As the years go by, you'll start looking back on your early 20s and think, "I had it so easy back then". You could probably get away with going out to eat all the time, sipping soda and skipping the gym without a worry about your waistline. But you can't exactly carry those habits later in life and expect the same results.

You might find yourself wondering why your body is putting on weight when you're not doing anything different? Or why the scale won't budge when you're putting so much effort into being healthy.

The unfortunate answer to these questions is simple: the older you get, the harder it is to lose weight.

There are several reasons for this lamentable phenomenon, including:

Disadvantage #1: Your muscles deteriorate

Even if you're pretty active, most people start losing their muscle and start replacing it with fat starting in their 30s, research suggests. Because fat doesn't use up as many calories as muscle does, your body is now burning less calories throughout the day. As a result, you don't need to eat as much, which slows down your metabolism.

Disadvantage #2: Your metabolism slows down

Your metabolism is in charge of all the chemical and physical processes that continuously happen inside your body - it helps to keep you going throughout the day.

"The largest component of your metabolism is your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the amount of energy your body uses just to maintain functioning at rest. This surprisingly accounts for 50-70 percent of the energy used each day," says Robbie Clark, dietician and sports nutritionist. Clark says that a BMR typically decreases by one to two percent per decade after you reach the age of 20. It may even decrease up to 10 percent per decade after the age of 45.

While you can't stop this decrease, you can do things to optimize your metabolism (we talk about this down below).

Disadvantage #3: Your hormone levels decline

As you grow older (especially after menopause for women) your levels of sex hormones decrease. This includes estrogen and testosterone. The loss of these hormones compounds your body's difficulty to lose weight.

All three of these factors sound like a pretty grim fate for anyone trying to lose weight past their twenties - but it's not a hopeless cause. While deteriorating muscles, slowing metabolisms and decreasing hormones are unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to optimize the body you have.

Combat tool #1: Get enough sleep

Getting that recommended 7-8 hours a night might be low on your list of priorities, but sleep is actually a huge tool for combatting your body's declining ability to lose weight. Research from a study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology shows that "sleep deprivation and sleep disorders may have profound metabolic and cardiovascular implications."

In other words, your sleeping patterns and your metabolism are intricately connected. Your metabolism relies heavily on sleep to keep from slowing down too quickly.

Combat tool #2: Do HIIT workouts

Of course, regularly working out isn't news for someone who wants to get more fit, but certain workouts are particularly beneficial for combatting a slowing metabolism. HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a type of exercise that involves repeated short bouts of high-intensity, or "burst" exercises between longer, low-intensity exercise. A typical HIIT workout could be jogging at a slower, comfortable pace for a couple minutes, sprinting for 20-40 seconds, then repeating the pattern for 20-30 minutes total.

These interval workouts are the best cardio option for boosting your metabolism. HIIT causes your body to burn more calories post workout in comparison to steady state workouts, which might just be the answer for anyone struggling to see results from their steady-state exercises.

Anyone can modify a HIIT workout so it fits your age and physical capability. You can do HIIT workouts while jogging, cycling or even walking.

Combat tool #3: Eat more protein

Protein can have a profound effect on your metabolism. Though both protein and carbohydrates contain four calories per gram, protein forces your body to use more calories during digestion than carbs do. Protein also builds metabolically active muscle and prevents body fat storage.

Just make sure you're not eating more high protein foods in addition to what you normally eat in a day. Instead, replace some of you more unhealthy calories with lean proteins.

Doing these three things will help you combat that slowing metabolism. There is still hope to having the healthy, fit body you want, even while your body ages.

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