Tips to help you combat the loss of muscle mass

You have exercised all your life, and this is how you have always stayed trim. But now that you’re past age 40, you find the weight doesn’t stay off as easily as it used to — even though you’re still exercising as much as ever.

Most of us have heard that our metabolism slows down after age 40, but is there any truth to it? And what can you do about it?

Why it’s harder to lose weight

It is true that your body’s metabolism changes as you age, but there is a good reason why this happens, says health coach Erica Stepteau.

“After age 40, your metabolism actually does start dropping a little bit, but it’s not for the reason that you think,” she says. “It’s because we are losing the muscle mass in our body — from 3 percent to 5 percent every decade after you’re 30 years old.”

That loss of muscle mass affects your body’s ability to burn calories, Ms. Stepteau says.

This is why after age 40, some people begin to see some weight gain even though they exercising the same as when they were in their 20s and 30s, but don’t get the same results, Ms. Stepteau says.

Staying ahead of the curve

The good news is that it’s possible to beat the metabolism drop-off.

You can stay ahead of the metabolism curve as you get older by adding weights and some resistance training with an exercise band to your workout routine, Ms. Stepteau says.

If you weren’t very active in your 20s or 30s, Ms. Stepteau recommends starting with a moderate exercise such as brisk walking or stair climbing. Keeping the blood flowing goes a long way toward preventing cardiovascular diseaseand other conditions, she says.

“In your 40s, it is critical to pick up a couple of weights just so that you can create the muscle mass and keep restoring it because you are losing it every decade naturally,” Ms. Stepteau says. “We’re all going in that same direction.”

A balanced diet

Nutrition also plays a key role in staying fit after age 40, Ms. Stepteau says. She recommends eating a balanced diet that includes proteins, healthy fats, a little bit of carbs and minerals and vitamins from fruits and veggies.

“When you’re exerting energy, you want to make sure that you restore those calories and restore those components of the nutrition in a way that benefits your body best,” Ms. Stepteau says.