Ever heard someone say they can eat what they want and never gain weight? While likely to be a slight exaggeration, it is entirely possibly that they could have an extremely hardworking metabolism, perhaps even the metabolism of a 15 year old!
Here Matt Lawson – health coach and dietician for Tanita, the world leaders in body composition – answers all our questions on metabolic age and how it can help or hinder us from achieving our fitness goals.
What is metabolic age?
Metabolic age is a calculation of your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) compared with the average BMR for your age. Your BMR tells you how many calories your body burns while resting, and is a good gauge of your efficiency in burning the calories you consume.
What if my metabolic age is high?
Muscle burns more than fat, which means someone who has a high level of muscle mass will burn more calories sat at their desk then someone with a lower muscle mass. So the fitter, healthier, and stronger you are, the lower your metabolic age will be.
If your metabolic age is lower than your actual age, it means your body is in good health. Some adults can have the metabolic age of a 15 year old or lower, which means their body is top of the class at burning calories.
If metabolic age is much higher than your actual age, this can be an early warning sign that you need to change your diet and fitness regime – or in some cases, there could be another contributing medical problem that you need to address.
Why is it used?
Metabolic age is a useful health indicator, as it shifts the focus away from weight and focuses more on your body’s structure, or composition, of muscle and fat.
The most often used health measure by GPs is BMI (Body Mass Index), which has recently come under scrutiny, with many experts agreeing it’s an outdated indicator that doesn’t give a real picture of overall health. Calculated only on your weight and height, BMI fails to take into account a person’s muscle mass and of course what really matters – their internal health!
Being aware of things like our metabolic age, visceral fat levels (fat around internal organs), and muscle mass can be hugely helpful in achieving weight-loss goals or improving general fitness.
How can I find out my score?
A dietician can use a person’s height, weight and age to estimate your metabolic rate, but the results are not as reliable as using body composition technology, like the Tanita body composition analyser – it can also give accurate readings on everything from your muscle mass to how much visceral fat you have.
Can I correct or improve my metabolic age?
You certainly can! Changes to your diet and exercise can improve your score. The key things to remember are:
- Eat more protein!
Your body burns more calories digesting protein-rich foods than fat-rich foods, which means eating more protein can help fight an ageing metabolism. A simple way to do this is to make sure you have a source of protein in every meal.
- Consider resistance training
As we know, muscle mass has a huge impact on your metabolism, so strength and resistance training can help to speed it up and also burn more calories in the process. As you get older and your metabolism slows down you should consider doing more strength training to improve muscle mass to ensure your metabolic age stays as low as possible.
- Get more sleep
Research shows that a lack of sleep can slow down metabolism and poor sleep may actually increase muscle loss. Now there’s even more reason to get to bed early and have that lie in!
By understanding your body’s composition and how many calories you burn daily, which differs greatly from person to person, you can tailor your diet and fitness plan to your own unique needs. And from tracking your metabolic age, you can learn how your metabolism may be helping or hindering the process and whether or not bigger changes need to be made to get you back on track.
For more tips on improving your internal health, follow Tanita on Instagram – @Tanita.UK