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Can You Change Your Metabolic Age?

Written by
Yumna Farooq
Team Nutrisense
Reviewed by
Heather Davis
MS, RDN, LDN
A person with short grey hair sitting on the floor by a bed, meditating

You may be familiar with terms like metabolism and even metabolic health. But have you ever heard of metabolic age?

Your metabolic age is a reflection of the state of your overall metabolic health and function. This number is calculated by comparing how many calories your body burns at rest compared to other people your age, and some research shows it can help detect metabolic health issues.

But how important is this measurement to your overall health, especially if you want to improve your metabolic health? What factors influence your metabolic age? And how can metabolic age be changed?

In this article, we’ll dig into exactly what your metabolic age says about your overall metabolic health, and how you can improve it with healthy habits.

How Does Your Metabolism Work?

Woman holding pink yoga mat and plastic water bottle

Your metabolism refers to every chemical reaction your body carries out to complete bodily functions and keep you alive. Some of these functions include things like energy conversion, blood circulation, food digestion, cognitive function, hormone regulation, and waste elimination.

To complete all of these processes, the body burns a certain number of calories, and this is measured by basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR is used to measure your body’s daily energy expenditure, and this rate can be influenced by factors such as age, fat mass, and leptin in the body.

To take into account all the other activities you do daily such as walking, eating, and exercising, a measurement called total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is calculated. Your TDEE factors in your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and your daily activity to determine how many calories you burn daily with all activities.

Metabolic Rate and Metabolic Age

A young woman and an older woman running together on the beach

As we mentioned, basal metabolic rate (BMR) is a number that estimates the number of calories your body burns daily simply by keeping itself alive. This number is usually similar to your resting energy expenditure (REE), or the number of calories burned while you rest.

Your metabolic age is calculated using your BMR. However, this number is then compared to the average BMR for other people of the same chronological age (your actual age).

The calculation for these measurements takes your height, body weight, and sex, and age into account.

The concept of metabolic age suggests that a value that is the same or younger than your real age indicates better metabolic health.

Studies have shown that your metabolic rate decreases by one to two percent each year as your body naturally loses skeletal muscle. However, increased metabolic age has been found to predict metabolic syndrome and other adverse health effects in some people.

How to Determine Your Metabolic Age

So, how do you calculate your metabolic age? To manually calculate your metabolic age, you’ll first need to know your BMR. There are many calculators online you can use to determine this measurement.Here’s a simple formula you can use for BMR:

  • For men: BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) - (5 × age in years) + 5
  • For women: (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) - (5 × age in years) - 161

However, it's important to note that the accuracy of these equations is not perfect. Some studies have found that these calculations can have errors between ten to 35 percent. Your lean body mass will also significantly influence BMR and should always be considered.

Once you have estimated your approximate BMR, you can use it to determine your metabolic age. The formula for metabolic age is similar to that of BMR. This number will be lower if your BMR is lower than the average BMR for your age group.

Tips for Changing Your Metabolic Age

A man and woman doing squats on yoga mat

Because your metabolic age is based on your BMR, to change or improve your metabolic age, you’ll want to focus on boosting your BMR.Here are some effective ways to do that.

Focus on Muscle-Building Workouts

Building muscle is one of the key factors in boosting your metabolic rate. You may already know this if you’ve read our other fitness blogs. Strength training or weight lifting can be very effective at building muscle mass and improving body composition.

Being physically active and lifting weights not only increases your insulin sensitivity, but also helps to build muscle.

Along with that, increased muscle mass and more physical activity can also help to manage or maintain your weight. Here are examples of muscle-building exercises to add to your routine:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Push-ups and pull-ups
  • Lunges
  • Shoulder press
  • Chest press

Eat More Protein

Your body will need adequate amounts of essential amino acids from your diet to help build muscle. If you’re not getting enough protein, not only is it much harder to increase muscle mass, but you may actually lose muscle. Losing muscle can slow down your metabolic rate.

Making sure to consume adequate protein, especially when doing strength training can be beneficial. When it comes to adequate protein consumption, here’s what the research recommends:

Infographic showing how much protein you need

Complete protein sources such as pasture raised poultry and eggs, wild caught seafood, Greek yogurt, tofu, minimally processed red meats, and other whole food sources are great ways to boost your intake.

These guidelines can be beneficial for individuals trying to boost their protein intake. However, protein needs can vary based on each person’s individual health needs and activity level. Discuss your protein intake with your dietitian or nutritionist before making any significant dietary changes.

Reduce Stress

Stress is a common culprit when it comes to weight loss and obesity. Excess stress can cause your body to hold onto fat, lead to weight gain, and even hinder muscle building efforts.

Research has found that cortisol, the stress hormone, is associated with increased abdominal fat (and overall body fat). Stress, overtime, can also contribute to inflammation.

While acute inflammation is helpful in muscle building, it can prevent muscle growth over time if it becomes chronic. Reducing chronic stress can benefit your metabolism by reducing inflammation and helping to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood pressure.

Here are some tips to reduce stress:

  • Create a daily routine that works for you
  • Journal to release your emotions and energy
  • Exercise to release any pent-up stress
  • Practice mindfulness or meditation
  • Get more exercise

Increase Insulin Sensitivity

Oranges and a cantaloupe cut in half on white kitchen table

Insulin signals our cells to let glucose in to be used for energy. But if your body isn’t responding to insulin, blood glucose levels can remain elevated. Over time, chronically high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, can lead to poor metabolic health and even diabetes.

One way to reduce this negative impact is to optimize your carbohydrate consumption. Working with a dietitian to determine the amount of carbohydrates that are right for you and your activity levels can be helpful.

Additional tips to improve insulin sensitivity include:

Reduce Inflammation

Chronic inflammation can contribute to insulin resistance and poor metabolic health. To combat this, you can focus on including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich foods in your diet and make sure to get enough sleep.

Reducing stress by engaging in mediation and mindfulness and other practices may also be beneficial. You can also try limiting your time spent in polluted areas and reducing exposure to obesogens.

Get More Sunshine

Spending some time in the sun may help improve insulin sensitivity. One study found that getting an adequate amount of bright sunshine was linked to reduced insulin resistance.

Optimize Your Diet

Close up of broccoli florets, asparagus, and avocado cut in half

Consume plenty of insulin sensitivity boosting nutrients such as magnesium, fiber, protein, and cruciferous vegetables.

Magnesium is found in foods such as leafy greens, nuts, and seeds. Whole protein sources that are rich in amino acids like L-carnitine, taurine, and L-arginine are found in pasture raised eggs and poultry.

Stay Active

Along with boosting muscle mass, regular exercise can also help insulin sensitivity. A large body of research has shown that exercise increases insulin sensitivity. Plus, this can also help lower your metabolic age, improve cardiovascular health, and help you avoid future health problems.

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