You have undoubtedly heard of the term “metabolism”. You’ve probably also heard metabolism called fast or slow. But what is a slow metabolism?
Most people aren’t familiar with the nuances of the metabolism though it is often the culprit for failed weight loss. It also doesn’t help that there is a lot of misunderstood science that gets repeated!
What is Metabolism?
Metabolism includes all biological processes that convert fuel from nutrients like fats and carbohydrates into the energy our body needs to survive. This energy is what we refer to as calories.
In simple terms, your metabolism is the process through which you burn calories. It is the most vital process since it provides a constant supply of the energy needed to power your body movements and all functions keeping you alive such as breathing, blood circulation, cell growth, muscle repair, etc. Metabolism differs significantly from one person to another because of age, genetics, fitness habits, food likes, health conditions, medication, etc.
Benefits of a High Metabolism
A high metabolism means your body burns more calories than the average person of the same age, weight, height and gender. Conversely, having a slow metabolism means you are burning fewer calories than the norm. Since weight loss requires a caloric deficit, the state when you eat fewer calories than you burn, having a high metabolism is the most powerful protection against weight concerns. High metabolism is linked to faster cellular and muscle tissue repair and other healing vital to recovery after training. Therefore, a high metabolism is also essential for avoiding injuries.
What Causes a Slow Metabolism?
Aging will cause your metabolism to slow since the older we get, the harder it is to maintain muscle mass and the less metabolism-boosting hormones (e.g., growth hormone) we make.
When Does My Metabolism Slow Down?
- The good news is that recent research suggests our metabolisms do not significantly decrease until we are 60 years old.
The metabolic slowing caused by aging is responsible for only a small portion of a person’s weight gain. Moreover, despite the decline it causes, training and exercise can help reverse it and maintain your metabolism at healthy levels.
Your diet is one of the most powerful drivers of your metabolism. When you reduce the calories you consume and enter into a calorie deficit, the state in which you burn more calories than you eat, your body will slow its metabolism in two ways:
- First, it sheds lean body mass. Muscles are one of your primary energy reserves that will be used to cover the calorie deficit caused by food restrictions. Note that any Dietitian worth their salt will give you specific strategies to prevent you from losing your muscle and increasing body fat percentage! I also double-check by tracking clients’ muscle & body fat percentage changes with a body composition test in the nutrition program in order to ensure that doesn’t happen!
- Learn more in our blog about when to bulk vs cut.
- Second, it makes your remaining lean body mass more economical, causing it to burn fewer calories when moving (e.g., walking). This is done by changing the balance of specific hormones that regulate the energy your cells burn during movement. Both processes are part of your body’s survival mechanism and kick in to conserve calories and help you close the energy deficit caused by restricting food intake. However, both can be averted with the correct dose and type of exercise.
This process is called adaptive thermogenesis (aka starvation mode) and it is not well understood from a research perspective. We know that it is an actual measurable phenomenon but how or why it happens, the research just isn’t there yet! Some of our clients have noticed that they only lose weight on vacation but struggle to lose weight at home which is not caused by a slow metabolism, read our blog to learn more.
How to Prevent a Slow Metabolism During Weight Loss
The best way to combat adaptive thermogenesis is to lose body fat and change your body composition in a manner that you enjoy. That is the best way to ensure you do not lose your progress for your health and lifestyle changes.
If your metabolism was to slow down after your body composition and diet changes then you struggle to keep up with the diet or training plan you used to lose the weight, it will increase the likelihood of you putting the weight back on. A slower metabolism (you need fewer calories) + old habits = higher chance of weight regain.
To learn more about how Dietitians can help you find sustainable change, check out our post here.
Training can affect your metabolism in the fastest and most effective way. Although it can be a powerful tool to boost your metabolism, over-training can have the opposite effect.
The most effective workout type for higher metabolism is resistance training.
First, it increases your muscle mass, leading to more calories burned as more active tissue requires more energy.
Second, it increases the energy your muscles burn on a per unit basis, meaning that every pound of muscle mass starts to burn more due to a positive shift in the hormone balance regulating your cells’ energy consumption.
Too much training, however, can cause an adverse change in hormone balance (e.g., less growth hormone secretion) that reduces metabolism. In this case, both metabolism and recovery are lowered, posing a critical danger for injuries.
Body Composition Test Grande Prairie
A metabolic slowdown can act as a barrier to lose weight or achieve your body composition and fitness goals. As a result, one of the most important things to monitor is whether your metabolism has slowed down or whether your current fitness and diet habits are causing it to decline.
You can test your metabolism and body composition at our office in Grande Prairie! The INBODY body composition analysis provides an accurate analysis of your metabolism beyond the body mass index, helping you act early and avoid the pitfalls of a metabolic slowdown for your health. Our dedicated Registered Dietitians can also provide you with an accurate meal plan based on your body composition scan and metabolic scans, complete with a grocery list and app after your appointment!
Get started today and book a free discovery call!