Metabolism – a word that crops up in ALL things fitness. But what the heck are the causes of a slow metabolism and is this really the answer to a lack of results?
When it comes to losing weight and how many calories we burn on a daily basis one of the many factors involved is your metabolic function.
Your basal metabolism is the amount of energy to basically do nothing but breath and live. Metabolism can be increased and decrease by several factors. For example, building more muscle can increase your basal metabolic rate, so you’ll need more calories to just function. However, our bodies are clever things that like to remain at an optimum weight and have enough energy to survive. When dieting and in a calorie deficit for too long, the body recognises it doesn’t really have enough energy to waste and so can adapt and decrease your metabolism so you’ll burn less calories. Although metabolism isn’t the only thing to look at if you aren’t getting results it could be a reason you should be aware of. A low basal metabolic rate means you’ll burn less energy than you consume.
We’ve outline 6 things that could be causes of a slow metabolism and preventing results.
1. You Don’t Eat Carbs or Have Gone Low Carb
Low carb diets – they’re all the rage for fat loss yeah? WRONG!! Sure, a low carb diet CAN help to losing fat. Studies have shown that cutting carbs is a fast way to burn fat but ultimately losing body fat depends on if you are in a calorie deficit, if your metabolism is functioning properly and many other factors such as nutrition, hormones and sleep.
Also… did the participants in these studies exercise? Did they go to the gym 5 days a week and train intensely? NO! We NEED carbohydrates for fuel and for the body to function properly. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy and if we don’t have any glycogen available this lack of energy can result in burning less calories when training. The body CAN use fat as fuel, but it’s a trend that many women cut out carbs and follow a low carb diet. If you have opted for a low carb diet it’s important to make sure you get the right amount of fats – this is called a keto diet. We recommend not restricting and following any extremes – a balance of fats, carbs and protein is the best and most maintainable option.
2. You’re Over Exercising & Under Eating
Losing weight is tough 0 especially when we are ALL so impatient! But we get it, sometimes you just want fast results. Cutting calories super low and training for hours is something some of us at IdealFit have done in the past – so trust us when we say the damage is real!! By under eating you are not giving your body any energy to work with. As a result, it has to use stored energy and the large deficit means you lose weight – and FAST. BUT. Yes there’s a BUT. When we do this for a long time the body gets used to it.
Our bodies do not want to be in a deficit and knows it can’t keep going at this rate and so it slows down metabolism to compensate. This means you’ll burn less calories doing the same activities. As a result, when you have binges or periods of normal eating – you’ll gain weight faster and then its harder to lose. That means more exercise and even less food. eventually you’re in a place where you feel like you can’t eat and need to train for hours just to maintain a normal weight! Meanwhile other girls who have followed a healthy route are enjoying food, life and exercising less and don’t feel super exhausted.
If this sounds familiar – try looking for a longer term and maintainable route. Patience is key and results are great but not at the price of your overall health and wellbeing! Find out more here.
3. You’re Eating or Not Eating at the Wrong Times
Have you gotten into a bit of a nasty habit of eating very little during the day and enjoying a big meal at night? Sometimes a big meal before bed can make us feel satisfied but it can be pretty hard on our digestion. In fact, a 2015 study involving 32 women found that eating late was associated with decreased resting-energy expenditure and a decreased thermic effect of food which effects the functioning of our metabolism.
During the day we are most active and so our body needs a steady stream of energy. This means eating at regular times during the day. If you train in the day energy and calories are even more important! Your body need fuels and food to recover well. By not fuelling yourself before a workout and eating very little during the day, you could be affecting your metabolic function and training your body to slow down how many calories you burn during training.
We recommend consuming regular meals when you’re hungry which consist of protein, carbs and fat! It’s great to have breakfast but some days it’s easier to train fasted and well … some days you’re not hungry first thing in the morning! Not having breakfast is fine and can help cut down your calories, but just make sure you are still eating enough after breakfast during the day.
4. You’re Not Sleeping Enough
Whether you’re guilty of too many late nights or overtraining is taking its tole – a lack of sleep is a sure way to slow down your metabolism. Why? Because sleep and rest is the body’s way of recovering and when we don’t sleep enough our hormones can be all out of whack! Sleep and hormone regulation is important for maintaining a normal metabolism and research shows that sleep deprivation can cause hormonal imbalance and a drop in metabolic function.
Answer? Stop overtraining, fuel your body properly and hit the hay at a reasonable time! 8 hours sleep is what we ALL KNOW we should be getting.
5. You’re Not Pushing Yourself
Exercise is a great way to increase your metabolism, for example, weight training can help build muscle which increases metabolism. But if you’re taking it a bit too easy and being a bit well… lethargic, you won’t be doing your metabolism any favours. Sure some days its vital to have some slow an non intense exercise – too much high intensity is bad for us! But there’s a reason why so many people preach HIIT training. High intensity interval training is a great way to keep your workouts short but effective in increasing your metabolism. It’s been demonstrated in studies that HIIT training can cause rapid metabolic adaptations and more likely to increase calorie burn and metabolism – even after you’ve finished training.
6. You’re Lacking Protein & Have Gone Dairy Free
Protein is a great way to help recover and build muscle. More muscle = a higher metabolism because muscle needs more energy than fat to function! So if you’re diet is low in protein you won’t be doing your metabolism any favours.
Did you know protein powders, yogurt, cheese, quark, cottage cheese and milk are all great sources of protein? Many of us think it’s essential to cut out dairy for bloating and intolerances – but dairy is a key ingredient to forming more muscle and a healthy digestion! If you’ve cut out dairy to lose weight and not due to intolerance, then you should beware. Cutting out dairy firstly may reduce your protein intake and secondly conditions your body to become super sensitive to dairy! Protein is essential to building muscle and more muscle – means a faster metabolism! Plus, if you didn’t have an intolerance – you will have! The best types of dairy to enjoy is natural yogurt as it contains a ton of healthy bacteria needed for good digestion!
Sharma, S., & Kavuru, M. (2010). Sleep and Metabolism: An Overview. International Journal of Endocrinology, 2010, 270832. http://doi.org/10.1155/2010/270832
Bandin et al. (2015). Meal timing affects glucose tolerance, substrate oxidation and circadian-related variables: A randomized, crossover trial. The international journal of obesity, 39, pages828–833. https://www.nature.com/articles/ijo2014182
Kilpatrick, Marcus W.; Jung, Mary E.; Little, Jonathan P. HIGH-INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING: A Review of Physiological and Psychological Responses.ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal: September/October 2014 – Volume 18 – Issue 5 – p 11–16.