And is this the reason you can’t lose weight?
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?
And, more importantly – can you do anything about it?
What can slow your 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.
These are the most common reasons I see in my clinic.
Examples of underlying reasons why metabolic rates can slow down:
- low thyroid hormone (especially poor conversion of T4 to T3, or too much reverse T3)
- a history of dieting (nothing slows metabolism faster than starving yourself for long periods)
- your size and body composition (more fat and less muscle tends to mean slower metabolism)
- your activity level
- lack of sleep
- nutritional deficiencies (the nutrients that are key to make energy)
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), as well as chronic stress for example.
Tip: It’s well worth having your thyroid hormones tested (but you’ll need more than just TSH checked. You need a full work up including TSH, free T4, free T3 and reverse T3 at the least in order to gain an insight. But that’s a whole blog topic on its own! ps – I can order all these tests for my clients)
A 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.
This is why people often put on even more weight after going on a diet.
Tip: Make sure you’re eating enough food to fuel your body without overdoing it. Never skip meals and don’t think starving yourself is the secret to losing weight – it’s the worst thing you can do!
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, your body composition is a really important factor here – as two people who way the same can have very different metabolisms. Someone with more muscle mass is going to have a higher metabolic rate than someone who has more fat mass.
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. That way, you are literally burning fat while you sleep (how efficient is that!?)
I tell my clients to focus on building the BIG muscle groups as these are our furnaces… so think bums and thighs, ladies!
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. And remember that bit earlier about building muscle mass… so combine cardio with weights, resistance training or functional movement training.
Lack of sleep
There is plenty of research that shows the influence 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. Go for 8, and you’re happily in the middle 😉
So many factors can affect our nutritional status. The quality of the food we eat, how it is prepared and also how well our digestive system can absorb it.
For the purposes of this article, let’s just take a look at the main nutrients that help our body to create energy and fire our metobolism… and they are:
- B Vitamins
- Iodine & Selenium
If you are lacking in any of these babies, then you won’t be effectively creating energy. There are, of course, many other nutrients at play however these are the big ones that I see the best results with in clinic.
*please don’t self-prescribe. See a qualified nutrition professional to determine what (and how much) YOU need!
Recipe (Selenium-rich): Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding
½ cup Brazil nuts
2 cups water
nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth (optional)
½ cup chia seeds
¼ cup raw cacao powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon maple syrup (or stevia if you’re watching your glucose intake)
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.