Does my metabolism really slow down as I get older? If so, at what age will I start noticing "middle age creep"? Does lifting weights really boost metabolism? What are the best ways to boost it?

ask the trainer, jim beatty

Metabolism, or the rate at which we "burn" calories, is related to muscle and activity more so than age. I've seen many active people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s with more muscle, and therefore a more active metabolism than some people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. Age is not the variable, but accumulating the years does allow us to accumulate a greater number of "mistakes." Inactivity and poor nutritional habits will add up over time, and will show themselves as a loss of muscle mass, a decrease in ability and activity, which results in a drop in the anabolic (or building up) hormones like testosterone, growth hormone, etc… This is the real issue when it comes to aging and metabolism, and important to understand.


It is also really important to understand the very real difference between chronological age and biological age. I work with many people that are chronologically in their 60s, yet biologically in their 40s. For these people, good habits and good decisions about food and activity have added up in a positive way, resulting in quality muscle, better than average levels of functioning, and a much "younger" hormonal profile, which means a much higher metabolic rate.


When it comes to improving metabolism there are really 2 big things that you can do. The first is exercise. And when I say exercise, I mean exercise correctly. Perform large muscle movements. Perform “compound exercises”, which are movements that use more than just one joint. Arm curls do not use enough muscle mass to promote a positive hormonal change or significantly increase metabolism. Arm curls as a part of a squat, arm curl, and shoulder press combination will use almost every major muscle in the body, and therefore produce a big shot of anabolic hormones, improving muscle and increasing metabolism, both in the short-term and the long-term.


The other thing that you can do is eat frequently. Remember, only two things significantly increase metabolism safely and effectively; the first is proper exercise, the second is digestion. Through the process of breaking down and absorbing our food our bodies use a lot of calories, especially if we’re talking about digesting good food like lean proteins and fibrous vegetables. Protein and fiber are harder to digest and therefore require more work from our bodies to break down. This greatly increases metabolism; especially when you’re doing it all day long.


My metabolic recommendations for you are to train properly and eat frequently. These two things done together will kick your metabolism into high gear and have you feeling and functioning better, no matter what your chronological age is; and you might be surprised just how biologically young you can become.