How to Increase Metabolism After 50

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on February 23, 2024
3 min read

Metabolism is different for everyone. Some people have a faster metabolism, and some have a slower one. But as you age, your metabolism slows down. 

Metabolic rate is an umbrella term for all the chemical reactions and processes in your body that turn food into energy. If you use more calories than you take in, you might lose weight. If you use fewer calories, you might gain weight. But there’s more to your metabolism than that.

As you get older, your body stores more fat and loses muscle due to hormone shifts. These changes become more noticeable after 50. They slow your metabolism. The good news is that you don’t need to live with lower metabolism after you’re 50. A few simple life changes can help you boost it.

You begin losing muscle mass in your 30s -- about 3% to 8% each decade. This loss, called sarcopenia, speeds up after you turn 50, and you can lose as much as 15% muscle mass each decade afterward. This is also when your metabolism begins to slow down. Metabolism, protein, and muscle are connected, so when muscle mass decreases, so does metabolism.

To boost your metabolism, try strength training and lifting weights. Building muscle mass also helps your body burn more calories, so you don’t convert them to fat as easily. Weights, resistance bands, and body weight exercises can all help build muscle.

You can boost your metabolism by doing more aerobic or cardio exercises. Aerobic or cardio exercise offers benefits like:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Good for lung health
  • Lower resting heart rate
  • Helps control weight and blood sugar
  • Lower risks for heart disease

Aerobic exercises get you moving to improve your metabolism. Examples include:

  • Walking
  • Swimming and water aerobics
  • Bike riding
  • Jogging
  • Dancing
  • Tennis and badminton

Drinking water also helps your metabolism. When you drink H2O, your body goes through thermogenesis (body heating) to process the liquid and heat it to body temperature. This is the same process your body uses to metabolize food. Using energy to create heat requires burning calories, and this can boost your metabolism by as much as 30%.

While the process only lasts about an hour, it happens each time you drink water. Staying hydrated also helps when you exercise, and it lets your body dissolve important minerals and vitamins. Water helps keep your skin, hair, and brain healthy.

To boost your metabolism, add more protein to your diet. Older adults have more protein needs to make up for muscle loss and to maintain bone health and other body functions. Most older adults need about 1.0 to 1.5 grams of dietary protein per kilogram of weight, while younger adults need about 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of weight. 

Along with protein-rich foods, you should fill up on more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fiber. Eating whole foods can help you get more of the nutritional value, since over time your body becomes less efficient at absorbing nutrients. Nutrient-dense foods keep your body fueled longer.

You can also eat smaller, more frequent meals to avoid a drop in metabolism. The longer you go between meals, the more your metabolism drops and the hungrier you feel. 

When you eat small, balanced meals more often, or a healthy snack in between three healthy meals, your metabolism stays more consistent. Proteins should be a part of each meal, since they're better at helping your body’s metabolism. 

You often get less quality sleep as you get older. You also may become more active and alert in the mornings and get tired quicker at night.

Sleep is important for your overall health, including your metabolism. Since your shut-eye and metabolism are connected, getting better sleep helps your body burn more calories and use nutrients more efficiently. 

To improve your sleep:

  • Keep the room dark.
  • Lower the temperature. 
  • Avoid food or water at night.
  • Skip late-afternoon or evening naps.
  • Exercise during the day.
  • Be active outdoors.

Talk to your doctor if you notice a new health issue or if you struggle to finish daily activities. Lower metabolism can be due to a medical condition that needs treatment.