As far as weight loss is concerned there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different variables, all of which affect your ability to lose weight and influence how easy and efficient the process is (some are discussed HERE)
One of the major determinants of your ability to lose weight and how easily it occurs is your metabolic rate. Your metabolic rate is the energy expenditure that your body undergoes daily just to keep you alive, like eating, breathing, thinking and maintaining posture.
Unfortunately, there are many different factors that may cause a slowing of your metabolism. Often resulting in difficulty losing weight in a reasonable amount of time.
In this article, i’ll discuss some of the most common reasons why your metabolic rate may be functioning at slower rates and ways to improve it for easier and more efficient weight loss.
Age-Related Estrogen Decline (in women)
One of the biggest culprits behind metabolic slowdown is certainly one that is almost entirely out of your control, i.e. age.
With age, comes a decrease in the estrogen produced by the ovaries, which is one of the major drivers of menopause. Unfortunately, estrogen is also tightly linked with the ability of your thyroid to function properly.
The thyroid is a gland that produces the thyroid hormones, such as T3 and T4. When released into circulation, these hormones act on many different tissues in the body to regulate metabolic rate.
In young, healthy individuals, these hormones act on cells to increase metabolism by regulating how (and how quickly), different macronutrients such as protein, carbohydrate and fat are metabolized. For e.g. having high thyroid hormone output can increase metabolism and lead to increased fat metabolism and thus, weight loss.
While many women at this time in their life will consider hormone replacement therapy (HRT), it isn’t always appropriate or even necessary as a first line of defense. Before resorting to HRT, first try to begin moderating your nutrition intake and incorporating intense exercise.
When age-related metabolic slowdown occurs the food you eat will have a larger impact on your weight. For this reason, you’ll need to focus primarily on the quality of your protein, vegetables and health fat intake to ensure that you are getting nutrients, but also not eating too frequently, in excess, which may result in weight gain.
You May Be Dieting Too Much
One of the biggest issues i’ve observed, after working with hundreds of clients, is that many people just diet far too hard, for way too long. As a result, metabolism adapts and weight loss feels impossible.
Under normal conditions, you have a metabolic rate that encompasses energy requirements of the body. This includes basal metabolic rate (BMR), the thermic effect of food and NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis – energy expended during things like walking, cleaning, talking, fidgeting).
When you first start dieting, this metabolic rate is maintained for a given period of time. That’s why if you restrict calories, you lose weight since you’re burning more calories than you are consuming. Unfortunately, your metabolism doesn’t care about reducing cellulite or slimming your tummy; it cares about keeping you alive.
When restricting calories for an extended period of time, your metabolism slows down in order to preserve excess energy expenditure, because it sees a calorie deficit as a famine of food or energy. So our body is now operating at a lowered metabolic rate, often making us feel lethargic, lacking in motivation, tired, grumpy and unable to concentrate properly.
In order to avoid metabolic slowdown, your best line of defense is to use make sure you are actually consuming enough food and energy, this can be achieved via carbohydrate cycling or “refeeds.”
In essence, carbohydrate cycling simply means taking breaks from restricted carbohydrate intake so that you can avoid metabolic adaptation, and metabolism slow down.
There are many ways to use carbohydrate cycling. You can include 1-2 meals per week that are higher in carbohydrate, usually on higher intensity training days. OR after 2-3 weeks of low carbohydrate intake, you can increase carbohydrate intake for a period of a 2-5 days.
Upon completing this “refeed” meals or period of time, you can then return to the lower intake amount and continue losing weight.
A Note on Fasting & Exercise
The combination of intermittent fasting (IF) and high intensity training (HIT) cannot be overlooked when we are discussing metabolism, weight loss and its long term success.
IF is an absolute game changer for your health. Its benefits range through every single system within our body. Specifically, for weight loss, an increase in hormone sensitivity is achieved. Put simply, the messages (hormones) our body sends out get to their destination, will move faster and transmit their actions more effectively – remember our metabolism is controlled by thyroid hormones.
Additionally, our hunger and satiety hormones (ghrelin and leptin) are also better received, which means improved appetite regulation i.e. less cravings, less energy highs/lows, less “hangries”.
IF directly drives fat oxidation (a fancy word for “fat burning”), this metabolic shift means we access to our own fat stores for energy, instead of quickly burning through glycogen (carbohydrate) stores and needing to eat every 2-3 hours to replenish. We have an abundance of fat stores (even in those that are slim) that can easily sustain our energy requirements for hours, and as a positive offset we start to see our body fat reduce.
HIT is essential for improving cardiovascular health and especially the strength training component helps to preserve lean muscle tissue, a very important consideration whilst attempting to lose weight. One of the most effective ways to increase and maintain your BMR is to get fitter and stronger. Not only that, when you exercise you improve your mood and reduce your stress, which means you are more likely lead to better food choices.
The benefits of exercise cannot be underestimated, not from simply an energy expenditure perspective, but a long-term metabolic improvement and sustained health results.
Why Your Metabolism May Be Sluggish
Certainly, some of the reasons why your metabolism is sluggish may be out of your control. Issues like age-related estrogen decline and subsequent reduced thyroid function are obviously not down to lifestyle choice.
However, you may be working against yourself if you’ve been dieting constantly for years, restricting calories and exercising too much. Please understand this is not your fault, unfortunately the messages that we have been told for far too long has been wrong!
Fortunately, there are some fairly simple solutions when it comes to adjusting your diet for a more efficient metabolism.
By using these methods described above or following our Fit Food Re-Start Program, you can improve your metabolism and start losing fat at a rapid rate.