Do we have different metabolic levels at different ages? How can nutrition help?

Metabolic rate:

Metabolism is a complex biological process that is occurring within our body in order to maintain life. This process utilises the calories obtained through the food that we eat or drink for its required energy.

The metabolic activity continues to be on functioning even while you are sitting or sleeping, it is utilised by the in-volunteer actions like breathing, balancing hormones, repairing and building a cell, functioning of heart, the functioning of lungs, blinking etc. The total amount of calories burned when you are at rest is called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).

As per the best nutritionist in Bangalore, the calories you burn through physical activity may vary, but your BMR remains pretty constant. It is influenced by your hormones, age, gender and body composition.

And yes, there are differences in metabolic level as you age. In general, there is a drop in the metabolic level as you age. This is due to the muscle loss (as we know muscle is the active organ that utilises energy in our body), and changes in your hormone levels, which determines the way you store fat and lose fat.

The changes in hormone levels and muscle mass are also interlinked. Growth hormone is the one that maintains cell growth, and it is produced from your pituitary gland, studies show that there is a noticeable decrease in this hormone as you age. Through your young age, this hormone helps in increasing muscle mass, boosts protein production, and enhance fat utilisation. But ad you cross adulthood, the reduction in this hormone affects your muscle mass. Muscle is a more metabolically active part in our system than fat. Which means it utilises more calories from our body to maintain itself, due to the drop in muscle mass, which means your body will need only fewer calories at rest, there is a considerable drop in BMR as you age. There is also an imbalance in other hormones, which may lead to cell damage and inflammation.

Importance of good nutrition:

The common problem of weight gain as you age is due to the muscle loss and drop in your basal metabolic rate, reduced, or lack of physical activity is also a contributing factor. Because, although the calorie requirement has reduced, older people tend to eat the same quantity as they were eating in their adulthood when their BMR was high.

With age, although the calorie requirement may decrease, the nutrient requirements increase!

Studies show the accumulation of inflammatory molecules in elderly adults may lead to gastritis, in which the inflammatory molecules destroy the acid-secreting cells in the stomach. Low stomach acid impairs efficient digestions and abruption of vital nutrients into the system.

Changes required as you age in terms of nutrition include:

Calorie needs.

Calorie needs in the growing phase are at its peak, due to the energy required to build muscles and for other metabolic activities. The requirement is also high in that stage due to the high level of physical activity. But as you age, the calorie need decreases due to muscle loss, reduced physical activity and reduced BMR. Hence, it is crucial to understand and practice portion control based on the needs for your age and requirements, eat in moderation.

It is ideal for splitting your calorie intake throughout the day, in spite of 3 large meals you can consume a portion of required calories through small healthy snacks like fruits or salads or nuts. This also helps to maintain your metabolic rate as you age. Eating based on your needs prevents weight gain and other lifestyle conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease associated with ageing and lifestyle.


Protein is needed to maintain healthy body weight, muscle building, for cells repairing and also to maintain immunity. Older adults are more prone to infections due to their low immunity, one of the cause is a low protein in the diet.

Despite needing fewer calories, it is important to maintain adequate intake of protein each day. A healthy diet should have protein coming from different sources in each meal. Protein rich foods include, lean meat, eggs, fish, milk and its products, legumes, and nuts. And it should meet the amount required by you. Both low levels and high levels of protein for a long time is harmful. In growing children low levels of protein may hinder their full growth, whereas high protein may increase their kidney load. In adults and older adults, low protein diet leads to muscle wastage and impaired immunity resulting in low strength, energy levels and frequent infections, and delayed wound healing.

Micronutrients (Vitamins and Minerals):

Invariably micronutrients like vitamins and minerals are essential in all stages of life, as they are crucial in the various metabolic process including converting your food to energy. They also play a major role in bone health, skin health, immunity etc, The need of these nutrients vary, again based on the factors like age, gender, physical activity and ethnicity.

Example: Vitamin A, C and E, zinc, Selenium are a potent antioxidant that prevents our cells from free radical damage. Vitamin D, Calcium are needed for strong bones and teeth. Vitamin B12 is needed for energy metabolism etc. deficiency of these nutrients may lead to various symptoms and reversible and some irreversible conditions.
As per the best nutritionist in Chennai, ageing is associated with an increased risk of low vitamin consumption. It is studied that, lower food intake among the elderly has been associated with lower intakes of iron, calcium, zinc, B vitamins, and vitamin E. This low energy intake or low nutrient density of the diet may increase the risk of diet-related illnesses. The required intake of these nutrients increases in older adults to the impaired capacity of the body to absorb these nutrients.

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