Aging and Metabolic Decline

Energy expenditure decreases with age.  And the number of calories burned per day decreases as one gets older.  This can lead to age-related weight gain.

Calories do matter, but they’re not the only thing that matters when it comes to how much you weigh and how much energy you have.  It’s all about your metabolism.

Your metabolism is how you take in oxygen and food and use them for energy, heat and storage.  Metabolism is the sum total of all the chemical reactions in your body.  But what’s really more important is how fast your metabolism works, for example, your “metabolic rate.”

But, what you may really want to know is what affects your metabolic rate, and how can you use that to your advantage.  Of course it’s not just about how much you eat but also hormones, body composition, and even what you eat counts.

So let’s dig deeper into this subject.

The word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.

You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight.  But what exactly does this all mean?

Technically, as we mentioned earlier, “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body.  It’s how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.

Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal and generally stay alive.  And without this amazing biochemistry, you would not be possible.

Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:

     Allow activities you can control (such as physical activity).

     Allow activities you can’t control (for example your heartbeat, wound healing and processing nutrients and toxins).

     Allow storage of excess energy for later.

So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism, you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly or just right.

Which brings us to the “metabolic rate.”

Metabolic rate

This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories.

The calories you eat can go to one of three places:

     Work (such as exercise and other activity).

     Heat (from all those biochemical reactions).

     Storage (extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).

The more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.

There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate.  One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you’re not being physically active.

The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (such as exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.

What affects your metabolic rate?

The first thing you may think of is your thyroid.  This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism.  Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is, the faster things will work and the more calories you’ll burn.

But that’s not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.

How big you are counts, too.

Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial. 

Muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does.  So the more lean muscle mass you have, the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be — even when you’re not working out.

This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as part of a weight loss program.  Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you.

The thing is, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don’t want to happen.  So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass.

Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they’re doing “work.”

The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate.

Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest and metabolize your food.  This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).

You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.

Fats, for example, increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%.  By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein, you can increase your metabolic rate.

Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow.  By working them out and feeding them what they need, they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.

And don’t forget the mind-body connection.  There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.  Also, your feelings, thoughts, beliefs and experiences can impact and transform your metabolism.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase or decrease your metabolic rate.

Are you using weight training to build lean muscle mass?  And do you consciously eat certain foods to affect your metabolic rate?  Please comment below with your thoughts regarding today’s post.  We’d love to hear from you.

Categories: Aging, Blog, and Metabolism.

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