The Definition of Metabolism
When dieters talk about metabolism, they usually aren’t talking about a long list of physical and chemical processes.
We often use the word “metabolism” to describe the rate at which our bodies burn calories.
This is the rate at which your body converts food into energy (calories) and then uses the energy to perform essential and non-essential daily functions.
The rate at which we burn calories or burn energy is called metabolic rate.
Your metabolic rate might change from day to day depending on your activity level, but your basal metabolic rate stays fairly steady.
Your basal metabolic rate is the number of calories needed to fuel your body’s essential functions, like breathing and circulating blood.
Basal metabolic rate is the most significant component of your total metabolic rate.
Why Is My Metabolism Slow?
Everyone’s metabolic rate is different. You might wonder why other people seem to have a fast metabolism and you have a slow metabolism.
There many be several reasons why. There are many different factors that affect metabolism
Age. Metabolism slows as we age.
Gender. Men generally have a higher metabolism than women.
Body size. Bigger bodies burn more calories.
Body temperature. Metabolism increases when the body is exposed to extreme temperatures.
Caffeine or stimulant intake. Your metabolism may increase if you consume a stimulant like caffeine.
Hormones. If thyroid hormones are not produced properly by your body, your metabolism may increase or decrease depending on the hormone level.
Pregnancy. Women who are pregnant have a faster metabolism.
Food intake. If you don’t eat enough food, your metabolism slows.
Body composition. Lean muscle mass burns more calories than fat even when your body is at rest.
Activity level. When you move more during the day, either through exercise or routine daily movements (like walking or standing) your body burns more calories.
Foods That Slow Your Metabolism
Not-so-shockingly, Michaels names sugar as one of the greatest culprits of a sluggish metabolism. Why? After savoring a dessert, she explains, your blood sugar spikes.
This causes your cortisol and insulin hormone levels to increase, in an effort to level things out—and it can eventually lead to metabolic disruption if left unchecked long-term.
“Hormones work in a symphony, and there are tons of them,” explains Michaels. “So ultimately, when we’re looking at metabolism, we want to make sure that we have the right hormones working for us, instead of against us.”
According to Chicago-based dietician Amanda Leimein, MS, RD, LDN, the lack of fiber in sugary snacks is yet another factor that makes them a total no-go for a solid metabolism.
“Things that we think of as sugar—like cookies, cake, pancakes, whatever—are broken down by our our bodies really, really quickly,” she says.
Fiber-rich foods, however, are digested slowly—your body fights hard to break them down, kickstarting your metabolism in the process.
Foods that contain a lot of fat can easily hamper your metabolism rate. Fat is not as easily digested as some of the other foods that will slow your metabolism.
High fat foods create a scenario where your body simply doesn’t know what to do with it all.
In this instance, your metabolism slows down and takes a break while your body starts saving the fat for future use.
This results not only in a slower metabolism, but in an increase in body fat as well.
Avoid fried foods and fast foods, and instead indulge in things like baked chips and low fat desserts to help keep your sweet tooth at bay.
Drink a glass of whole milk thinking that you’ve just “done the body good” and you may have taken a step at slowing your metabolism down.
Remember that milk is fortified with vitamins because the processing that it goes through kills off important nutrients.
That means you’re not really getting naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, but rather industrial grade synthetic vitamins and minerals manufactured by the food industry.
Aside from it being the milk of another species, there’s really nothing natural for the human body in a glass of conventionally manufactured and fortified milk.
Refined foods such as white bread, pasta and rice are easily broken down by the body because the complex carbohydrates have been taken out of them.
This means that your body doesn’t have to work very hard in order to digest the nutrition found in these foods, leaving your metabolism at a crawl.
Refined carbs don’t offer a lot of nutritional value anyway, so you’re better off consuming whole wheat breads, pasta and brown rice.
These choices require your metabolism to work in order to digest the nutrients, so it helps to speed it up.