It is difficult to define metabolic age because there are few ways to measure, track and study it. The science behind the studies has not compiled enough evidence to note its effects and causes definitively; however, this article will give you insight into what metabolic age is and how to understand it.
Metabolic age refers to the calories your body burns in a resting state, otherwise known as the energy your body needs to maintain daily functioning.
Your metabolic age is how your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) compares to the average BMR for people in the general population that fall within your same chronological age group.
Understanding Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
BMR is the absolute minimum number of calories your body needs to function at rest. Even when you’re sleeping or lying on the couch, your body has a resting energy expenditure that includes breathing, digestion, and blood circulation.
BMR does not account for physical activity – this is critical because between 60-75% of calories burned in a day happen when you’re doing nothing.
BMR is also sometimes called resting metabolic rate or RMR.
Your Basal Metabolic Rate Changes with Age
Research indicates that regardless of body size, our metabolic age drops as we age. Scientists have also discovered that four significant metabolic rate phases change throughout one’s life.
These phases are as follows:
- Up to age one: metabolic rate is high.
- After age 1, all the way up to age 20: one’s metabolic rate drops by as much as 3% each year.
- Age 20-50: no significant changes through this period
- Age 60: One’s metabolic rate drops yearly by just under 1%.
Within this study, multiple patients within the same group could have different metabolic rates. Still, overall the declining pattern remained the same compared to their cohorts, even within a control group of similar body weight.
Like many other things as we age, changes to metabolic rate are inevitable, but the goal should always be to work on keeping a healthy metabolism, which can help offset these changes. One of the most important things you can do is get your blood sugar in balance by eating the right combination of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Most people do not eat enough protein and too many of the wrong carbs. This causes hunger and sugar cravings.
How Is Metabolic Age Different From Chronological Age?
They say age is just a number, but some people are struggling in their 30s and 40s, and others are aging gracefully in their 70s and 80s. Aging well is a luxury, but it means not letting your chronological age get in the way of doing the things you love.
What is your Chronological Age?
Simply put, chronological age is the number of years from when a person was born. Your relative metabolic age is your BMR compared to others in your same age group.
Chronological age is a way to assess your fitness level compared to your peers.
If your metabolic rate comes out to your chronological age, then you’re similar to the rest of the population in your age group. If your metabolic age is lower, that can indicate good health (but it is not a definitive diagnosis). The higher your BMR compared to your cohorts, you may want to reconsider your current diet and exercise routine and adjust.
How to Calculate Your Metabolic Age
To calculate metabolic age, you must consider your sex, height (in centimeters), weight (in kilograms), and age.
If you’re not sure about doing the math, you can use the Harris-Benedict calculator or any number of other online calculators, so you don’t have to do it by hand, but experts say that these predictive calculators are only moderately accurate. They can lead to errors in estimating someone’s actual metabolic rate, so understand that even using this equation is not the final, end-all, be-all answer.
For a more accurate method of measuring BMR, there is indirect calorimetry. This involves wearing a mask connected to a machine that measures the amount of oxygen you inhale and the carbon dioxide you exhale. However, most people do not have access to this type of machinery.
Below is the formula to calculate your metabolic age:
- Male: 66.5 + (13.75 x kg) + (5.003 x cm) – (6.775 x age)
- Female: 655.1 + (9.563 x kg) + (1.850 x cm) – (4.676 x age)
What Does Metabolic Age Tell You About Your Health?
According to healthline.com, Dr. Natasha Trentacosta says, “you can’t use BMR as a single measurement for your state of health or your fitness level, but it can give you insight into your state of health.”
Currently, there aren’t many peer-reviewed studies of metabolic age.
For most people, your BMR is higher when you’re younger and, like many other qualities, tends to decrease with age. Some research has shown a link between low BMR numbers and health issues such as age-related mortality and diabetes.
While metabolic age may be an indicator of your general health, many other factors, including blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride, can also affect those numbers.
It’s also important to consider your age, hormones, and biological sex, as these factors also influence your metabolic age.
If you have a lower metabolic age, this means your metabolism is functioning at a
8 Ways To Improve Your Metabolic Age
If you’re looking for ways to improve metabolic age, consider the following seven healthy lifestyle tips, especially if your basal metabolic rate is low.
1. Eat the right combinations of whole foods
As they say, “you are what you eat.” In our practice, we educate people on creating a food plan that will make them a fat burner, not a sugar burner. Most people are eating food they have been told are healthy, but are not seeing the results they would expect. There are many factors here, and one of them is the food industry. They have a lot of influence on marketing messages to the public, and it’s leading to weight gain and all the associated chronic diseases. A few good rules of thumb: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” and “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.” ~ Michael Pollan. The rest is personalized based on your goals and needs.
2. Be more active throughout the day
People say they ‘want to get their 10,000 steps in.’ This is where that comes into play. Aerobic activity of any kind, whether it’s walking, jogging, or swimming, will help improve your BMR. Focus on daily activities that will contribute to how many calories your body burns at rest.
3. Lift more weights
Building muscle mass is key to boosting metabolic rate. Lifting weights and strength training are great ways to improve body composition and increase muscle mass. Physical activity can also increase your insulin sensitivity.
4. Incorporate HIIT
Once you are at your optimal weight, high-intensity interval training sessions are another way to increase your metabolic health. Metabolic conditioning workouts often combine strength and HIIT into one session and strongly influence the body’s energy systems.
5. Get enough sleep
According to mindbodygreen.com, one study found that individuals who were getting less sleep at night had a harder time metabolizing fat and stored it instead. Another research paper suggests that lack of sleep can negatively affect glucose metabolism and the hormones that regular metabolism.
6. Eat enough calories
It may seem counterintuitive; that you’d really rather cut back on calories to increase your BMR, but it’s more important that you’re eating appropriately for your body. If you’re eating fewer nutrients and consuming fewer calories than your body needs, your metabolism slows down. One macronutrient people tend to undereat is protein. You want to make sure you have the right amount of protein with every meal.
7. Fill your plate with nutritious foods
Not only is it important to eat the right amount of calories for your body, but it’s also important to consider what you’re eating. Consuming an adequate amount of protein supports lean muscle mass and helps the body avoid losing that tissue as it ages.
Fill your plate with nutrient-dense foods to ensure your body is getting enough muscle-building support.
8. Manage stress
Chronic stress can negatively impact your body, causing the buildup of inflammation, which can lead to a lower BMR.
Factors that Increase Metabolic Age
Now that we’ve established what metabolic age is and how to calculate it, you understand that it’s not as simple as tracking your chronological age.
Consider this, though: we have also established that metabolic age is a reflection of metabolic health, and there are factors that can increase or decrease your metabolism.
Factors that Increase Your Metabolic Age Include:
- Poor diet – Following the same diet you had in college when you’re in your 30s, 40s, and 50s is logically unsound. Eating highly processed foods while excluding fruits, veggies, healthy fats, proteins, and whole grains can have negative effects on your metabolic health.
- Lack of exercise – Physical activity is important. We mentioned this earlier, but staying active each day can help improve your metabolic health. Exercise helps to increase lean muscle mass, which can also boost metabolism.
- Stress – Another important effect. High levels of stress can lead to weight gain, inflammation, and low insulin sensitivity. Whether or not you’re exercising daily, it’s important to take daily measures to manage your stress levels.
Can You Decrease Metabolic Age?
As we mentioned in the 7 Tips to Improve metabolic age above, these lifestyle factors can help not only your metabolism but also improve your overall health.
In order to prevent or offset metabolic age shifts, reduce body fat, and create a more favorable body composition, it’s important to exercise daily. When our clients are going through our 90 Metabolic Reset Weight Loss Program, exercise is modified and is not actually required for the “reduction” phase of our program.
Aerobic exercise and strength training can increase muscle mass, something that naturally begins to decline as we age. Lower muscle mass also accelerates the drop in metabolic rate. When you exercise, you’re not only losing weight and toning your body, but you’re also increasing your metabolism – it’s a win-win!
Stress management cannot be said enough. Stress can be a silent killer, but if it adds to your stress levels to try to manage your stress, consider this: keep it simple. Laugh with your kids, call a friend or a family member for a chat, have a dance party in your living room, or find a hobby you love. It doesn’t have to be complicated; it just has to work for you.
Will Losing Weight Improve Your Metabolic Age?
Losing weight doesn’t automatically improve your metabolic age, but it can help improve your overall health, leading to improved metabolic age.
If you lose weight in a healthy way – eating right, exercising properly, getting enough sleep, etc.- then all of these factors that contribute.
Now that you’ve read this article, you understand the basics of overall metabolic health. You know the importance of regular exercise and resistance training, how they can improve insulin sensitivity, lower blood pressure, burn calories and help you live an overall healthy lifestyle.
What’s important to take away from this article is the focus on making healthy choices. Understanding the number of calories your body burns and thusly needs daily for energy expenditure on body functioning can illustrate the importance of this topic.
If you have a younger metabolic age relative to your actual age, you may be in better health. It’s important to understand that this is not a definitive health diagnosis or a comprehensive indicator of your health. If you have any questions, you can reach out to your Center for Wellbeing Health Coach.