People always talk about metabolism but what does it actually mean? Your metabolism is the sum of all of the processes which go on inside your body. Everything it does to keep you alive and functioning as a human. This includes digesting the food you eat into macro and micro-nutrients as well as using these nutrients to generate energy in your cells. But what are the common slow metabolism causes and why does it matter?
So what does it mean to have a low or “slow” metabolism? In reality, your metabolism can’t be fast or slow, it just is what it is. Actually what people mean when they say this is that their metabolic rate is low. Your metabolic rate is the amount of energy you burn per unit of body weight to fuel all of these processes. Therefore, when you say you want to “speed up your metabolism”, you really mean you want to increase your metabolic rate.
What does it mean to have a slow metabolism?
Before we get into the slow metabolism causes, let’s dive deeper into what the term means. People usually decide they have a slow metabolism if can’t lose weight, despite dieting. Or that they can’t maintain a healthy weight without intense exercising or strict dieting. In order to lose weight, your energy expenditure must be greater than the amount of energy in the food you eat. Your total energy expenditure is made up of:
- Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of calories you burn at total rest
- The energy you burn through daily activity and digesting the food you eat
- Energy burnt through workouts or exercise that you do
To increase your energy expenditure you therefore need to increase the amount of activity you do or your BMR. If you have a slow metabolism, it means your BMR is lower than optimal. A lower BMR means that your body is in energy conserving mode and burning less calories at rest than it usually would. This can make it difficult to lose weight or maintain weight, even on a low amount of calories. Dieting is one of the most common slow metabolism causes I see in my clients.
The two graphs below show a comparison between someone with a healthy metabolism and someone with signs of a low metabolism:
We can see that for the person with a healthy metabolism, the proportion of the total energy burned via the BMR and activity are much higher. The slow metabolism example burns less energy through BMR and activity and does more targeted exercise to create the same total energy expenditure. I have made both charts add up to 2000 calories for comparison. I hope this makes sense!
In short, someone with a healthy metabolism burns more calories just through living. Whereas someone with signs of a low metabolism has to work harder by exercising more or eating less!
How a slow metabolism impacts weight loss
It’s much easier to lose weight if you are maintaining your weight at 2000 calories compared to 1500 calories. If you are already eating 1500 calories or less to maintain your weight, creating a calorie deficit means eating very little food! Less food = less nutrients and undereating is one of the key slow metabolism causes (more on that in a moment). If you are trying to lose weight to get into the healthy range, you want your BMR to be as high as possible.
Having a high metabolic rate means that you can lose weight whilst still eating plenty of food and getting all of the nutrients you need. Additionally, when your body is in a low metabolic state, it wants to hold onto it’s fat reserves to keep you safe. A low metabolism is especially associated with the storage of fat around the mid-section. So if you feel like you’re doing everything right and the scales aren’t budging, a slow metabolism could be to blame.
Common slow metabolism causes
Slowing down your metabolic rate is actually a survival mechanism as it makes your body more efficient. A low metabolism means your body is able to keep functioning when less food is available e.g. in winter or times of famine. However, it isn’t the most enjoyable state to live in! Having a low metabolism affects the way your body functions and can prevent you from thriving and feeling your best.
Some of the common slow metabolism causes include:
- Under eating
- Restrictive dieting
- Eating metabolism suppressing foods
- Over exercising
- Chronic or intense stress
- Drinking too much water
- Too many raw foods
- Poor quality breathing
- Not getting enough sunlight
All of these slow metabolism causes act in different ways to reduce the amount of energy your cells produce from the food that you eat.
Over to you…
If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.
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