We like to use our age as a scape-goat for many of our physical ailments and shortcomings. Whether it’s something simple like aches and pains or something more complex like hypertension or diabetes, we chalk most of these issues up to getting older.
And it’s not only us individually that guide us down this path. Our healthcare practitioners feed us this same nonsense as well. When you go in to the doctor with low-back pain, they simply say “You’re getting old, what do you expect”. Or when you find out that you have hypertension, you doctor says “It’s just a product of your age, don’t worry about it, here’s a pill”.
So since we’re fed to believe that age is the determinant factor in all of this, it’s no wonder that we simply accept that our metabolism slows down as we age and that’s why we have trouble losing weight.
But what if I told you that you’ve been fed a lie? What if I told you that age isn’t what determines if your metabolism slows down or stays still or speeds up or runs away? Maybe you’ll find that the answer to your physical issues may be much simpler than you think.
We’ve gone in depth about the function and purpose of the metabolism in previous articles, so I’m not going to spend a ton of time spelling it all out again. In short, your metabolism is the chemical processes that occur in your body in order to keep you alive. It is the combination of all the things that need to occur in your body to continue to function at a sustainable rate.
Another way to put this that may help you out is, your metabolism is the amount of energy your body uses at rest to keep itself functioning. So, if you were to sit around all day and do absolutely nothing, the energy (calories) you would burn during that time are your metabolism.
With that understanding, let me go ahead and throw this out there. As you age, you are constantly fighting your body’s natural inclination to slow down and conserve fuel. In other words, your body naturally wants to curl up in a ball and use as little fuel as possible to survive. So it would be naïve of me to say that age had no bearing on your metabolism what-so-ever. Age does play a part in every process and function of your body. However, it is not as simple as “You’re just getting older, so you need to live with it”.
Although the aging process does slow us down (or tries to slow us down) to a certain extent, it is not the act of actually getting older that plays the biggest role in our slow demise. No, a number is not the determinant factor of our aches, pains and internal malfunctions. It is WHAT WE DO (or don’t do, to be exact) as we age that plays the biggest role in these ailments.
You see, as we age, we become less active. Not because we want to (or maybe it is because you want to), but because of the factors of our lives. Our jobs require us to sit in front of a computer for hours on end or stand at a conveyor belt until the end of time. When we were young, we were active…all the time (this has changed a lot recently, which has led to the insanity that is childhood obesity of today. I’m not going to step on my soapbox, for now, but none-the-less, this is a growing issue that is taking over our country). Whether you played sports or were in the band or joined the clubs at school or had neighborhood friends you hung out with, you were most likely out-and-about for the majority of your upbringing.
So, as we age, our activity level naturally decreases because of our environments. And, as such, our metabolism modulates (this is the word of the week, BTW. I had to use it today, so I’m glad I found a way to stick it in this article!) with the level of our activity. Therefore, the speed of your metabolism is more directly linked to the level of your activity than it is to the number of years you’ve been on this planet.
Now that you understand that the level of your metabolism is relative to the level of your activity, let’s look at some ways to increase your metabolism so you can begin to fight the good fight and become vital in your life again.
I’m going to lay out 3 factors that you can utilize to help increase your metabolism. Not all of them are physical in nature (I know, if activity is the key, then how can you do something that isn’t active to increase your metabolism? You’ll see momentarily). They will all move you towards the goal of becoming more vital:
Like we said earlier, your metabolism will modulate (boom, used it twice!) with the level of your activity. If you’re not active at all, then your metabolism will slow to a halt. The goal, then, is to become active at some level on a regular basis.
Many people believe that, in order to “get in shape” they have to go to the extremes. They look at things like marathons and crossfit and the Olympics and say “I can never get in shape if I have to do that”. Well, you don’t have to do that to get in shape. You just have to MOVE on a regular basis. That can mean going for a 10 minute walk every day or playing with your kids outside every day or going for a leisurely bike ride 3 or 4 times a week. The key is to start doing it often enough to make it a habit. This is a great place to start if you haven’t been active for a while.
Lifting weights is the ultimate way to increase your metabolism…hands down! When people first start working with us at TF, one of the first things I hear after a few weeks is “I’m hungry all the time”. Yes, because your body wants more energy because it is using more energy.
Not only is lifting weights the ultimate way to increase your metabolism in an immediate way, it is also the only way you can increase your resting metabolic rate (the numbers of calories you burn at rest) on a regular basis. You see, muscles take energy to maintain, even if you’re not doing anything. Fat, on the other hand, doesn’t. The more muscle you have, the more energy (calories) your body will burn at rest. Therefore, more muscles = higher metabolism.
I told you that not all of these factors were physical in nature. Here is the one factor that we’ll talk about that doesn’t require (much) activity.
Protein is great for many different reasons. For our purposes, we want to understand why we should eat more protein to increase our metabolism. We always worry about the calories we burn when doing activity. We want to know how many calories were burned during our Zumba class or during our walk or during our bike ride. What we don’t take into account are the calories we burn while we’re eating.
Yes, you burn calories while you take in calories. And some calories take more calories to digest than other calories (confused yet?). This is called the thermal effect of food. Here’s how it works: 20-30% of total calories in protein eaten go to digesting it. Carbohydrates take 5-10% and fats use 0-3%. Thus, if you eat 100 calories from protein, your body uses 20-30 of those calories to digest and absorb the protein. You’d be left with a net 70-80 calories. Therefore, more protein that you take in, the calories your body will be using during digestion verses carbs and fats.
Keep these things in mind the next time you want to tell yourself that you are product of your age. Only YOUR ACTIONS (or inaction) will determine how successful you are in any endeavor you choose to pursue. ACTION, my friends, is the ultimate way to those things that we seek.