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.

How many calories should you be eating to lose weight?

A question I hear a lot from my clients when starting a new weight loss and health program like “21 Day Fix”, “Insanity”, “Piyo” or anything at all is:

“The meal plan says to eat XXX amount of calories but that sounds kind of high so can I just eat less for better results?”

Simply stated, NO!! Please NONONONONONONONO!!

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Did you get that? The answer is DO NOT EAT LESS THAN THE PLAN SPECIFIES!

Let’s start with the basics of why:

When you cut back on calories below the minimum of your daily needs, it also means cutting back on nutrition.

This is the main reason I always suggest my clients use Shakeology daily. No, it’s not a protein shake or diet meal replacement; it’s how our nutrition is met and this helps us succeed in our results long term. (think the opposite of a “DIET”) Not eating enough calories daily and not getting the nutrition met can then lead to potentially life-threatening health problems that make losing weight the least of your concerns. Not really worth that, in my honest opinion. Every bodily function requires a specific amount of calories to perform efficiently. You burn calories when you sleep, when you lay on the couch and watch your favorite Netflix show, and when you’re browsing the internet. You need to make sure that you get enough calories, and even when you’re trying to lose weight.

So how do you know what your daily calorie requirements are? That all depends on your gender, your age, your body weight and your current activity level. If you are following a Beachbody program, it’s easy to figure out your needs by just following the calculations in the specific fitness plans’ booklet. If you are following Insanity Max:30, don’t follow the guidelines for the 21 Day Fix. Use the calculations for the specified program and do what it says. (these are scientifically proven systems that work when followed as planned). If you are not following a plan at this time and are interested in calculating what your body needs to lose or gain weight with what you’re currently doing, here is a video I made on understanding how to find the calorie range for you:

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I should mention that a daily intake should always stay above 1,500 calories (never lower) if you are a man and at least 1,200 calories (never lower) if you are a woman. These numbers will change depending on your body size and activity level and goals.

 

So what happens if you still believe you can reach your goals sooner by eating fewer calories than you need? Let’s talk about what happens within your body in these circumstances:

When your calories are fewer than your body requires, it will initially lead to weight loss but over an extended period of time, it can actually stall weight loss. By choosing to eat fewer than the minimum 1,200- 1,500 calories, for example, your body will go into “starvation mode”.  Your body is basically working to stay alive…and since it does not want to die, it compensates by slowing down the metabolism (the rate at which your body burns calories), slows down in defense of starving. How do we help our metabolism fuel better again? Simply by increasing our calories and getting the required amount needed, along with the proper nutrition. (you can’t eat fast foods all day and expect to feed your body right)

I always ask my clients if they are only interested in losing weight or if they are invested in total body health, wellness and overall body fat and weight loss. If your goals are just to lose weight, then that can be met by cutting back on calories, eating low nutritional foods and even using unhealthy practices. Fad diets are proof of this fact. These practices rarely end in long term results and can tax our bodies over time when we repeat the bad habits of overeating and gaining weight; to under eating and losing weight again and again. Consuming too few calories over a long period of time can be harmful to your health. Not only are you depriving your body of calories it needs to function, but you are also depriving it of essential nutrients. Physical effects of eating too few calories include dangerously low blood pressure and blood sugar levels, which can cause dizziness and fainting; thinning hair or hair loss; decreased bone density; irregular heartbeat; brittle nails; dry skin; fatigue; cessation of menstrual periods; and constipation.

When someone tells me they just want to lose weight fast, I usually tell them I can’t work with them because I will not support unsafe and unhealthy practices. I’ve learned from my own experiences over the years and I know and understand how vital it is to treat our bodies well for long term success.

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If you want to lose weight and create lasting changes (forget the yo-yo diets), it’s recommended to get the nutrition your body needs and eat the amount of calories to sustain these needs and add in an exercise program that can benefit your goals. If you would like a consultation with me or to get some basic suggestions or questions answered, please feel free to email me today at: www.Kathyprofitness@gmail.com 

Your health and long term results are worth the extra effort, don’t you agree?