Does your weight keep creeping up no matter how hard you fight it? Do you feel sluggish and unmotivated most of the time? Your metabolism could be to blame.
Your metabolism is responsible for converting the calories you eat into the energy you burn. But when your metabolism slows to a crawl that means your body is hanging on to all those extra calories and you gain weight.
Although a slowing metabolism tends to happen to a lot of folks as they age, you don’t have to simply accept that spare tire or double chin. Fight back by figuring out what’s really behind your metabolism slow down so you can turn the tide and take control of your weight once and for all.
Following are three surprisingly common causes of a slow metabolism.
1. You’re not eating enough calories:
A strange as it seems if you’re packing on the pounds it might not be because you’re eating too much, but rather because you’re eating too little. Massively cutting calories doesn’t necessarily translate to losing weight. And losing weight too rapidly can trigger your body to go into “starvation mode.”1,2,3,4
Your body is basically a self-regulating machine and if it doesn’t get enough fuel to keep all your systems running at full speed it will power down your metabolism to conserve energy. But while your body sees the stored fat as an emergency backup fuel source, you see a muffin top or cottage cheese thighs.
The solution is to stop obsessing over calories and instead focus on getting plenty of high-quality protein to give your metabolism the kickstart it needs. For example, try starting off your day with a delicious protein packed Egg Stuffed Avocado.
2. Drooping sex hormones:
Both men and women see a drop in their hormone levels as they age and this can mean putting on weight. When women go through menopause their estrogen levels dip and that can translate into a sluggish metabolism and weight gain. After menopause women typically begin to fill out around their middles as their fat stores increase and their lean muscle mass drops. For men a drop in testosterone levels leads to a loss of muscle mass and an increase in fat levels which can slow their metabolism down to a crawl.
Ladies, lignan-rich flaxseeds may be able to help you naturally boost your estrogen levels.5 And men, increasing your vitamin D could help your raise your testosterone.6 In both men and women increasing exercise can help combat the slow down too. More weight bearing exercise to help build lean fat-burning muscle and aerobic exercise to burn off stored fat can help reignite your metabolism.
3. Surging stress hormones:
If you’re a big old ball of stress you may have found the culprit behind your weight gain. The stress hormone cortisol gets a bad rap, but the truth is most of the time it helps you burn both sugar and stored fat for energy. Which means, generally, cortisol is metabolism friendly. But like with most good things, having too much cortisol circulating in your body can backfire on you.
Remember earlier when I called your body a machine? Well in this case that machine may read your ongoing stress and elevated cortisol levels as a sign that you’re in serious trouble, which may mean you need extra energy to push through. The result? Your body starts squirreling away extra calories in case of a future energy emergency and you start gaining weight.
Interestingly eating too few calories (see number 1) can also increase cortisol levels.7 The solution is to work on bringing down your stress levels. Try sipping on anxiety-reducing chamomile tea or taking a stress-slashing supplement such as ashwagandha or passionflower. Deep breathing, acupuncture and yoga can all help you reign in your stress and bring your cortisol levels back down.
1. Metabolic slowing with massive weight loss despite preservation of fat-free mass,” J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Jul;97(7):2489-96.
2. “Impact of body composition during weight change on resting energy expenditure and homeostasis model assessment index in overweight nonsmoking adults,” Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Apr;99(4):779-91.
3. “Relative changes in resting energy expenditure during weight loss: a systematic review,” Obes Rev. 2010 Jul;11(7):531-47. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2009.00654.x.
4. “Effects of dieting and exercise on resting metabolic rate and implications for weight management,” Family Practice, (1999) 16 (2): 196-201.
5. “Supplementation with flaxseed alters estrogen metabolism in postmenopausal women to a greater extent than does supplementation with an equal amount of soy,” Am J Clin Nutr February, 2004, vol. 79 no. 2 318-325
6. “Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men,” Horm Metab Res. 2011 Mar;43(3):223-5.
7. “Low Calorie Dieting Increases Cortisol,” Psychosom Med. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2011 May 1.
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