Three Ways To Reverse a Slow Metabolism
If you’ve glanced at the cover of any woman's magazine, watched Dr. Oz, or strolled down the supplement aisle at the grocery store, you probably think your metabolism is a single thing that can be sped up with “metabolism boosters” like chili peppers or coffee or superfoods or following a "metabolism boosting" diet.
In reality, the word metabolism refers to the thousands of chemical reactions that turn the energy we eat and drink into fuel in every cell of the body. These reactions change in response to our environments and behaviors.
There are three main ways the body uses calories:
1)There’s the energy needed to keep our hearts, brains, and every cell of our body working, known as your BMR (basal metabolic rate)
2) There’s the energy used to break down food, known as the thermic effect of food.
3) And there’s the energy burned off during physical activity — like walking around, fidgeting, or exercising.
Your BMR is actually what accounts for the largest amount of the total calories you burn each day (65%-80%). Physical activity, on the other hand, accounts for a much smaller portion, only 10-30% for most. Digesting food only accounts for about 10%.
There are several predictors of how fast or slow a person’s metabolic rate will be. These include the amount of lean muscle and fat tissue in the body, age, and genetics. In general, when you say someone has a "fast" metabolism, it means they have a body that uses food for fuel (instead of storing it as fat) more quickly. On the flipside, if you say someone has a "slow" metabolism, it tends to mean that this person has a harder time maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight.
These terms, fast and slow, are a bit misleading, but the fact does remain that your metabolism can be efficient or inefficient and depending upon which way it trends, you may struggle to lose weight.
So let's talk about ways in which you can reverse an inefficient metabolism.
STEP 1: IDENTIFY THE TRIGGER:
1. Not eating enough food To make an analogy, think of your body like a house. If you’re not making enough money to pay your electricity bill, what do you do? Well, you turn down the heat in your house to compensate, you may not turn the lights on as often, and/or you may fail to perform regular maintenance. The body operates in a similar way. When there are not enough calories coming in, the body decides that it's going to save energy by reducing body temperature (slowing the metabolism), turning down digestive juices (making digestion weaker), reducing the pulse, and slowing thyroid function (resulting in less energy). This is a natural, built-in survival response by the body. And this is not a bad thing. It’s actually a very good thing because it’s going to help keep you alive in an emergency or famine. It's just a royal pain in the a** when you're trying to lose weight.
2. Not eating enough carbohydrates Carbs are important when it comes to the metabolism. There are three macronutrients (carbs, protein and fat) and while all three are extremely important, and none should ever be limited in any fashion intentionally, adequate carbohydrates in the diet are very important because the conversion of T4 (inactive thyroid hormone) to T3 (active thyroid hormone) is dependent on enough glucose (sugar) and stored glycogen (sugar) in the liver. In order to set the stage for that to happen, you need to be consuming some carbs.
3. Mineral imbalances Mineral imbalances disrupt the conditions desired by your body. For example, calcium and potassium are two minerals that- when not balanced - can influence your thyroid’s ability to function properly. High levels of calcium slow down your body, especially when paired with low potassium levels. When you’re aware of what minerals are out of balance in your body, you can make supplemental adjustments to bring the ratio into better balance, supporting healthy thyroid function naturally.
What if you’re eating enough calories, carbs and nutrients, and you are still having issues?
There are a few other things you may want to think about. Consider if any of the following could apply to you:
Malnourished liver: often caused by not enough high quality (animal) protein. Common in those with a history of veganism or low protein vegetarian diet.
Nutrition deficiencies: fat soluble vitamin deficiencies are common due to the popularity of low fat diets, as well as other common nutrient deficiencies.
Poor digestion: weak digestion down-regulates or reduces the appetite often due to bloating, constipation and often causes you to not be able to take in as many calories.
Gut bacteria. The ratio of good versus bad belly bugs in your microbiome will absolutely impact your metabolism. Too many bad bugs or not enough happy bugs will cause metabolic inefficieny
Hormonal imbalance: low progesterone or estrogen dominance can slow the metabolism by interfering with the body’s ability to convert thyroid hormone (from T4 to T3).
Toxic lifestyle or poor liver detoxification: excess toxins in the diet and lifestyle as well as poor liver detoxification further burden the metabolism.
Stress: the stress hormone cortisol blocks thyroid hormone conversion, which will protectively slow the metabolism over time.
Inflammation: food senstitivies or food allergies, iron overload, polyunsaturated fats (vegetable oils) are common causes of inflammation.
Over-exercising: too much exercise, especially when the diet is poor is a sure way to send your body running for safety by slowing the metabolism.
STEP 2: SUPPORT THE TRIGGER WITH FOOD
Once you’ve discovered the cause(s) that are contributing to your inefficient metabolism, you need to support the trigger (s). The longer you’ve struggled with these issues, likely the longer it will take to turn it around.
· If the cause is not consuming enough nourishing food and/or nutrients, it’s time for you to address your under-eating and begin to raise your calories to more appropriate levels. Working with a coach can help!
· If the cause is eating too few carbs, it’s time to work some nutrient dense carbs into your diet, gradually.
· If the cause is a nutritional deficiency, then you'll want to address those “holes” in your diet and use appropriate supplementation if needed.
· If the cause is a malnourished liver, it’s time to nourish the liver with the right foods and possibly utilize some liver supporting supplements in the short term.
· If the cause is poor digestion it’s time to address possible enzymatic insufficiency, low hcl or learn about what foods are the easiest to digest and work with your body to up-regulate your digestion over time.
· If the cause is due to a bacterial imbalance in your gut then you'll want to either supplement with pro/prebiotics (to replenish GOOD belly bugs) or address the overgrowth of bad belly bugs.
· If the cause is a hormonal imbalance it’s time to ensure you are supporting hormone production by giving your body enough of the raw materials it needs to make hormones
· If the cause is toxins it’s time to ditch the toxins from your food and address any lifestyle habits that are contributing
· If the cause is over exercising, then you'll want to pull back on the amount of activity you're doing, and find a more balanced approach.
STEP 3: BE CONSISTENT AND PATIENT
This is the hardest step- believe it or not. Once you know what to do, you have to settle in for the long haul and be patient with your body. Your metabolism doesn't become "inefficient" overnight, and a recovery won’t happen in a day, a week, a month, 6 months or even a year in some cases.
Trust that your body is doing the best it can to re-balance and to find homeostasis.You have to give yourself time to heal, and allow your body to do what it needs to do to in order to be healthy again. This isn't easy in a society that thrives on instant results and wants immediate progress. Focus on your behaviors (which you can control) rather then outcomes (which you cannot). Surround yourself with support and consider working with a professional who can guide your actions and help encourage you along the way.