed up your metabolism is to engage regularly in strength training. More lean muscle leads to a higher energy requirement, and more calories burnt throughout the day.
Your lifestyle matters, too
Hormonal and metabolic changes play a significant part in making weight loss more difficult as we age. But there’s something else going on, and this time you are not helpless. You can change your lifestyle.
As we age, we typically get more sedentary and feel more stressed.
Work stress, as well as physical and emotional stress that results from chronic disease, may take a toll on your metabolism. In moments of stress, you release a hormone called cortisol, which performs many different functions throughout the body. Among them, cortisol favors weight gain by promoting conversion of carbs into fats and storing them in your adipocytes.
Add to it a sedentary lifestyle with many hours sitting at a desk at work or on your couch because you don’t feel the same energy as before. The family starts to become your priority, many activities require constant attention, and you stop giving yourself time to exercise and live an active life.
So, why is it more difficult to lose weight as we age?
Altogether, metabolic changes and lifestyle changes are the ones to blame for those extra pounds you just gained. But it is still possible to lose weight if you cultivate awareness and do something about it. Be active and choose a healthy diet to prevent sarcopenia and neutralize the effects of age-related muscle loss. In the process, you will also feel better about yourself, control your cortisol levels and start to lose weight regardless of your age.
Is there something else you can do about it?
Changing your lifestyle is the first step to lose weight after a certain age. However, if you’re experiencing significant hormonal problems, lifestyle changes alone might not be enough. Do you need an extra boost?
Maybe what you really need is someone to guide your dietary choices, or you may benefit from supplements that will balance your blood hormone levels. However, some cases may be more severe than others, and you may even need hormone replacement therapy.
As you can see, there are different levels you can try, starting from dietary changes, going through supplementation, and finally suspecting the need for hormone replacement therapy when all of the above fails.
Step one. Dietary changes to lose weight as an older adult
Excellent nutrition is essential to have a healthy life as an older adult. You will have higher requirements for certain nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and unsaturated fatty acids. However, you will experience faster weight loss if you combine an active life with two dietary ingredients: protein and fiber-rich foods.
You will find protein in legumes, chicken, and fish. You can also eat beef but always limiting your intake to 350-500 grams (up to 18 ounces) a week because more than that might trigger chronic inflammation. Adequate protein intake and sufficient exercise will keep your muscle mass and preserve your metabolism for longer.
Fiber-rich foods include whole wheat, beans and legumes, vegetables, and the outer peel of most fruits. By eating them, you will help your body control your insulin levels, prevent diabetes, and limit the uptake of new fat reserves into your adipocytes.
Step two. Supplements to improve your hormonal profile
If your problem is becoming resistant to lifestyle and dietary changes, you might need a few supplements to speed up your results. There are many options to choose from, but the one that will level your hormonal profile is Ashwagandha. This is a helpful Ayurvedic herb for cases of adrenal fatigue. When you’re under a lot of stress, your body starts creating cortisol (the stress hormone) instead of sex hormones. Cortisol favors weight gain and fat deposition, and it is synthesized at the expense of testosterone.
If you’re a man, you might also find testosterone boosters useful. These supplements are made to speed up testosterone synthesis and make the hormone readily available for your tissues. A good example is boron, which increases your free testosterone levels, but you can also use ginger extracts, fenugreek, and D-aspartic acid.
Step three. Hormone replacement therapy
If none of the above worked, and you’re over 50 years old, you might need to take the third step and ask your doctor about hormone replacement therapy. They are medications that contain male or female hormones, and they are prescribed only under certain conditions. In males, testosterone is essential to avoid weight gain, and it helps your body maintain its muscle mass.
Symptoms that you might need testosterone replacement therapy include the following:
- Weight gain and loss of muscle mass
- Tiredness and constant fatigue
- Sexual dysfunction and libido issues
- Osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease