If you struggle to lose every ounce — and seem to gain it all back by simply looking at a cheeseburger — you know the power of a slow metabolism.
Your metabolic rate depends on a few factors within your control. Such as your activity level, but factors outside your control can play a role, too.
You’ll most likely experience difficulties with weight management if you have a slow metabolism and. Depending on the cause, you might notice other symptoms, as well.
What it Metabolism?
Metabolism refers to the physical and chemical processes that occur in the body which keep us functioning normally in order to stay alive, such as breathing, blood circulation and nerve function.
To carry out these processes, our body converts energy from the food we eat.
Chemicals in our digestive system break down food into fuel. Which is either used immediately or stored in the body’s tissues.
The energy (kilojoules) we expend over a day in order to survive is called our basal or resting metabolic rate.
Although you can’t control your metabolism, it can be stimulated during exercise.
How Metabolism works
Hormones and the nervous system control our metabolism.
When we consume food, digestive enzymes break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins into a form that the body can use for growth or energy.
During metabolism, two activities occur at the same time – the building up of body tissues and storage of energy, or anabolism and catabolism.
Metabolism is a balancing act of these processes:
- Anabolism – the process whereby energy is used to support the growth of new cells and to maintain our body tissues, and energy is stored as fat.
- Catabolism – the energy-releasing process where large molecules from our food, such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins, are broken down to smaller molecules to provide immediate energy for the body. This energy provides fuel for processes such as heating the body and allows our muscles to move.
BMR is the rate at which your body burns energy (kilojoules) while at rest and accounts for 50-80 per cent of your total energy use.
To some extent your BMR is genetically determined but it can also be affected by certain health problems and by physical activity.
When you exercise you burn more energy.
Being physically fit also increases your BMR because the more muscle and less fat we have, the higher our metabolic rate. (Muscle requires more energy to function than fat.)
Other factors that influence our BMR include:
- Age – as we get older our bodies tend to gain fat and lose muscle, so our BMR slows.
- Body size – bigger adults have a larger BMR.
- Growth – infants and children have a higher energy demand.
- Sex – men usually have a faster metabolism than women due to greater their muscle mass.
- Temperature – extremes of high or low temperatures require burn more fuel.
- Dieting – during excessive dieting our BMR slows to conserve energy.
- Drugs – certain drugs, such as caffeine, can increase BMR.
Metabolic Disorders are usually categorised according to the type of food that cannot be broken down properly.
- PKU or Phenylketonuria, is the most common diagnosis and occurs when the body can’t convert phenylalanine into tyrosine.
- Fructose intolerance is when the body can’t breakdown fructose.
- Galactosaemia is when the body is unable to convert the carbohydrate galactose into glucose.
When properly treated and managed with a strict dietary plan, people with metabolic disorders will progress to lead normal lives.
Hormonal disorders can also lead to metabolic problems. They are usually associated with the thyroid – the gland responsible for releasing hormones which regulate many metabolic processes.
Common disorders include:
- Hypothyroidism: when the metabolic rate decreases due to an underactive thryroid.
- Hyperthyroidism: when the metabolic rate increases due to an overactive thyroid.
10 Reasons Why You Have A Sluggish Metabolism
1. Poor nutrition/frequent crash diets
Patients who tend to eat food high in refined sugars and/or saturated fat, food with poor nutritional value or those ones who are on a very restrictive caloric diet on a regular basis tend to have slower metabolism.
When you are not eating enough calories to meet your RMR, your metabolism slows down to conserve energy, and your body naturally responds by storing fat for future use.
Crash diets cause muscle and water mass loss, rather than fat, slowing down your metabolism.
Also, patients eating a non-balanced diet can have a deficiency of vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids.
The deficit of these macronutrients and micronutrients can affect the rate of our metabolism.
To maintain your metabolism or change it for the better, eat a well-balanced diet, rich in complex carbohydrates, lean meats, low or non-fat dairy and healthy monounsaturated fats.
Supplementation with whole food vitamins and minerals are encouraged to keep your metabolism up and running.
2. Stress Can Be a Metabolism Trigger
Stress causes your level of the hormone cortisol to rise, says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, author of Doctor’s Detox Diet: The Ultimate Weight Loss Prescription and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which can harm your metabolism.
Increased cortisol levels can cause you to overeat, and when you overeat, you can gain weight. Weight gain causes your metabolism to slow, Dr. Gerbstadt says.
To counteract stress, avoid people and situations that cause your stress level to spike whenever possible and adopt a stress-busting exercise routine that will also help you maintain your weight.
3. Sluggish Sex Drive
A sluggish metabolism usually results in an equally sluggish sex drive. The person becomes cold and frigid.
This goes back to the body’s survival system. One’s body has a sluggish metabolism because it thinks that it is starving.
It could be falsely made to think like this because of dieting. When starving, the body does not want to participate in pro-creation activities.
The body fears that the unborn child will not be able to survive in an environment which lacks food. Your body does not know that you are intentionally starving it and that food is available in abundance should the female become pregnant.
The sex drive is thus compromised. We have a pre-historic survival system trying to function in an ultra-modern world.
4. Lack of Sleep Can Change Metabolism
To keep your metabolism revved, don’t skip snoozing. When your body lacks sleep, it can have a difficult time metabolizing carbohydrates, which triggers a chain reaction.
When you don’t metabolize carbohydrates, your blood-sugar levels rise.
To stop the cycle, set your body clock so you will stay caught up on ZZZs: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
5. Sugar Cravings
When your body’s blood sugar levels drop, you might find yourself craving sugar and calories to make up for it.
In addition to regulating when stored fat is converted into energy, your adrenal glands keep your metabolism functioning properly.
If your adrenal glands are ‘out of whack’ and you find yourself craving sugar to make up for a lack of energy, it may be an indicator that your metabolism is affected as well.
6. Physical Stiffness, Inflexibility, General weakness
Your body’s natural protections against foreign bacterias and viruses requires a healthy immune system which can be affected by a change in your metabolism.
Since your body takes the nutrients from your food and delivers them to your organs and immune system for proper functioning, if your food to nutrient conversion is slacking, your body is more vulnerable to getting sick.
Fluid build-up around joints and muscles as a result of a slowed metabolism can also cause stiffness, weakness, and even pain.
7. Protruding Belly
This again is the body’s “starvation mode” programming coming into play.
When your metabolic rate becomes sluggish, it is most probably due to reduced calorie consumption. When in starvation mode, your body will fight tooth and nail to hold on to the fat reserves in the belly, thighs and buttocks.
This is the last bastion for fat storage and the body will use this very judiciously. This internal programming has helped our ancestors battle famine.
In modern times, this survival programming has resulted in very frustrated men and women who cannot seem to get rid of the fat in these areas.
8. Medications Can Be Metabolism Triggers
Some medications may cause your metabolism to slow and your waistline to expand.
Those known to change metabolism in some people include antidepressants, diabetesdrugs, steroids, and hormone therapies.
Talk with your doctor if you suspect that medicine is causing weight gain, Cwynar says. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medication, change your dosage, or even suggest a better time of day to take it.
9. Difficulty Losing Weight
A decrease in your metabolism might make it harder to lose weight because while weight is largely dependent on burning more calories than you take in.
If you suddenly restrict your diet and undereat in general, your metabolism is naturally going to slow to conserve calories for energy.
When your metabolism slows, you burn less calories and are more likely to keep weight on.
10. Hair Loss
Along with your skin and nails, your hair is constantly regenerating requiring more and more nutrients for growth.
If your slowed metabolism is affecting your body’s nutrient intake, your hair won’t have the supply it needs to stay strong, vibrant, and healthy.
Hair loss or simply a change in texture to dry and dull hair can be a sign of a slowed metabolism.