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The Skinny on Weight Gain
07/11/2022

It seems like as we get older, even looking at a donut can add 5lbs…but is that really the case?

A study published in the journal Science in August 2021 found that our metabolism does not change as much as we thought. Even after age 60 our metabolism only drops around 0.07% per year. We know, we know - it’s good news, but leaves you wondering why you’re having so much trouble with post-menopausal weight gain (and weight loss).

What does change, however, is our ability to make muscle from protein. A 20-something can turn 16 or so grams of protein into healthy new muscle cells in a process called protein synthesis. Older adults need at least 25 to 30 grams of protein at a time to kick start this muscle building process.

But, why does muscle building matter? We constantly break down and rebuild muscle. When the destruction rate is greater than the rebuild rate, we end up losing muscle mass. Somewhere in our mid to late 30’s we begin losing muscle mass at a rate or 3-8% a year. Here is where age and weight gain connect.

The less muscle we have, the more fat we gain. Muscle burns calories faster than fat does AND it helps control blood sugar. The less muscle you have, the higher your blood sugar, and the more of that blood sugar is forced to convert to fat.

Muscle loss has also been linked to increased inflammation which increases the risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and a compromised immune system. Yikes!

If you are thinking that it seems easier to gain fat as you get older - biochemistry is on your side, just maybe not in the way you thought. In addition to regular weight bearing exercise to build and maintain muscle, eating at least 25 grams of lean protein at each meal will support that muscle building process and help keep you in tip-top shape!

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