Why is My Metabolism Slow?

You may feel tired, cold or that you’ve gained weight. Maybe your digestion seems a bit more “sluggish”.

You may be convinced that your metabolism is slow.

Why does this happen? Why do metabolic rates slow down?

What can slow my metabolism?

Metabolism includes all of the biochemical reactions in your body that use nutrients and oxygen to create energy. And there are lots of factors that affect how quickly (or slowly) it works, i.e. your “metabolic rate” (which is measured in calories).

But don’t worry – we know that metabolic rate is much more complicated than the old adage “calories in calories out”! In fact it’s so complicated I’m only going to list a few of the common things that can slow it down.

Examples of common reasons why metabolic rates can slow down:

  • low thyroid hormone

  • your history of dieting

  • your size and body composition

  • your activity level

  • lack of sleep

We’ll briefly touch on each one below and I promise to give you better advice than just to “eat less and exercise more”.

Low thyroid hormones

Your thyroid is the master controller of your metabolism. When it produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down. The thyroid hormones (T3 & T4) tell the cells in your body when to use more energy and become more metabolically active. Ideally it should work to keep your metabolism just right. But there are several things that can affect it and throw it off course. Things like autoimmune diseases and mineral deficiencies (e.g. iodine or selenium) for example.

Tip: Talk with your doctor about having your thyroid hormones tested.

Your history of dieting

When people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down. This is because the body senses that food may be scarce and adapts by trying to continue with all the necessary life functions and do it all with less food.

While dieting can lead to a reduction in amount of fat it unfortunately can also lead to a reduction in the amount of muscle you have. As you know more muscle means faster resting metabolic rate.

Tip: Make sure you’re eating enough food to fuel your body without overdoing it.

Your size and body composition

In general, larger people have faster metabolic rates. This is because it takes more energy to fuel a larger body than a smaller one.

However, you already know that gaining weight is rarely the best strategy for increasing your metabolism.

Muscles that actively move and do work need energy. Even muscles at rest burn more calories than fat. This means that the amount of energy your body uses depends partly on the amount of lean muscle mass you have.

Tip: Do some weight training to help increase your muscle mass.

Which leads us to…

Your activity level

Aerobic exercise temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move and do “work” and you can tell because you’re also getting hotter.

Even little things can add up. Walking a bit farther than you usually do, using a standing desk instead of sitting all day, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can all contribute to more activity in your day.

Tip: Incorporate movement into your day. Also, exercise regularly.

Lack of sleep

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate. The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Tip: Try to create a routine that allows at least 7 hours of sleep every night.

Recipe (Selenium-rich): Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

Serves 4

½ cup Brazil nuts

2 cups water

nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth (optional)

½ cup chia seeds

¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Blend Brazil nuts in water in a high-speed blender until you get smooth, creamy milk. If desired, strain it with a nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth.

Add Brazil nut milk and other ingredients into a bowl and whisk until combined. Let sit several minutes (or overnight) until desired thickness is reached.

Serve & Enjoy!

Tip: Makes a simple delicious breakfast or dessert topped with berries.

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Why you might not be hungry in the morning

I bet you have heard the saying, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” more times than you can count, right? But so many of my clients tell me that they are just not hungry in the morning. It’s a common complaint and there are actually some ways you can change that if you’re one of the non-hungry types, first thing in the morning.

Let’s start some common issues as we are rushing out the door in the morning. First of all, it’s not uncommon for many people to actually feel nauseous first thing in the morning. How does this make any sense when you haven’t eaten for at least 6-8 hours but during the day you can barely make it past 3 hours between meals?

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Makes you go HMMMMMM??

Well first of all, our metabolism actually slows down when we sleep at night. It goes into it’s own slumber since we aren’t expending much energy while we sleep. When we wake up, it may take some time for our metabolism to get the memo that it’s time to GO! The reason to get breakfast in sooner than later is that it will help to kick-start the metabolism and curbs our appetite throughout the day. It’s not uncommon to struggle more later in the day when we skip breakfast because our bodies are playing catch up. So you’re not low on willpower when you are ravished later in the day..you may just need set up some earlier meal plans.

I recommend planning a nutritious breakfast within 1-2 hours of waking up for best results. Once you start this habit, your body will become accustomed and start to feel hungry when you wake up! (some days, my body WAKES me up from hunger!)

Another common issue that may cause our appetites to fail us in the morning is eating too much before sleep. While there are many arguments on how late to eat before bed, I would suggest eating your final meal of the night at least 2-3 hours before you retire. Eating a heavy meal too close to bedtime can also disrupt our sleep because the body is hard at work digesting that food. (remember point one on our metabolism slowing down to sleep? If it doesn’t, then we don’t sleep either!)

Another reason to refrain from eating that midnight snack is that it can sit in your tummy all night. You may not feel like eating breakfast first thing in the morning because you still have the food sitting in your belly from the night before. It sits and starts to rot. I know…ewwwwww! It may even cause you to feel a bit “hung-over” in the morning. Bottom line? Eat more in your awake hours and slow down a few hours before bedtime for best results overall.

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One more reason you don’t want food in the morning may also be blamed on your hormones. Hormones are responsible for so many strange behaviors in our bodies and can also be tied to the lack of appetite and morning nausea. When we wake up in the morning, the body secretes several different hormones in order to help us wake up and get moving after a night’s rest. Besides giving us the boost we need to get going with a burst of energy, the hormones also raise our blood sugar (kind of important after the ‘fast’ during the night).  This surge of hormones is another reason for that mild nausea when you wake up. An empty stomach can also trigger the morning sickness as it will secrete acids in anticipation of eating food again. Kind of a “catch 22” when the nausea happens as it’s a sign from the body to get some food in there for the acids to work.

So now that you know…what should you do?

I usually tell my clients to not eat when they’re not hungry (duh) but the morning is an exception to that rule. If you’re not hungry when you wake up, it’s tempting to skip eating until you do become hungry…but by then, you’ve already done some minor damage to your metabolism.

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I start the day with a glass of water that I squeeze some lemon juice into. This helps to alkalanize our bodies and rehydrate from the hours of sleep. Within about 10-15 minutes, I am hungry and ready for my breakfast. If you don’t feel hungry within that time, a quick 15 minute walk or fasted steady state cardio session usually does the trick.

So, are you ready to start with these tips today?

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