You may feel tired, cold or like you’ve gained weight. Maybe your digestion seems a bit more “sluggish” and things just aren’t moving through you as quickly as they used to.
Have you ever considered that your metabolism may be slow?
Why does this happen? Why do metabolic rates slow down?
What can slow my metabolism?
Your 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).
Hold it right there—before you go thinking that your metabolic rate is “calories in calories out”—it’s much more complicated than that. It’s so complex in fact, that 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” (because that won’t work anyways).
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 and ask for a copy of the lab results. It’s a good idea to consult with a natural practitioner about your hormone levels. While you might fall within the normal range, there are still ways to support your body if your thyriod hormones are at the top or bottom end of that range.
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 (and most often does) lead to a reduction in the amount of muscle you have. As you know, more muscle means a faster resting metabolic rate.
Tip: Make sure you’re eating enough food to fuel your body without overdoing it. That means no 4-6 hour breaks from food throughout your day.
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: Include weight and resistance training to help increase your muscle mass. Functional bodyweight exercises like seqats, push ups, and lunges can be a good place to start.
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 your body temperature also goes up.
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, take time to exercise regularly.
Lack of sleep
This is a big one! 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. Use essential oils like lavender in a diffuser in your room, or add a few drops to your pillow to encourage a restful night’s sleep.
Metabolism-Boosting Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding
Brazil nuts are are high in selenium, one of the minerals that keeps your metabolism functioning optimally.
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) in the fridge until desired thickness is reached.
Top with nuts, seeds and fruit of your choice.
Serve & Enjoy!
Tip: Makes a simple delicious breakfast or dessert topped with berries. Store in a glass mason jar in the fridge.