If you feel like you can’t eat as much as you used to back in your 20s or 30s without your favourite pair of jeans getting just that tiny bit tighter, the truth is you’re probably not imagining it. Age-related weight gain is recognised as a genuine ‘thing’. One explanation is that from about the age of 30, we can start to lose muscle mass, a process that naturally ramps up after the age of 50 so that, without intervention, we lose one or 2 per cent of our muscle mass every single year.

What’s that got to do with it? Apart from the fact that muscle equals toned-looking limbs, it also burns a whole lot of kilojoules for fuel. 

So, the more muscle mass you have – and can hang onto as you grow older – the higher your body’s metabolism will be, which means you’ll find it easier to keep weight off. In fact, thanks to how efficiently muscle ‘eats’ kilojoules, research suggests that as soon as you start to lose it, you’d need to shave at least 10 per cent off your daily kilojoule intake just to keep the scales static.

But there is another solution – and ironically, it’s living in your fridge. “The good news is that while sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss, affects one in three Australians over the age of 60, it’s definitely not inevitable,” says accredited practising dietitian, Milly Smith. “Along with resistance training, making sure you’re eating enough protein is one of the key things you can do to help maintain your muscle mass. It works because protein contains the amino acids that muscle tissue is made up of, and which the body therefore needs to build muscle.” 

Protein also stimulates the production of serum IGF-1, a hormone that’s central to muscle growth. Plus, protein’s useful for keeping your weight on an even keel for another reason, too. “Because it’s not the body’s preferred energy source, protein takes longer to break down than say, carbohydrate,” Smith explains. “That means it keeps us feeling fuller for longer, which can help with appetite control.” 

Proof is a weight-loss study conducted at the University of Illinois, where people eating a higher-protein weight-loss diet lost 38 per cent more body fat than people eating a typical weight-loss diet. 

But here’s the thing: while eating enough protein is a great place to start, you can do better. Our five-step metabolism-boosting plan will help you perfect your protein intake for maximum effect. 


© Prevention Australia