RK Tip of the Week|It’s all about your metabolism – Part 1

Posted on October 3, 2010


It used to be that 40 was the real big milestone birthday. Since 40 is the new 30, or is it 50 is the new 30? I don’t know, you can change it all with surgery anyways, so who knows how old anyone really is? My point is, it has always been said that at some milestone birthday (take your pick of decades), that’s when things “start to change.”

Like a cold, death-like fog settling in on small, quiet town the talk comes….”You’re 30/40/50 now, your metabolism really drops off with age, it gets really tough to keep the weight off.” And you’re scared to death because you see the impending doom of this statement coming at you like a freight train. You think, “it must be true! – look at the older people around me, they really do have a hard time keeping weight off! I’m so screwed.”

Here’s the deal gang. Listen up. At the core of weight loss or weight maintenance, you have to maintain an equation: create a caloric deficit to see weight loss/don’t eat more calories than you can burn off to avoid weight gain. There is way more to it that gets really specific, but suffice it to say that without the caloric deficit part, you’re not going to get far with weight management.

But your metabolism is not as flighty as you’ve been led to believe. You lose 2% of your metabolic rate (the amount of cals you need to do basic life function i.e. how many calories you should eat) each decade. So from age 20 to age 70, you only have a 10% reduction in caloric needs. Considering nothing yet about your workout level, this means that if your metabolic rate at age 20 was 1700 cals, when you’re 70, you still need 1530 cals. NOT the huge drop off the cliff you were imagining gang.

The real reason people tend to gain weight with seemingly greater ease as they age is because they don’t exercise enough, and they get comfortable eating more than their metabolic rate requires.

And then they do themselves no favors by trying bunches of weight loss plans that keep the caloric intake at 1200 calories, despite having no clue how many cals you actually need. The problem with this is by cutting your caloric intake to 1200, or some number close to that, if that number of cals you intake is LESS than what your body actually needs to survive, you will trigger a response from your body that says, “hm, we’re not getting enough cals to even do our life functions…we better slow everything down & hang on to the fat we have since we know then we’ll have energy to survive since we aren’t getting it from food.”

So with a 1-2 punch, you just successfully slowed down your metabolic rate even more, making it tougher to lose weight, & you trained your body to hang on to fat as a survival mechanism.

Not what you were going for?

Here’s what you need to do. Decide NOW – no matter your age – that you’re going to take your metabolism into your own hands. That’s what’s amazing, you really can do this! I just completed my certification as a New Leaf Metabolic Testing Specialist – a high tech assessment we can give to a person to assess their actual resting & exercise metabolic rate. Its measured through the exchange of gases as you breathe & was originally used in hospitals for things like measuring how many cals someone in a coma needed to be fed. Now it has been adapted to help everyone trying to embrace health & fitness & we can do these assessments in Barone Performance, the wellness facility where I’m a part of the team.

To me, it seems like common sense, but I know that all of your minds have been infiltrated with wrong beliefs thanks to food, diet pill & exercise equipment producers who want you to believe that their single product is your ticket to metabolic success. So here’s the key things you need to do to help your metabolism along!

(Part of what we learned at our training was how to use exercise & food intake to increase your metabolic rate so you burn more calories & have an easier & more successful time with losing weight. In addition, we learned how to help someone become a better fat burner – because just because you’re burning calories, it doesn’t mean you’re burning fat. We’ll cover this in more detail in next week’s tip, “It’s all about your metabolism – Part 2”.)

Here’s what you should do right now since you just decided that NOW is the time you take control of your metabolism & get out from under the diets & “get-slim-quick” ideas that have done you no favors:

1) Move enough to break a sweat most days of the week. Most as in 6, not 4x/wk. Seriously, if you’re sitting down for the better portion of your day, you’re not burning very many calories. My job as a trainer is considered “light active office” in terms of caloric burn. So don’t over-sell yourself on how many calories you’re burning as you make your way through your day. Making sure you move enough to sweat will ensure you send signals to your body to tap into its’ stores of fat. It’s as simple as you can make the exercise equation – although with specificity comes greater results, and we will get more into that next time.

2) Lift heavy things in a dynamic way. Unless you’re going for the “Ahhnold” muscle-head look, doing traditional seated strength training makes little sense, either for your body’s functional ability or for your metabolism. You DO need more muscle in order to have a higher metabolism. But you will achieve a greater caloric burn during & after the workout if you ask multiple muscles to work at once, as in the “1-Leg Squat to Press” exercise. Here’s a good rule of thumb: Support your own weight for your whole workout! No sitting! Stand, squat, hold your self up by your hands & toes a la pushup position. If you’re sitting, you’re simply mimicking what you already do all day – stand as much as possible – or be on your hands & toes in pushup position

3) Eat regularly – at least every 4 hours – definitely within 2 hours of your workout & absolutely within 1 hour of completing your workout. Think working out on an empty stomach is a good idea? Think of it as a guaranteed way to ‘bonk’ early in the workout – you don’t have to eat a lumberjack slam pre-workout (or ever!) – but a piece of fruit & a few slices of deli turkey will ensure you have a steady level of blood sugar so you can release energy for all those pushups & planks you want to do! And post-workout is KEY!! You have 1 hour to get nutrients into your body post workout, protein to help you re-build your muscles, carbs to replenish your blood sugar, and a little fat to help with absorption. Skip this & you’re skipping a critical part of getting results from that workout!

There’s a whole intricate dance that goes into aging healthfully, but do yourself a favor & get these basic steps down right so you don’t become just 1 of many who let excess weight limit their life.

Next time we’re getting more dialled in to how exercise & nutrition relate to your metabolism!