4 Reasons Why You Have a Slow Metabolism
A question I am asked a lot.
The reasons for a slow metabolism can be many and varied. Let’s break them down:
1. Your body doesn’t have enough muscle
Muscle runs at a higher metabolic rate so it is using more energy than fat does when you are sitting at your desk doing very little. This burning of energy keeps your metabolism going at a faster rate and will burn more calories. Ever noticed that men often find it easier to lose weight? It’s because they generally have more muscle than women. Unfortunately we lose muscle as we age, so stopping or decreasing exercise when you are older is not a good idea.
How do I encourage muscle growth?
1.Eat a diet that supplies adequate protein
2. Engage in muscle building exercise such as lifting weights or high intensity interval training.
2. You eat too many foods that are refined
Refined foods are generally speaking, foods that have been highly processed and have lost much of their fibre, protein and nutrient content. Examples of refined foods are foods containing sugar, and refined grains and carbohydrates found in bread and pasta. These refined foods do not require a lot of energy to break them down and they provide a lot of energy, so the metabolism doesn’t have to work hard to process them. Think of your metabolism like a furnace. Refined foods are like kindling and they don’t keep the fire going for long, whereas complex foods full of fibre, protein and nutrients are like big logs that will keep the fire burning for longer. Examples of foods that are like the ‘big logs’ are complex grains such as brown rice, black rice, tricolour quinoa, vegetables and high protein foods such as fish and legumes. Basically if you eat a meal that contains little vegetables, fibre, protein and nutrients you aren’t doing much to boost your metabolism. And the same goes if you skip meals, you are allowing the fire to go out and you will slow your metabolism over the long term.
3. The level of toxicity in your body is high
Lets face it, with the level of toxins we are inadvertently exposed to from chemicals in foods, to chemicals in plastics, heavy metals, and pollutants in the air and in the food chain, the liver, which is the filter in our body, has got a big job on its hands to filter these toxins. We live in an environment with a cocktail of chemicals that our bodies weren’t designed to process. Add to this our levels of stress which affect the liver through its connection with producing stress hormones and the fact that most of us are stressed in one way or another due to emotional worries, overwork and lack of quality sleep. Diet plays the third part in why toxicity levels are high, be it through over consumption of alcohol, coffee, sugar, excess saturated fats and simply through overconsumption of food. So between the toxins we are inadvertantly exposed to, the effect of stress on the liver, and the extra work we are giving the liver due to a poor diet, the end result is a liver that can’t keep up with the toxicity it has to deal with. Don’t get me wrong, it still continues to filter or detox the blood, but it can’t keep up with the amount of toxins it has to deal with. The liver soon becomes fatty, and then there are less liver cells on the job. The metabolism slows because the body is so busy trying to deal with the toxins that the chemical processes in the body are no longer functioning optimally. Most people describe this as feeling ‘sluggish’.
What can I do to help the liver?
Thankfully there is a lot you can do. The liver is the only organ of the body that can regenerate if you do the right things to encourage regeneration:
- Give the body a rest from eating (intermittent fasting) which allows the liver to go about some general housekeeping. This way it’s not constantly busy dealing with the food you are eating and is able to deal with ‘older’ toxins that have been stored in fat around the body. Intermittent fasting does not mean skipping a meal but rather having a period of 14- 16 hours where you give your body a break from eating. This may be fasting from 8pm at night until 10am when you then have your breakfast, followed by lunch and dinner.
- Reduce the amount of foods that put stress on the liver such as refined foods, sugar, fried foods and foods high in saturated fat, excesses of red meat, excess alcohol and coffee. Instead increase vegetables, high fibre foods, and switch to complex carbohydrates, increase high nutrient foods including foods high in essential fatty acids, and high protein foods.
- Increase your water intake, the liver requires the body to be hydrated.
- Take herbs and supplements which support the liver including alpha-lipoic acid, N-Acetyl Cysteine and St Mary’s Thistle.
4. You have endocrine imbalance
Many of us suffer from endocrine imbalance in its many forms. Whether it be the adrenals which are exhausted and out of balance, or the thyroid. One thing is for certain, the body needs homeostasis- balance- and the endocrine system is responsible for maintaining it. While the thyroid gland affects metabolism directly, all of these glands work together. If you have been through a period of overwork and stress your adrenals may be exhausted and stress can also trigger thyroid imbalance especially where genetic disposition is at play.
What can you do?
- Have a functional thyroid test to check if your thyroid is not working properly. A functional thyroid test looks at more aspects of thyroid function and gives a more complete assessment of how the thyroid is functioning.
- If you suffer from tiredness in the morning, tiredness all day and then a second wind at night you may have adrenal exhaustion. Dealing with this involves herbs to support adrenal function, and specific nutrients, often antioxidants, to repair the effects of oxidative stress.
- Keep your stress levels under control, give your body rest, and undertake meditative and other calming practices such as yoga. Don’t expect your body to go-go-go all the time without periods of down time and replenishment.
You can shift your metabolism into a higher gear!
Work on your diet, exercise, reduce stress, support your liver and your adrenals, and address the thyroid if necessary. Be a more balanced version of you when it comes to diet and exercise. Work on an 80:20 rule saving the 20 per cent for nights out with friends and times to reward yourself. Make the 80 per cent a time to fill the furnace with big logs rather than kindling, build muscle, look after your liver and endocrine system and before you know it you will have shifted your metabolism into a higher gear.
Margaret Boyd-Squires is a Naturopath who practices in Melbourne, Australia and has written a book to help you to reduce inflammation, lose weight and detox your liver. You can see her book here Anti-Inflammatory Recipes. You can book an appointment with her to deal with your metabolism issues here.