When In Life Your Metabolism Actually Peaks And Slows Down

It's long been believed that metabolism — the rate at which the body burns energy — declines as we age, making it harder to maintain a healthy weight or lose excess weight the older we get (per Everyday Health). Does this mean the age-old refrain, "My metabolism isn't what it used to be during my twenties" is true? Not exactly.

In a 2021 study published in Science, researchers assessed metabolism in people of all ages and found that metabolism doesn't peak and slow down at ages we previously believed. Researchers analyzed over 6,000 people and measured the total daily energy expenditure of both females and males ranging from ages eight days to 95 years old. The findings indicated that metabolism actually peaks during the first 12 months of life.

Between ages one and 20 years old, metabolism declines about 3% each year, then stops slowing down in the 20s (per MindBodyGreen). "The data are really clear that total energy expenditure — the calories we burn every day — is very stable from 20 to 60 years old," lead researcher Herman Pontzer told Everyday Health. In fact, the study didn't show a decrease in metabolism until after age 60. After this age, it was reported metabolism declines every year by 0.7%.

You can boost your metabolism at any age

It turns out it's not some intrinsic change in metabolism, after all, that's the culprit behind the notorious "middle-age spread." According to Rozalyn Anderson, a professor at the school of medicine and public health at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, via Everyday Health, "It is far more likely now that changes in behavior are at the root of it."

As hard as it might be to digest, our diets and exercise habits both impact metabolism and weight over time. According to Healthline, some metabolism-boosting foods include apple cider vinegar, cacao, beans, and water. Two ways to boost metabolism at any age are aerobic exercise and strength training, both of which can help build lean muscle mass. According to WebMD, muscle burns more calories than fat, even when we're at rest. Muscle mass naturally decreases as we age, so exercising well into our middle-age years and beyond will help maintain lean muscle mass and prevent our metabolism from slowing down.

Believe it or not, mental fitness also plays a major role in metabolism. A 2015 study shows chronic stress can cause many health conditions. Even if you maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly, behavior coach and certified nutrition specialist Esosa Edosomwan tells MindBodyGreen that chronic stress can nullify healthy habits. Consider incorporating mindfulness practices, prayer, meditation, or relaxing in blue spaces to enhance your mental fitness.