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You may feel tired, cold or that you’ve gained weight. Maybe your digestion seems a bit more “sluggish”. Maybe your hormones are out of whack.
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.
This is known as “starvation mode”. When the body doesn’t get food when it thinks it should, it panics and saves the food it does get into fat stores to avoid possible starvation.
When we jump from one “diet” to another, our system can’t keep up with the changes. When you think about it, our bodies have not really changed in the last thousand years, only what we have put into it has changed.
It is no wonder that a thousand years worth of cellular information can’t adapt to a new “diet” every few months when one type gets too hard to maintain or the newest trend is discovered.
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 nutrient dense 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.
This is one of the reasons why using macros based on your body are so important, and why the 7- day diet plan in a magazine is most likely not going to be of much use to you.
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. If you don’t have access to a gym or room in your home, body resistance can work just as well.
Which leads us to…
Your activity levels
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.
For a deeper look at sleeping when your life is crazy, check out this article.
Tip: Try to create a routine that allows at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
Putting it all together
All of these things can play a role in how you feel each day.
Pick one area to work on for two weeks and see how much improvement there is in your overall outlook.
You may be surprised that working on one area may have a positive effect on another area without even trying. That is how connected everything in the body is.
I would love to hear what changes you noticed.
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