You may recall those times when you used to be able to bounce back from a vacation full of margaritas and buffets, or maybe you’ve recently noticed a few pounds creeping up even though you have been eating and exercising the same amount for years. Suddenly, you clue in that maybe it’s your metabolism slowing down on you. Let's take a look at why it isn't cranking as good as it should, and solutions to help fire it up.
Firstly, what is metabolism?
It’s the way your body converts everything you eat and drink into energy – the stuff that fuels every single thing you do, from breathing to blinking to growing your hair and so on.
Your metabolic rate is influenced by many factors, including age, gender, muscle-to-fat ratio, amount of physical activity, and hormone function.
When someone says they have a slow metabolism, what they actually mean is that they have a low basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR is the minimum amount of calories you eat each day that are spent just keeping you alive and providing the basic energy you need to live.
Even if you were to lay in bed all day, you would still need these calories to support your basic body functions. Which leads me to my first strategy on how to boost your metabolism:
1. DON’T OVERDO CALORIE CUTTING
When you eat less than your body’s minimum caloric requirement, your body slams the brakes on your metabolism. It also begins to break down valuable calorie-burning muscle tissue for energy.
To figure out your “basement” calories (your BMR) use this calculator. From there, when you add your activity level you can make a more realistic guess of your Total Daily Energy Expenditure, or TDEE. This reflects the entire amount of calories your body burns during a given day when you're sleeping, ingesting and digesting food, working, and exercising.
There are many other factors that come with determining your calorie target, however, and working with a qualified healthcare practitioner can be useful in determining the least restrictive, calorically-appropriate program possible.
2. BOOST YOUR THYROID
Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck. It acts as a metabolic thermostat by releasing hormones that work to control your body's temperature and the rate that your body burns calories. When you under eat (typically 25% less than your basement calories) your thyroid takes note by slowing down. When your thyroid gland is healthy and functioning properly, your metabolism will be soaring. If your thyroid's function is impaired, the metabolic rate slows down and this leads to weight gain.
At your next check up, as your doctor for a complete thyroid test. An optimal TSH level should be less than 2.0, not the currently accepted 4.7 reported by most labs. T3 and T4 should be in the middle of your lab's reference range, and your thyroid antibodies should be negative. It is worth checking rT3 if there are obvious symptoms suggesting an impaired thyroid.
3. GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Almost dozing off in line at Starbuck’s isn’t the only downside of not catching enough zzz's. Researchers have found a link between metabolism and sleep, and not getting enough of it may seriously slow metabolism.
When you're exhausted, your body lacks the energy to do its normal day-to-day functions, which include burning calories, so your metabolism is automatically lowered.
Some tips on better sleep: Schedule your workouts earlier in the day (exercising within two to three hours of bedtime can sabotage your body's urge to sleep). Try soaking in a hot bath and sleep in a cool room. Wear a sleeping mask or use blackout curtains to encourage melatonin production (the sleep hormone). Make sure electronics are put away at least 1-2 hours before bedtime in another room as this can disturb sleep.
4. SUPPORT YOUR LIVER
Your liver is a 3lb organ that sits behind your right rib cage and it’s where the metabolism of carbohydrate, fat, and protein takes place. A healthy liver will help you burn and discard excess fat; a compromised one will slow down that process. Regularly consume liver-loving foods like beets, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts, leafy greens, lemons, garlic, and green tea or matcha. Consider taking milk thistle, an herb that detoxifies and supports the liver.
5. INCREASE YOUR PROTEIN AND FIBRE INTAKE
When fat loss is your goal, your diet should be heavy in foods with a high thermic effect (the energy used to digest food). Protein has a thermic effect upward to five times greater than carbohydrates or fat. So be sure to include fibrous vegetables and lean proteins. Lean protein foods like chicken breast, fish and egg whites have the highest thermic effect of all. Fibre from vegetables helps to lower blood sugar and insulin, stimulate digestion, as well as bind fat and cholesterol. Add 2 tbsp of ground chia or ground flax in your meals or smoothies to further boost fibre intake.
In regard to protein consumption, if you're within the normal ranges for body composition and you are training regularly, one gram of protein per pound of body weight is a good formula to calculate your daily protein requirement.
6. LIFT HEAVY WEIGHTS
When you're young, muscle mass stores up energy, preventing weight gain. However, with age, we lose that muscle, which gives way to more body fat. By the time you hit 40, your metabolism starts to slow down 5% every decade, making weight loss particularly challenging.
By strength-training just a couple of times a week for example, you’ll reverse 50% of the seemingly inevitable metabolism slow-down that comes with age, says Gary Hunter, PhD, a professor of human studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Muscle requires more energy than fat, so it makes sense that increasing your muscle % will as a result increase your BMR. Take it up a notch by including High-intensity interval training (HIIT) within your week to help you burn even more fat and increase your metabolism.
Metabolism Boosting Matcha Latte
Coconut oil is a great source of medium-chain fats which are easily digested then sent directly to your liver, where they have a thermogenic effect which can help adjust your metabolism. Matcha tea is powdered green tea leaves which offers a mega dose of antioxidants that have been found to help increase metabolic rate. (Matcha contains caffeine so avoid consuming it after 2pm)
1/2 cup (125ml) unsweetened almond or coconut milk
1.5 tsp (7g) coconut oil (or MCT oil)
1 cup (250ml) boiling water
1 tsp matcha powder
option to sweeten with a few drops of stevia or 1tsp of maple syrup, coconut nectar, or raw honey
place all ingredients in a blender and blend until frothy.
We offer on-site body composition testing (book by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org) which provides you with a detailed analysis of your body including muscle and fat %, BMI, and BMR (also called resting metabolism), and measurements.
Book a consulation with our in-house nutritionist Maya Eid to help you achieve your fitness goals in time for summer.
Looking for accountability? Join Maya’s Fit & Healthy Membership! Reach your goals faster and learn how to build healthy habits with confidence and ease.