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Recently, I made an interesting observation during a conversation on the universal topic of eating habits. Most of the working population made a common comment on their diet. They all had bigger appetites and worried a lot less about what they put into their systems when they were younger. 

While I am sure that most people would agree to this notion, it also happens to be scientifically true. Several research studies have found that there is a 1-2% decline in metabolism (process of breaking nutrients for creating and using energy) every decade after the age of 20. 

This decline rate becomes more rapid past 40 years for males and 50 years for females. Simply put, all our biological systems are naturally on the decline as we grow older. 

Cold hands and feet, a tendency to feel the chill and patchy skin can all be signs of slow metabolism. When many people hear that their metabolism may be slowing down, their first step is often to diet harder, and train harder, which is more likely to aggravate the problem. There are many sources of more detailed information on age related metabolic decline available online. A good article on it can be found here.

In order for the powerhouse in each of our body’s cells (the mitochondria is responsible for energy production) to function optimally, it wants plenty of all three macronutrients in the diet: protein, fat, and the infamous carbohydrates

A diet or exercise routine that significantly depletes carbohydrates or severely restricts one of these macronutrients can be very metabolically damaging. In fact, a research study by the American college of Nutrition in 2000 showed evidence that a diet low in saturated fat and high in carbohydrates and fiber gave the greatest health benefits in the long term.

A sluggish metabolism can also be represented by weight gain, dull skin and hair, fatigue, mood swings, low libido, poor digestion, and reduced fertility. Without the energy to perform every function optimally, your body will begin to make sacrifices on energy usage, and that is when these symptoms will begin to emerge.

Aloka Khulu on metabolism and how to reverse slow metabolism
So how can we keep our metabolism healthy? Eat and sleep enough, actively try to reduce stress, and train smart. Training smart implies exercising regularly, 3-6 times a week, but not to the point of absolute exhaustion or depletion each and every time. Eating enough means giving your body enough calories and enough of each of the macronutrients to perform all of its functions optimally and with ease. There’s an old saying that goes something like this “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”. Keeping that in mind, sleeping enough could imply 7-9 hours per night, with women actually needing slightly more sleep each night than men.  Exercising can act as a stress reliever as it boosts feel good endorphins that act as distraction from daily stress.  One can also actively reduce stress might by taking up a meditative practice, seeing friends more, and removing toxic people from your life.

When it comes to eating habits, a general rule of thumb is eating natural and maintaining variety in the content of these natural foods. While there is a lot that can be covered on dietary issues, for starters, one should focus on maintaining a good ratio on the daily intake of their macronutrients: Protein, fats and carbohydrates. Ideally, a healthy daily intake of food would consist of 50-60% carbs, <30% fats and 10-15% protein.  

To summarise my notion on this topic, a tired and slow metabolism will never be permanently beaten into submission by a heavily restrictive diet and over-training. These moves may lead to short-term success, but inevitably will result in burn-out and a return of the original problems. So look towards inculcating and reinforcing healthy lifestyle choices for yourself and your loved ones in order to feel a holistic development in the quality of the life you live. 

Aloka is doing his Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Management at the University of Technology, Sydney. He is also working as a part-time trainee at the Krav Maga Defense Institute (KMDI), Surry hills 2010 NSW.

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