Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on August 15, 2021. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
Metabolism is a complex process that is necessary for the body’s functions and processes to run smoothly. Interestingly, metabolism eventually begins to slow down as you get older, but exactly at what age does your metabolism slow down? Read on to learn more.
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While most people associate metabolism with weight loss, it actually refers to the various processes of turning your food and drink into usable energy. When people talk about their metabolism, they are typically talking about their basal metabolic rate. When you are at rest, your body is still using up calories to blink, breathe, build new cells, and perform hundreds of other processes involved with your basic function and existence. The amount of calories required to perform those basic functions is your basal metabolic rate.
Your basal metabolic rate is defined by a wide range of factors, including your age, your gender, and body composition. Your genes may also play a role in your metabolism, though this isn’t well understood. This also means that people can have vastly different metabolic rates even if they look the same and maintain similar workout routines. This also means that different individuals can have different metabolic hormone levels or could experience metabolic syndrome.
As you get older it’s natural for your metabolism to slow down. Some may think that coffee can boost your metabolism but in reality not drinking coffee isn’t what is slowing your metabolism down. Part of that is a loss of muscle mass. More lean muscle mass typically means a faster metabolism as lean muscle mass requires more energy to maintain. However, as you get older, you naturally lose muscle mass and gain more body fat, resulting in a slowing metabolism.
Most people also typically become less physically active as they get older. Physical activity and strength training are the biggest variables to your overall metabolism. Obviously, the more you exercise, the more calories your body burns. As you get older, you may exercise less, which can come from either a physical disability or simply lifestyle changes. That naturally results in fewer calories burned.
Age also affects hormone production. As you get older, your body produces less testosterone, estrogen, thyroxin, and other hormones that have a direct effect on your resting metabolic rate.
As long as you live and breathe, you will always have a metabolism, but it does slow down. That slow down occurs earlier than most people think. Around age 20, your metabolism already starts to decline at a rate of about 1 to 2 percent per decade. This means that, by the time you hit 30, you’d have to eat about 150 calories less per day to keep the same weight that you did when you were 20. By about age 40 in men and age 50 in women, the metabolic rate drops at a more rapid pace.
A great thing you can do to keep your overall metabolism healthy and balanced is exercise. It is never too late to develop a solid, sustainable exercise routine. Exercises like resistance training, strength training, and running are all great forms of exercise. Building muscle can potentially improve your base metabolism, while aerobic exercise is the best way to burn calories.
Some brands tout special drinks or foods that can speed up metabolism. Most of these claims are flimsy or close to impossible to maintain long-term. Diet is absolutely important, but you are better off focusing on a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
You can also consider the Everlywell Metabolism Test, which evaluates hormones associated with your metabolism, providing insight into what may be causing changes in your body weight and energy levels.
Metabolism and weight loss: How you burn calories. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed August 15, 2021.