Your Metabolism Doesn’t HAVE to Slow Down

metabolism and old age

There’s a common myth that aging forces your metabolism to slow down. The myth continues that as you age, gaining weight or severely restricting food are your only options. But I’m here to tell you that myth isn’t fully true. Your metabolism doesn’t have to slow down, just because you get a little older. Let me explain.

Research is clear that when looking at the global population, the basal (or resting) metabolic rate does decrease almost linearly with age. In a lot of ways -- that’s common sense. On average, older people eat less, exercise less and have a lower metabolism than younger people. But a University of Colorado study from 2001 made some interesting findings. They didn’t just compare the old and young, but instead compared apples to apples -- an older and a younger person that ate the same amount of calories and completed the same amount of physical activity each day. When comparing those two individuals, there was relatively ZERO difference in metabolic rate.

So what does that mean?

It means you don’t have to lose your metabolism as you age. Your metabolic rate is related to three things: (1) the amount of muscle mass in your body (2) how many calories you consume (3) how much exercise you complete. Naturally, if you begin eating and exercising less, your lean muscle will decrease and so will your metabolic rate. But—what happens when older people don’t limit their calorie intake, and continue to exercise at a high level? Well, their metabolism keeps up!

Your metabolism is like a vintage car. If you keep using it, fueling it, caring for it, it will loyally keep running for you. But if you assume that since the car is older than it once was, it can’t run, well then, you’ll leave it in the driveway where it will rust. The choice is yours.

I constantly work with my clients to overcome the myth of the average. Yes -- on average, older people see a decrease in metabolic rate. But who wants to be average? Just because something is a statistic doesn’t mean that YOU have to be a statistic. Furthermore, as you age, it is all the more important to maintain lean muscle mass -- not just to maintain a healthy metabolic rate, but also to ward off osteoporosis, fight infection, and decrease the risk of developing diabetes.

THIS IS WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO BELIEVE. But the line doesn't exist. The REAL chart is more like a scatter plot, with dots all over the place. Just because there is an average decline doesn't mean you have to be average. 

THIS IS WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO BELIEVE. But the line doesn't exist. The REAL chart is more like a scatter plot, with dots all over the place. Just because there is an average decline doesn't mean you have to be average. 

The other part of my job is constantly convincing clients that they need to eat—often a lot more than they’re currently eating. I’m not saying go out and stuff yourself on holiday cakes and candy. But eating frequent meals throughout the day high in protein and energy can help sustain your muscle development, particularly if you’re engaging in high-intensity exercise like we do at Marathon Fitness. Bod Pod assessments give an accurate assessment of your needed daily calorie intake, and more often than not, my clients find that they’re simply not eating enough. Here’s the truth: the older you are, any deficiencies in exercise and diet will have a far greater impact on your metabolism.

The power of your metabolism is in your hands, not in the hands of the calendar. If you don’t believe me, come see me.

Posted on February 8, 2017 and filed under My Joe Rants.