Metabolism and Aging

Don’t Go Gently. Fight!

The CEO of a large public company and I sat down for lunch to discuss his company.  At the time, I was a professional investor, working for fund company.  In my free time I had just won a North American bodybuilding championship and silver medals in track and field (100 meter and 400 meter) at the US Masters Championship at age 51.

He says “Well, Emmy, you know we all get older, things slow down…”

I retorted: “No!  I am not going down without a fight!”

We can all fight aging and support our metabolism.  Changing our path starts with a new attitude backed up by data and 10 minute tips.

#1 How did I change my attitude towards aging?

I was not always like this, so full of fire.  I too thought I would just do my best, try and diet to slow the decline.  Then, at 40, I started running.  Then, at 48, I changed my diet.  My data reversed and I am convinced.  Yes, n=1 is not a broad evidence base, but other research supports my experience.

I read this great book: Running Past Fifty: Advice and Inspiration for Senior Runners.  Each runner was interviewed for 3-5 pages of the book.  They were grouped by age.  The last group were all over 80.  The Iron Nun, Madonna Buder completed an Ironman Canada (marathon + 112 mile bike ride + 2.4 mile swim) at the age of 82. The number one piece of advice all those older althletes was: if your doctor tells you to stop running because you are too old, switch doctors.

Keep moving, every day, in small or big steps. Move forward.

As I ran more, first a quarter mile then walking, later 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, and finally several 50Ks at altitude, I was having fun but my doctor still thought I was “unhealthy” due to marginally high blood sugar. 

The dirty secret of athletes is many are unhealthy, stressing their bodies with activity levels they are not ready for, and eating gels that are pure sugar.

I learned of a movement within the “ultra” community of low carb runners.  Seems like an oxymoron, right?  One top trainer and university researcher, Dr. Tim Noakes, was in his 50s and regularly running 50-100 mile races himself.  He and his senior clients were struggling with an “extra tire” while running 120 miles a week!  His book, The Lore of Running, was the bible for distance runners.  I heard him being interviewed and he said: “take the nutrition chapter (recommending high carb) and throw it away”!  He moved himself and all his clients to ketogenic diets and saw performances lift and extra tires melt away.

The low carb ketogenic diet allows your metabolism to switch to burning fat as your primary fuel.  When you run you burn your own body fat and you don’t need to take in nearly as much external calories.  The majority of the Western States (100 mile trail running championships) top finishers in the last decade have been ketogenic. 

Changing their diet allowed these runners to move their metabolism to a different fuel. While this is an extreme example, it shows how adaptable and trainable our metabolism is, even in our later years.

My results?  Faster times, lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, heathier cardiovascular system and higher bone density.  Over 3 years my bone density went UP significantly from age 48 to 51. 

Main Takeaways
  1. It’s never too late. I made these changes at age 48. We are resilient!
  2. We have far more control over our health than we think.

“But Emmy”, you say, “I am not an ultrarunner.  I have no time and no interest!”

Let’s use my learnings on fighting aging and boost metabolism for you. Our systems do slow down, from the cellular level.  Looking at how that happens helps us determine what to do, how to fight that good fight!  What good is a long life if it is spent in poor health?

Heath-Span is the percent of your lifespan spent in health

Aging happens at the cellular level.  Our energy is generated through ATP, via our mitochondria.  Metabolism the chemical reactions that take place within our mitochondria and that provide energy for vital processes and help process food for future energy. Focus on mitochondrial health and you will feel more energetic and productive.

Mitochondria regulate our metabolism.  Healthy mitochondria = Healthy metabolism.

Focus on healthy mitochondria to boost your metabolism, increase your health span and slow aging.  Dr. Joseph Mercola has written extensively on how to improve mitochondrial health, including but not limited to the ketogenic diet.

10 Minute Tips: Arm Yourself to Battle Aging and Boost Metabolism

1. Nutrition powers mitochondria and metabolism:
  • Avoid Sugar, Processed, Fast and Junk Foods which speed aging.
  • Chronically high insulin (from too much sugar and carbohydrates) leads to inflammation which injures mitochondria
  • Eat whole foods to fuel your mitochondria and metabolism
  • Eat probiotics (yogurt) and prebiotics (fermented foods) to improve gut health, which reduces inflammation and improves the environment your mitochondria operate in.
  • Eating windows (intermittent fasting and fasting) slow aging, cleaning out bad cells, recharging mitochondria
2. Resilience
  • Recharge with sleep, to let your body reset and clean out bad cells (autophagy).
  • Improve your vagal tone and resilience to slow aging.
  • Vagal tone improves through breathing, journaling, meditation, connection with friends (positive micro-moments) and active listening.
3. Exercise
  • Daily movement slows aging and boosts your metabolism, especially HIIT and strength training. Any movement improves you!
  • 10 Minute Walks improve vagal tone, optimism, and digestion
  • Sitting more than 2 hours straight worsens your body chemistry. Try standing desks and reminders to move.

There are so many ways we can support our beautiful mitochondria, metabolism and resilience for a longer health span.  What works for you?  What sounds fun?  What do you want to try?

What will you do to increase your health span?

2 thoughts on “Metabolism and Aging”

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