What Causes a Slow Metabolism?

Are you convinced that your metabolism functions at a snail’s pace? Do you attribute your weight gain on the workings of a slow metabolism? While many people blame their extra pounds on an underactive metabolism, in most cases the problem arises from taking in more calories than are burned off. Even people who exercise regularly sometimes compensate for their increased activity by overeating, believing that they burned off more calories than they actually did. However, in some cases, a low metabolic rate can play a role in weight gain. What are common causes of a slow metabolism?

One medical condition that can directly alter metabolic rate is hypothyroidism, the medical term for an underactive thyroid gland. The thyroid plays an important role in regulating the metabolism and overall energy production. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for people with hypothyroidism to feel tired and sluggish and experience weight gain. Many people are convinced their weight gain stems from thyroid problems and are often surprised to find their thyroid function is completely normal when tested.

Another condition that can be the cause of a slow metabolism is diabetes. It’s not completely clear why diabetics have slow metabolisms, but they seem to have more trouble taking off weight than non-diabetics. This may be related to their higher blood sugar levels which fools the body into believing there’s lots of energy around, resulting in a slow down in metabolism.

One of the most common causes of a slow metabolism is too much fat relative to muscle. Lean body tissue is more metabolically active than fatty tissue which creates a bump up in metabolism. Their greater lean body mass is one reason men have faster metabolic rates than women. Muscle tissue declines with age which is one factor contributing to middle-aged weight gain. Also, people who restrict calories excessively develop breakdown of muscle tissue which contributes to a sluggish metabolism.

Sometimes lifestyle factors can be the cause of a slow metabolism. Some medications, particularly those used to treat depression, may cause the metabolism to slow. So can skipping meals and fasting. When the body senses a lack of fuel, it slows down to conserve energy which means fewer calories burned. One solution is to eat small, frequent meals that are high in protein to keep the metabolism primed.

A final reason cause of a slow metabolism is one that can’t be directly controlled – genetics. Some people are blessed with a fast metabolism, but that certainly doesn’t mean that genetics is destiny. A regular exercise program that emphasizes both aerobic activity and resistance exercise to build lean body mass can do much to speed up a sluggish metabolism. If you’ve been to your doctor and there’s no medical reason for your metabolism to be slow, try adding some resistance training to build lean body mass and eat, smaller meals throughout the day to keep the metabolism functioning maximally. Adding intensity or interval training to your workout will help to keep metabolism elevated even after an exercise session. Make sure you eat an appropriate number of calories for your weight and activity level, and never go below 1200 calories per day even when dieting. You may not see results immediately, but if done consistently these changes can make a difference.