A Certified Nutrition Coach Shares Metabolism Fixes for Women Over 40
This blog has not been approved by your local health department and is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice.
In this article:
- Foundations of Healthy Weight Management
- 1. Tweak Your Diet
- 2. Prioritize Movement
- 3. Add Targeted Supplementation
- 4. Proactively Reduce Stress
- 5. Establish Quality Sleep Habits
- Consistency Is Key
Struggling to manage weight and over 40? Your weight may be slowly creeping up on you. Your clothes may feel tighter and you feel frustrated. You are not alone!
Many women believe their metabolism has slowed and they are correct...but why? As we age our metabolism slows due to a combination of factors, including diet and physical activity. But the two glaring reasons your metabolism may be slowing throughout middle age are loss of muscle mass and shifting hormonal balance.
Loss of muscle mass is a natural by-product of aging. Muscle is the main calorie-burning engine in your body, so when you have less of it, your body naturally uses fewer calories and it’s more difficult to lose fat.
As you approach menopause or mid-life, levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone fluctuate. This fluctuation in hormones causes a cascade of changes, including loss of muscle, bone density, and sex drive, as well as mood issues.
The good news? We can fix it!
When you think about what it takes to feel better, leaner, and more confident about your body, diet is the number one foundational factor. When you eat for cellular health, you are not only fixing your metabolism, but hormone balance, mental well-being, and gut health as well.
Lifestyle factors are also vital for maintaining your metabolism and a healthy weight—moving your body, being proactive about reducing stress, ensuring you get enough sleep, and targeted supplementation with your doctor's approval all play important roles.
Kick Sugar to the Curb
Sugar is inflammatory and a nemesis to those striving for a healthier body. It wreaks havoc on metabolism and hormonal balance. Choose products that contain healthy sugar substitutes, such as monk fruit sweetener, stevia, or allulose.
Pitch Processed Oils
Sugar gets a bad rap, but processed oils, such as corn, vegetable, canola, and soy, may promote even more inflammation in your body! These seed oils may stiffen cell membranes and promote bacterial dysbiosis in your gut. It is important to read the ingredients list of foods you eat, as these oils are hidden in many processed foods.
Load up on Anti-inflammatory Foods
Foods such as leafy greens, broccoli, berries, spices, coffee, tea, fatty fish, dark chocolate, and many more help reduce inflammation that leads to faster aging, health conditions, and weight gain. Include at least one anti-inflammatory food in each meal or snack—the more the merrier!
Exercise often falls further down the priority list as we get older due to diminishing energy, lack of motivation, family and career obligations, and more. Creaky, achy joints also interfere with our ability to exercise regularly.
However, moving your body is crucial—especially for those over 40. Movement of any kind is anti-inflammatory and promotes muscle growth and maintenance. Find an activity you love and just keep moving!
One powerful tweak for maintaining metabolism is adding strength or resistance training. Strength and resistance training are crucial for women and men over 40 who are naturally losing muscle mass. Muscle is metabolically active—so the more muscle you have, the faster and more efficient your metabolism.
You don’t have to go to the gym to do strength training. Resistance bands, free weights, and even your own bodyweight allow you to do strength and resistance training anytime in your own home. Aim to exercise most days of the week, including some form of both cardio and resistance training.
When we are young, our bodies have the specific nutrients that keep our cells, and ultimately us, energized and lean. As we age, we naturally lose key nutrients, such as CoQ10 and PQQ. Replenishing lost nutrients and supporting others can help promote a healthy body and help manage weight.
MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides) Oil
MCT oil may help you increase energy expenditure by boosting metabolism. Unlike other longer-chain oils, MCT oil is used rapidly for cellular energy in the body and isn’t stored as body fat unless excess amounts are consumed. MCT oil can also be converted into ketones, which may help reduce inflammation and break down fat.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Some research suggests apple cider vinegar may help balance blood sugar, especially following high-carbohydrate meals and snacks. High blood sugar over time can lead to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and weight gain. Raw apple cider vinegar that contains the “mother” also offers probiotics, which may support gut health.
Coffee Bean Extract
Green coffee extract, made from green, unroasted coffee beans, contains chlorogenic acid. This antioxidant compound may be responsible for coffee bean extract’s potential health effects, which may include reducing inflammation, reducing blood sugar, improving insulin resistance, and metabolizing fat.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant your body produces naturally. Your cells use CoQ10 for growth and maintenance. CoQ10 is found in cell membranes throughout your body, particularly in your mitochondria. We naturally lose CoQ10 as we age. Without adequate mitochondrial health, we do not have optimal energy metabolism, which may lead to fatigue, weight gain, and more.
PQQ is a compound naturally found in a variety of foods. It may help boost energy levels, relieve inflammation, enhance brain function, and support weight management. PQQ may also support overall health, reduce oxidative stress, and provide energy to the mitochondria—all key to good health over 40. However, more research is needed to confirm these benefits.
Magnesium is crucial for overall optimal cell health. Unfortunately, about 50% of Americans do not meet the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) for magnesium.
This mineral is involved in over 600 biochemical reactions in the body. Magnesium may boost exercise performance, help lower risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, may help lower inflammation (which can promote weight gain), and may help balance blood sugar and insulin levels in people with excess weight or obesity.
Vitamin B complex is a group of eight B vitamins that help convert food into glucose and thus provide the body with energy. They also help the body metabolize fats and proteins. Research suggests that people with excess weight and obesity are likely to have low levels of vitamin B12.
Fish Oil or Algae Oil
Fish oil, or algae oil for those who prefer a plant-based source, is rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Our bodies cannot produce this essential fat and many of us do not consume enough of it to meet our needs.
Omega-3s play many vital roles in our bodies, including reducing inflammation, which is key to managing a healthy weight. Fish oil may also help reduce appetite, increase metabolism, and help build muscle while boosting the effects of exercise.
Consuming whey protein not only adds quality protein, it also may promote gut and immune health as well. Whey protein helps you feel full, suppressing the urge to eat large meals or snacks and helping you consume fewer calories throughout the day.
Creatine protects against natural age-related decline in the muscle that can lead to weight gain. One of the most well-known benefits of creatine is its ability to increase muscle mass and speed up muscle growth. Muscle is metabolically active—having more muscle boosts your metabolism!
Creatine also enhances mitochondrial health. Mitochondria are the energy producers of the body that can reduce the ravages of aging in many ways. The more cellular energy you have, the better you metabolize fat.
When you’re stressed, your body secretes cortisol, the 'stress hormone.' Chronic cortisol secretion can lead to high blood sugar levels and increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases. It can also increase your appetite and increase fat storage, potentially leading to the accumulation of fat in your belly or overall weight gain.
So how do we reduce chronic stress? Reading, massage, meditation, coloring, yoga, and tai chi are all excellent options.
One of the best ways to literally stop the stress response in its tracks is through deep breathing techniques. Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which sends a signal to your brain telling the anxious, stressed part that all is okay and you don't need to use the fight, flight, or freeze response. Deep breathing, or breathwork, slows your heart and breathing rates, lowers blood pressure, and promotes digestion. Deep breathing also brings more oxygen to the brain.
And the best part? Deep breathing can be done anytime and anywhere, allowing your body to enter a state of relaxation whether you are driving through traffic or trying to fall asleep.
Two popular deep breathing techniques are the 4-7-8 Technique and Box Breathing used by Navy Seals in high-stress situations.
- Breath in deeply through your nose for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds
- Exhale for 8 seconds
- Inhale deeply through your nose for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 4 seconds
- Exhale for 4 seconds
- Hold for 4 seconds
We live in a world where stress levels are rising and we are constantly pulled in many different directions—by our smart phones, social media, or the latest local or global crisis, to name just a few.
Chronic sleep deprivation is a major risk factor for weight gain, belly fat, high blood pressure, poor immune health, cravings, hunger, brain fog, irritability, moodiness, fatigue, injury risk, insulin resistance, and more. When we get adequate sleep, we are better able to fight illness, strengthen our immune systems, repair damaged tissues, and improve our gut, hormone, and brain health.
Tips for Creating Quality Sleep
- Sleep in a very dark room
- Manage stress
- Avoid blue light from screens at night
- Get outside during the day (daylight exposure increases melatonin to help you sleep at night)
- Tweak your diet—emphasize veggies, grass-fed beef, flaxseeds, chia seeds, wild-caught salmon, etc.
- Use supplements (with your doctor's approval), such as melatonin, valerian, magnesium, and omega 3s
- Create a bedtime routine and stick to it
- Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night
Other strategies and tools that can help with weight management after 40 include intermittent fasting, which can be very effective for slowing aging, keeping a food diary, wearing a fitness tracker, and committing to moving more throughout the day.
Whichever strategies you choose to incorporate into your life, remember that consistency is the key to success. Once you are consistent, these changes will become second nature to you. Be kind to yourself, knowing that every positive choice is making a difference!
- DiNicolantonio JJ, O'Keefe JH, Wilson W. Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis [published correction appears in Open Heart. 2018 Apr 5;5(1):e000668corr1]. Open Heart. 2018;5(1):e000668. Published 2018 Jan 13. doi:10.1136/openhrt-2017-000668