All About Metabolism Part 2 – What Happens to my Metabolism as I Age?

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What happens to my metabolism as I age?

It is thought that for each decade after the age of 30, our metabolic rate decreases by about 1-2% (so 20-40 calories off a 2000 calorie requirement). There are many factors which influence it though as you will see below.

What happens to my metabolism during menopause?

In addition to general change associated with aging, the menopause will bring about further change.

The impact of menopause on metabolic rate can vary significantly from person to person though so we need to be careful when applying general trends to our intentions for our own body.

A lowering of reproductive hormones will tend to lead to a lowering of our resting metabolic rate, so the amount of energy we’re using at rest is less. Studies suggest this is the equivalent to around 50-100 calories per day.

This is in part due to a lowering of lean muscle mass, as muscle is more metabolically active than non- muscle tissue.
However, there are so many factors that influence our metabolic rate in midlife, so it’s important to consider the bigger picture. Genetics, our lived experience to date, diet quality and activity levels for example all play a significant part.

What can I do to help my metabolism in menopause?

To manage metabolic changes in menopause it’s important to consider the following:

1. Relationship to exercise

Participating in regular movement and incorporating resistance training so that the muscle is ‘worked’ helps to protect lean muscle mass. Now is a good time to revisit your relationship with activity and change the narrative from calorie burn, to future proofing your body.

2. Relationship to food

Weight gain is likely to happen to a greater or lesser extent. The problem is we live in a society where the perceived negative impacts of this go far beyond the supposed increased risk to our health that that poses.

The impact of this is women keep themselves in restriction and various dieting loops throughout their midlife, when arguably non-diet approaches would be more beneficial.

Research shows chronic or frequent dieting can lead to higher cortisol levels due to the perceived stress of calorie restriction and that this takes it toil on the body.

When these approaches collide headfirst into the menopause transition there are a number of unwanted consequences including muscle loss, further metabolic slowdown, hormonal imbalances, and increased cravings.

The challenge is giving ourselves permission to take a breath and assess our situation, without plunging headfirst into diet culture and it’s confusing and unhelpful messaging. This ethos is at the heart of the Pause to Nourish Community.

The tendency can be to alter our diet in an attempt to boost metabolism, rather than focus on consistently good eating habits that support our hormonal networks and allow us to function well.

For example:

  1. Ensuring adequate fuelling from carbohydrate so that protein consumed can be used for its original purpose and not as an emergency fuel.
  2. Regulating and consuming enough protein to protect and build muscle mass.
  3. Ensuring a good balance of other nutrients to bolster us against the change in environment and increased susceptibility to stress that lower reproductive hormones creates.


3. Relationship to stress

All our hormonal networks in the body interact and communicate with each other. It’s what allows our complex system to work so well for us.

The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis is the body’s central stress response system. It involves the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands. When you encounter a stressor, the HPA axis is activated, leading to the release of cortisol and other stress hormones. Our reproductive hormones, closely correspond to this axis and play a part in its regulation. Oestrogen in particular cushions and supports how we react and cope with stress. For example, through influencing the activity of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, so when levels drop, our resilience to stress declines.

We hear self-care banded around as being as essential part of keeping sane through mid-life, but our body’s interpretation and management of stress can vary from person to person quite significantly.

Firstly, we need to reflect on how we perceive and respond to stress.

De-stressing involves counteracting the physiological responses to perceived stressors and arming us with a better ability to cope with them in the first place.

Techniques which have been proven to do this include mindfulness, mediation and relaxation exercises and finding the right blend that works for you is key. Support in doing this is one of the focuses of the Pause to Nourish Programme.

For more on this subject, read Part 1 – Can I Kickstart my Metabolism?

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