How you can spare yourself the 'spare tyre' as you get older
Getting older is not for sissies and if you want to stay svelte, you have to do the food maths, Karen Coghlan reports
As much as science has advanced over recent years, the magic potion that promises eternal youth has yet to be invented. Every year, we still get older.
In a healthy person, the signs of ageing creep us on us slowly and silently. Our hair turns grey, our joints get stiffer, and our waistlines get rounder.
The ageing process will vary with each individual, depending on lifestyle, medical history and our DNA. But the definition of "over the hill" for the average person is 30, when we typically reach our peak physically and our strength and stamina start to decline.
As we age beyond our middle years and become less active, some significant changes occur in our bodies. We begin to lose muscle, we become stiffer and less mobile, and our body fat increases as the middle-age spread appears.
This is largely due to a more sedentary lifestyle in old age, which leads to a loss in muscle mass. If we have less muscle, then our metabolism will slow down and we will burn fewer calories. If we burn fewer calories, yet still eat the same amount of calories, then the inevitable will happen and we will get fatter as we age.
USE IT OR LOSE IT
To give our muscles the best chance of survival, in an attempt to keep our metabolisms revving to prevent the middle-age spread, then we must do two things.
Firstly, lift weights in the gym. Our body composition can influence our metabolic rate. We can work it in our favour by having more lean body mass. In other words, by building more muscle.
We must also use our muscles or risk losing them. Lifting weights in the gym can significantly slow down the rate by which we lose our muscle, and slow down the ageing process by up to 10 or 20 years.
As a result of training our muscles, our balance, coordination, flexibility, posture and strength can all be improved as we age. This, in turn, can reduce the likelihood of falling in old age and the poor health that often occurs with falling.
The type of activity we engage in also affects our metabolic rate. Weight training increases the amount of energy used after we exercise, anywhere from 24-36 hours - even more so than after aerobic or cardio, such as running on the treadmill. This is commonly known as the "after burn" and is the best way to increase our metabolic rate.
Our metabolism only slows if we let it. More functioning muscle means a higher metabolism, which, in turn, means less weight gain as we age. Our middle-age spread need not be so vast.
FUEL A BALANCED DIET
In addition to exercising the right way, we must also eat properly. Maintaining a healthy weight can get more difficult as we age if we move less, yet still eat the same amounts. If our energy intake is more than our energy expenditure, then fat gain is inevitable.
It can be a tricky one to deal with as we don't feel we like we are overeating. Mainly because we are not. We are still eating the same, we are just moving less. So, in addition to exercise, we must pay attention to our nutrition and how much we are eating in order to maintain as much of our lean muscle mass as possible without gaining excess fat.
The main building blocks of muscle is protein. We must eat adequate amounts of protein in our daily diet to give our muscles the best chance of survival.
Try eat a serving of protein with each meal. A serving size is one palm for women and two palms per men.
Good sources of protein are lean red meats, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, or legumes and lentils for vegetarians.
Each time you eat, have a healthy balanced meal with lots of vegetables, some healthy fats, and some carbohydrates along with a protein source for optimal health. If our bodies are nourished with the right foods, then it will be in the best possible position to work as efficiently as it can, including keeping our metabolism revving at full throttle.
To combat the potential of overeating, eat only when hungry and slowly and mindfully, and until 90pc full or satisfied, most of the time. This habit, on its own, is a great one to practice as it can regulate how much you eat without having to resort to counting calories.
Eat every two to four hours to keep severe hunger and binges at bay. This includes setting yourself up for a good day with a balanced breakfast to include protein.
Implementing these strategies should help curb excess energy intake, elevate the metabolism, spare yourself the spare tyre, and decrease the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, some cancers and type 2 diabetes as the ageing process kicks in.
Karen is a nutrition coach and personal trainer and runs monthly online group nutrition coaching programs. The May program kicks off today, May 4. See www.thenutcoach.com for more details.