I’m a bit torn about what the data is saying lately about women and their metabolism as they age. Most of us have come to believe that as we get older, our metabolism slows down and the fact that our jeans don’t fit anymore is just a fact of life. It’s the way it is. But guess what? Apparently that ‘s not true. All those incredible women that I have trained over the past 20 years who stayed fit and trim well into their older years? Apparently they weren’t anomalies. They weren’t genetically blessed. They were just consistent.

The science is supporting these women and showing that as we hit our menopausal years, and beyond, our metabolism does not slow down like we once thought. And that middle age spread is not inevitable, it might be a bit harder to prevent than when we were younger, but by no means is it a guarantee.

And so I want to share with you the formula that might explain why it might happen, and what you can do to prevent it. I will explain the acronyms below, but you may want to bookmark this spot so you can refer back. There’s a lot of them!


  • TEE = Total Energy Expenditure
  • BMR = Basal Metabolic Rate (highly dependent on LM)
  • LM = lean mass or muscle mass, (being a sink for blood sugar and fuels calorie burning)
  • PA = Physical Activity (which is a combination of formal Exercise and NEAT)
  • NEAT = Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, (spontaneous movements that burn calories like fidgeting or pacing or standing vs sitting.)
  • TEF = Thermic Effect of Food (which is the increase in energy expenditure after meals incurred by the energy costs of digestion, absorption, and storage of nutrients. )

And so if we are gaining weight it is because the amount of energy you are expending, TEE, is lower than the number of calories you are consuming. If want to lose weight, you need to up your TEE or decrease your calories (but not too low or you risk lowering your BMR).

How do we increase our TEE?

Let’s look at each factor independently.

How can we increase our BMR? BMR, or Basal Metabolic Rate, is what we loosely refer to as our metabolism. Genetics play a large role in our metabolic rate. Some people are very ‘energy efficient’ and burn fewer calories at rest, others burn more. Gender also plays a role as most men have a higher metabolic rate than women. One of the most effective ways to increase your BMR is to increase your LM, or your lean mass. Muscle is the most metabolically active tissue in your body, the more muscle you have the more calories you burn, even at rest. This means you need to get to the gym 2-3 times a week and lift weights heavy enough to stimulate muscle growth if you want to take advantage of the benefits of increased muscle.

Now here is where aging makes that a bit more challenging. Sarcopenia is age related muscle decline. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t build muscle as you get older, but I also don’t want you to think it is just as easy as when you were 20. The other factor is that as we age, our digestion tends to decline. And that protein that we needed to build muscle when we were young, not as available to us as we get older. And so we need to be more diligent about our protein sources as we get older.

How can we increase our PA? That one seems obvious; and it kind of is. We need to increase how much we exercise for sure, but we also need to be smarter about it. Two to three times a week we need to resistance train, working all the muscles in our body, and like I said earlier, if the goal is to increase BMR, those weights need to be heavy enough to stimulate muscle growth or at least maintenance.

But there is another side to PA that isn’t so obvious. Its called NEAT, or non exercise activity thermogenesis. This is the movement you do outside of formal exercise. Standing instead of sitting, pacing instead of standing, walking instead of pacing, fidgeting instead of sitting still. This can add up to 2000 more calories burned in some situations, so don’t take it lightly.

How can we increase our TEF? Easy. Protein, fibre and fat all take a lot of calories to digest and so should be the foundation of your diet. Ensure each meal has a concentrated source of protein and healthy fat and pick high fibre carbohydrates like legumes, fruit or vegetables instead of bread and refined grains. Also, pick less refined foods altogether. Even all natural peanut butter has more calories absorbed by our bodies than peanuts before they are ground. The same goes for fruit vs fruit juice or grains vs flour. Think about it…if a machine is doing the work for you, your body doesn’t have to work as hard. Always pick foods in their whole form if you can. TEF, can account for 10-25% more calories burned from our food if we pick right.

So Why Do We Gain Weight When We Get Older?

Now, saying all that, does this mean menopause does not make it harder to lose fat? No. While the hormonal changes during menopause do not appear to change BMR or TEE when LM and PA are maintained, that does not mean it is just as easy when we were younger.

While hormonal changes may not inherently affect BMR, that doesn’t meant fat loss isn’t more challenging. So if not because of our BMR, then what is it?

1) Our physical activity drops as we age.

Some would disagree and say they exercise just as much but because our joints hurt a bit more and our ability to recover declines. our formal exercise intensity naturally drops. We are working to the same Perceived Exertion, meaning it feels just as hard, but it isn’t to the same intensity we did when we were young.

And NEAT is unconscious movements through the day that you aren’t even aware of (think fidgeting and pacing). You do it without even realizing but hormonal changes in women make them feel far more fatigued and even though they still exercise they may be more tired afterwards and their NEAT naturally goes down. Studies have shown that NEAT can vary by up to 2000 calories in a day. That is a lot of extra total energy expended, or not.

2) We eat more as we get older.

Unless you are master of tracking, portion creep and grazing are real problems. Hormonal changes during menopause cause our appetite to increase and if we are past our child rearing, and possibly in our retirement years we tend to have more time on our hands, so eating out of boredom also increases. Food tracking along with consuming a good amount of water, higher protein and fibre meals so that we stay satiated for longer can help. Sleep is another factor here. Women tend to become notoriously bad sleepers the older they get. And the evidence is clear, people who sleep less weigh more and it’s because our hormones drive us to eat more.

And so, as I enter another year around the sun I remind myself of these truths and try to honour all sides of this equation. Not giving my age as an excuse to slow down but at the same time, not fighting tooth and nail to maintain the same shape I may have been able to maintain in my younger years. In the end, my decisions are based on a desire to be in and enjoy the present moment as much as possible, while still being empathetic towards Future Me, knowing that she needs me to make good decisions today so that she has a chance at feeling great too when it is her turn to shine.

And so, none of this is to say you should or shouldn’t be doing something, or that you should or shouldn’t look a certain way, These are just science supported truths that apply to a lot of people, but not everyone, and I always believe that knowledge is power and so hopefully you have learned something new!

xo Christine


Why subscribe?
If you are over 40 and you want to receive information about the best EXERCISES, the healthiest WAYS TO EAT and the right MINDSET SHIFTS that you can make in order to achieve the body you need so you can live the long, vibrant and energetic life you've always wanted then this weekly newsletter is for you.

ps. Our newsletter has an easy opt-out so you can start and end your subscription at any time.

You have successfully subscribed. Thank you!