Do we have the same metabolism at 20 as we do at 50? According to surprising research, yes.
Dr Herman Pontzer is an Associate Professor at Duke University. He says, even though our bodies are changing in many other ways, our metabolic rate is constant from our 20s through to our 60s.
"Your cells are just as busy in your 30s and 40s and 50s as they were in your 20s. So, that was a real surprise," says Pontzer.
After we turn 60 our metabolism does start to slow down. But if we're gaining weight at 40, a slower metabolism from aging is probably not to blame.
You might feel tired, slower, and find it easier to gain weight as you hit 40, but other things are usually at play. Hormonal changes, how stressed you are, your sleeping and eating patterns, are some of those.
Does Exercise Burn More Calories? Actually, no.
In his 2016 research, Pontzer found that people who exercise more don't have faster metabolisms or burn more calories in the way we've always thought.
His findings showed the solution to weight gain isn't just "exercise more". Exercise has very little impact on weight management.
It was quite a surprising finding, but not necessarily a new idea. The health and fitness world have known for a while exercise doesn't make up for a bad diet. This research though, confirms their experience and explains why: our bodies simply adjust when we exercise more.
"It's just more evidence that exercise alone is a pretty poor tool for weight loss," says Pontzer.
But Pontzer says we shouldn't take that to mean exercise is unimportant.
What's the Point of Exercise Then?
Exercise is still essential. It may not help in weight loss but it has huge benefits in many other areas.
"What we know is that exercise is really good for us. And one of the reasons it's so good for us is that it does things like lowers our inflammation levels. It lowers our stress reactivity. It gets reproductive hormones in a sort of more healthy range, not the sort of sky-high testosterone and estrogen levels that you can see in sedentary people." --Dr. H. Pontzer in Harvard University: Colloquy Podcast
Exercise is hugely beneficial in keeping us healthy and avoiding illness. It strengthens our bones, is essential to maintain muscle as we age, and keeps our minds sharp.
Just don't rely on your time in the gym to manage your weight without eating healthily alongside it.
Can you slow your metabolism down by eating in the wrong way?
Yes! You can.
"The easiest way to slow down your metabolism is to starve yourself," explains Pontzer. "That's one of the problems with sort of crash diets and other really severe changes to intake."
Instead of crash diets or massively cutting calories, he suggests you make sure you eat in a way that you feel full while carefully reducing your calorie intake.
High fiber foods, like vegetables for example, make you feel full and avoid slowing your metabolism down.