I remember the day I got the bad news. I was 20 years old and I was in the middle of a nearly impossible squat session. Between sets, while trying to catch my breath, an “older” personal trainer (he was probably in his 30s) came over and offered some “advice” - unsolicited, of course.
“Ya know,” he said, “I used to look like you. But just you wait. After 25, the metabolism slows down, and it’s all downhill from there, buddy. You’d better enjoy it while it lasts.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of this guy. After all, he didn’t look that great. Sure, he was a trainer and he did look better than most folks his age but just barely. And he had a lot less muscle and a lot more fat than I did.
But the critical question was, was he right? Did the metabolism come to a grinding halt after age 25? Was I doomed to lose my prized physique? Worse yet, was I destined to look like him? I had to find out. After all, if middle age spread was an inevitable consequence of aging, why bother?
So I asked around. I spoke with personal trainers, gym owners and nutritionists, who all confirmed what I had heard. I spoke with some instructors at my local community college. They said the same, although with less certainty since at that time not much research had been done about the matter.
I looked around, studying the physiques of people I ran into at the gym, grocery store, mall and elsewhere. The evidence was all around me. Younger people were leaner and seemingly in possession of faster metabolic rates than older individuals.
So, in my 20 year old mind, the message seemed clear: I’d better make the most of my youthful body and metabolism because I was destined to lose it.
Fortunately, I was dead wrong!
What’s Really Going On?
It’s true that when you’re young, your body finds a way to balance energy expenditure and energy intake. It’s true that, as we age, we have a much more difficult time maintaining what we’ve got. And it’s true that studies have shown that one third of all North American adults are at least 20 percent over their “ideal weights.”
These truths, however, don’t seal our fates. Just because some folks spend their lives engaged in a frustrating battle of eating less only to gain more, that doesn’t mean you have to. Personally, I’ve skirted around those so-called truths. I eat just as much food - if not more - than I did in my 20s, and yet I have no more body fat to show for it.
And I’m no anomaly. Over the years, I’ve trained countless clients, ranging in age from 25 to 65. It didn’t matter how high their body fat percentages, how slow their metabolisms or how scrawny their muscle mass when they met me. They were all able to turn things around as long as they did what it took to boost their metabolic rates!
Scientists have spent quite a bit of time sorting out what happens to the metabolism with age. And what they’ve noticed is that while the metabolism does seem to slow with age, it only slows if you do nothing about it. If you eat properly, exercise the right way and take the right supplements, you can maintain your metabolic rate over your entire life span! Even if you’re age 40 or older and things have already slowed down, you can reverse the trend and regain the metabolism of your youth. In fact, you can create a metabolism that’s even faster than the one of your 20s!
Is it easy? No. Does it take hard work and dedication? Yes. But it can be done. I’m living proof. So are my clients, and so are the thousands of people who have participated in hundreds of studies conducted in the United States and around the world.
The Age and the Metabolism
So why does maintaining a healthy weight get tougher as we age? Well, although most people eat less as they age to compensate for moving less at their desk jobs, their activity levels generally decrease more than their energy intakes. And with less activity than food, fat gain is inevitable.
These decreasing activity levels result in yet another problem: muscle loss. Researchers have determined that, starting between the ages of 25 and 30, most people lose roughly five to 10 pounds of lean body mass during each decade of life. As muscle is a metabolically active tissue, that means that in addition to burning calories to move your skeleton through space, it also burns calories to maintain itself. So age-related muscle loss can cripple your metabolism. The average person who becomes less active and consequently loses muscle experiences a 20 to 25 percent reduction in 24 hour metabolism (measured as the amount of energy your body burns in 24 hours) by age 65. This adds up to a daily metabolic drop of more than 500 calories from age 25 to 65.
So it’s no wonder folks are gaining weight! It’s tough to cut 500 calories off your daily menu to compensate for that metabolic drop, so most people end up packing on the fat. Of course, again, this scenario holds true only if you do nothing to prevent it. Why do most people lose muscle as they age? Because they don’t use it. When it comes to the human body, what you don’t use, you lose, and muscle is no exception.
Studies of people older than age 60 show that you can, at any age, reverse muscle loss and regain the metabolism of your youth. In fact, according to research, individuals who maintain their lean mass (muscle, bone and other non fat tissue) through exercise and smart eating as they age experience only a 0.36 percent drop in metabolism per decade compared to the five to seven percent per decade drop that most adults experience. This is a huge difference! Add a few key supplements to the mix, and you can even prevent that 0.36 percent drop and possibly even rev your metabolism higher than it was during your youth!
So metabolic slowdown is not inevitable. You can prevent it. And you can reverse it using a three-pronged approach including eating, exercising and supplementing the right way to get a series of all natural “metabolic advantages.”
The Metabolism Advantages
The following tips are essential to maintaining a fast, youthful metabolism:
- Build the muscle needed to speed up your resting metabolism (the number of calories your body burns to maintain life) all day and all night long. A gain of five to 10 pounds of lean mass muscle will rev up your resting metabolism by roughly 100 calories - each and every day.
- Maximize something called the "afterburn." Through targeted strength training and energy system work (a specific type of interval training), you can increase the number of calories you burn during your workouts (about 300 to 600 calories per day depending on your body size and workout duration). However, assuming you integrate these high intensity efforts, you can also blow through another 100 to 200 calories per day – a post-exercise energy burst that eats up calories even when you’re sitting on your butt.
- Increase the number of calories your body burns as it digests foods. Prioritizing metabolically costly proteins, metabolism boosting healthy fats, antioxidant rich fruits and veggies and the right carbs at the right times can boost your metabolic rate by another 100 to 200 calories per day. That’s right. The very food you eat can increase fat oxidation and metabolic burn. You just have to know which foods are right for the task at hand.
- Encourage your body to waste calories. The right combination of food choices and supplements can turn you into a much less efficient calorie burner. Much like a car in need of a tune up, your body will consume more fuel than it needs to operate, wasting away the excess as heat. Unlike with your car, however, when it comes to your metabolism, inefficiency is a good thing. It will coax your body into burning more calories – and more fat – for fuel.
- Boost the number of calories your body burns through movement. Thanks to that desk job, family commitments and a great line up of must-see TV, most of us move less at ages 30, 40 and beyond than we did during our teens and 20s. By training at least five hours each week, you can increase your calorie burning by about 300 to 600 calories per day. But don’t just limit your thinking to planned “gym time” physical activity. By including more physical activity of all types, you can maximize the metabolism.
All told, with the right combination of training, nutrition and supplementation, you can expect to increase your daily calorie burn by between 40 and 60 percent within just eight weeks. In other words, a guy who currently burns 2,500 calories a day would rev up his metabolism to a 3,400 to 4,000 daily calorie burn! That’s enough of a boost for you to see a 10 to 15 pound drop in body fat during those eight weeks above.
And for those at a beginner/intermediate level of training, you can expect muscle gain as well. Muscle gain and fat loss simultaneously? Yep, it happens all the time in this population. If you’ve never seen it, you’re simply not doing the right things.
Even more important, when you get these things right, you will simultaneously improve your health. In addition to speeding your metabolism, building muscle and shedding fat, you can also expect to lower your blood cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. So not only can you look better, you can live longer.
So, in the end, I’m here to tell you that a large scale metabolic decline isn’t inevitable as we age.
If you’re young and haven’t seen the affects of father time, that’s excellent. But that doesn’t mean you wont! Make sure you use a combination of smart eating, training and supplementation to keep that metabolism reving for life.
And if you’re older and your current lifestyle has negatively impacted your body, it’s not too late. Turn things around now, and you can reverse the damage that’s been done. I’ve seen it happen time and time again.