When you’re in your 20s you can get away with midnight takeout stops after a night on the town with the girls, without worrying too much about the impact on your waistline. And if you did put on a few kilos during a weekend away, some fasted cardio could quickly get you back in shape.
Unfortunately, though, the metabolic superpowers possessed by your 20-something self don’t last forever, especially the closer you are to the age of 35. This happens for a variety of reasons – some lifestyle related and others as part of the natural physiological changes that our bodies experience as we age.
Undoubtedly the most prolific contributor to the age-related decline in our ability to lose weight, or keep it off, is a shift in our hormones.
Due mainly to changes in our productive systems, we experience shifts in the natural release of powerful hormones that affect our metabolism, and our ability to lose weight or keep our appetites under control.
However this need not be the case. By simply being aware of the factors that affect us in our 20s, 30s and 40s, we can take the appropriate steps to ensure we stay fit and fabulous at any age.
In your 20s
There’s a reason why 20-somethings seem care-free – they can generally get away with a lot more when it comes to their dietary and lifestyle choices.
You’re in your prime reproductive years, which means powerful hormones are coursing through your veins, which stoke your metabolism. You’re therefore less likely to add weight if your diet is a bit off.
You’re also naturally fit, which means you’ll be able to tackle many physical challenges without too much fuss, or effort. And don’t forget that this is also the time in your life when you’ll have the most ‘me time’, which gives you the freedom to train as often and as much as you want.
Just don’t let this fool you into thinking you can overeat and overtrain to keep your weight in check. The truth is that your 20s are a crucial time because the habits you create during this decade will hopefully set you up for success in your 30s and 40s.
With that in mind, use your 20s to kick common unhealthy practices such as yo-yo dieting, extreme calorie restriction, fad diets, and excessive or extreme exercise practices, and rather focus on establishing the healthy habits that will serve you well throughout the rest of your life.
Another habit to nip in the bud in your 20s is the mindlessness that accompanies our attachment to smartphones and tablets. Scarfing down meals while checking social media or responding to email is a sure-fire way to overeat. Practice mindfulness in everything you do – modern society is already too distracted. You’ll derive greater joy from your time in the gym and the nourishment of the healthful food you eat if you do.
… follow a healthy, balanced diet that you can maintain for the rest of your life. Focus on eating predominantly whole, natural foods such as fruits and vegetables, and healthy sources of animal protein.
… make more informed decisions when eating out or when drinking alcohol (avoid soft drinks or sodas and fruit juice as mixers). Always choose the best of the less healthy options available.
… drink mostly water.
… move more, and more often, whether it’s walking, dancing it up, or exercising.
… be mindful of your total calorie intake.
… follow fad diets and restrictive eating regimens.
… consume processed foods, man-made hydrogenated and trans fats, refined carbs and sugar.
… exclude entire food groups. Rather understand the impact and role of each macronutrient and make educated decisions about what, how much and when you eat them, especially carbs.
… believe that you can abuse your body in your 20s and reverse the damage in your 30s and 40s! This is the time to build a solid foundation, not start your slide into a lifetime of illness, injury and poor health.
Always remember, what you do, and how and what you eat during every decade will have an impact on the next phase of your life. It is therefore massively beneficial to establish during your 20s the foundation for a healthy, metabolically efficient body.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.