Derval O'Rourke gets behind the science of those Operation Transformation weighing scales

Pictures: Leah Barbour

This week I’m chatting about metabolic age testing which has been a big feature on Operation Transformation this year and which is something lots of members on my website have been asking me about. Recipe wise it’s my Tofu Pad Thai and some delicious Peanut Butter Krispie Squares.

Earlier this month, the Operation Transformation team invited the public to attend pharmacies nationwide to have their metabolic age, visceral fat and weight checked. The uptake was huge, and people turned out in their thousands to have this free testing done. It has been a big topic of conversation and featured heavily in the media since.

Many celebrities stepped up to the challenge including Leo Varadkar whose metabolic age came out at 53 despite only turning 40 in January, Anna Geary who had a metabolic age of 16 compared to her actual age of 31 and 40-year-old Kathryn Thomas who had a metabolic age of 25.

But what exactly is it? Metabolic age is defined as ‘a comparison between a person’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) against the average basal metabolic rate for an age group’.

I always think that tests should be taken with a pinch of salt. When you are going for tests like these, I think a key question to ask yourself is: ‘What am I going to do with the results?’ or ‘How will having this information empower me to make positive changes to my health?’

Your basal metabolic rate makes up part of the energy out component of the energy balance equation together with non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), thermic effect of food (TEF) and exercise activity thermogenesis (EAT). It is the energy required to sustain vital functions in the waking state like brain function, respiration and digestion. 

The show discusses that muscle burns more than fat so the lower your metabolic age, the healthier and fitter you are potentially. And while this is true, there are other considerations. In fact, BMR is only marginally affected by body composition, with a 1lb increase in muscle mass translating into approximately 7kcal extra burned each day. Therefore if we gained 10lbs of muscle, a very difficult thing to do, we would burn 70kcal extra each day.

Your BMR can be calculated by range of devices now widely available. The Operation Transformation used a “body composition analyser” made by scales manufacturer Tanita, which is supplied by the Irish company Pharmed.

Machines like this typically used to measure BMR on a mass scale using a test called Bioelectrical impedance analysis. What this does is it passes a safe, small electrical current through the body. The current passes quickly through body water but meets resistance when it passes through fat. This resistance or impedance is measured and plugged into an equation which is then used to calculate your body composition. 

While these can be useful for measuring changes in body weight and composition over time, they are subject to variation based on hydration status, carbohydrate intake and what parts of the body the current passes through. Basically, you could affect the results by how much you have rested or not, eaten or not in the previous 24 hours.

An easy way to estimate BMR at home is to take your body weight in kilograms and multiply it by 22 for females and 24 for males, and then multiplying your result by a physical activity level (PAL) which can be found online.

In theory, if your metabolic age is lower than your actual age, it means your body is in good health. If your metabolic age is higher than your actual age, it may mean you need to change your eating and exercising habits.

However good nutrition and lifestyle habits are the key to improving lifespan. A combination of:

  • Regular moving
  • Balanced meals
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Sleep quality and quantity
  • Stopping smoking
  • Moderating alcohol consumption
  • Social connections and stress management.

All in all I feel that anything that gets people thinking about their health is positive but like everything there must be an element of being realistic and considering how the results will impact on your approach to your health.


The Operation Transformation website is packed full of inspiration and support to help you kickstart your health and wellness journey. There are loads of free resources from sample meal plans, recipes and shopping lists to workout videos and sample training plans. If getting fit and healthy is one of your goals for 2019 be sure to check them out.

Tofu Pad Thai

Don’t be scared of tofu!

It is easy to cook, tastes delicious and is packed full of plant-based protein, iron and calcium. This dish is great for a meat free Monday dinner and any leftovers are perfect for lunch the next day.

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4

Nutritional Information:

Protein – 16g

Fat – 21g

Carbohydrates – 72g

Calorie - 517

For the tofu:

1 block of organic plain tofu, drained and diced

2 tbsp corn-starch

2 tbsp olive oil

1 packet rice noodles

2 limes, juiced

1 fresh red chili, finely sliced

3 spring onions, finely sliced

1 red pepper, finely sliced

2 carrots, peeled and grated

1 packet mangetout, finely sliced

Handful of peanuts, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper

For the Asian Dressing:

50ml tamari or soy sauce

20ml olive oil

10ml sesame oil

1 tbsp. honey

Handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped

1 tbsp. peanut butter

Cook noodles as per packet instructions. Rinse with cold water and set aside to drain.

To make the dressing blitz all the ingredients together in a small food processor.

In a bowl toss together the diced tofu, corn-starch, salt and pepper, making sure all the tofu has a light covering of the mix.

In a wok heat the olive oil and add in the tofu. Toss on a high heat until the tofu crisps up. Remove from wok and set aside.

In the same wok heat the dressing a little. Add the noodles, pepper, carrot, spring onion, chili and mangetout. Toss for 5 minutes. Do not overcook just heat through enough for eating. The crunchier the raw vegetables remain the better.

Just before serving toss the tofu and peanuts through the noodles.

Transfer to a large serving bowl and garnish with coriander and a drizzle of fresh lime juice.

Crispy Peanut Butter Krispie Squares

These no-bake Rice Krispie squares are a great one to get the kids involved with. They make the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea and taste like a combination between a peanut butter cup and a Rice Krispie cake.

Prep time: 30minutes

Makes: 10 squares

For the base:

100g crunchy peanut butter

100g honey

25g coconut oil

50g peanuts, finely chopped

100g Rice Krispies

100g dates, soaked in hot water for 2 hours

100g peanut butter

150g dark choc 80%, for the topping

Line an 8-inch square baking tin with parchment paper.

In a pot gently heat the peanut butter, honey and coconut oil until they form runny syrup. Do not boil or the mixture will burn.

In a bowl mix the Rice Krispies and chopped peanuts. Pour the heated syrup over the mix and stir until all the Rice Krispies are coated.

Transfer the mix to the lined baking tin and press down well.

To make the topping, strain the dates and transfer to a blender together with the remaining peanut butter and blitz until they form a soft caramel like texture. To make it easier to blend, add a little water to soften the texture of the dates.

With a spatula spread the caramel evenly over the top of the Rice Krispie base and top with layer of melted dark chocolate

Allow to cool in the fridge for 20 minutes before cutting into squares.


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