Every year, millions of people take the resolution to get rid of some extra pounds. While working out and eating well can definitely help, having a well-functioning metabolism is also necessary. Metabolism is the set of biochemical processes that take place in the cells of our organisms, in which building materials are supplied and waste is disposed of, with the aim of producing energy.
In human language: it is the system by which our bodies convert food into the energy we need to live and function. And to put it even more simplistic and plastic: it’s the way our bodies burn calories.
In some people, that metabolism is a bit on the lazy side, which can have a negative impact on their weight. In others, the ‘internal stove’ burns at full power without any problems, so they consume a lot of energy and do not gain a single pound.
Your own ‘combustion process’ is influenced by a number of factors that you may or may not control, but fortunately you can make some adjustments here and there. Below are 12 reasons why your metabolism may not be working optimally.
It’s in the genes
If your body burns calories slowly and consumes little energy while resting or sleeping (resting metabolism), then your basal metabolism may be ‘hereditarily taxed’. How quickly your metabolism works (at rest) is also determined by your genes. And of course you can’t change your DNA, but you can cultivate some good habits. One of the best ways to boost your metabolism is to exercise more. Do sports, go for a walk and try to be as active as possible in your daily routine: take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk around, go for a half-hour walk during your lunch break.
Altered hormone levels
A change in your hormone balance, for example, where you often feel tired or lethargic, can significantly slow down your metabolism and energy consumption. But diseases that are hormonally linked such as diabetes or a disturbed thyroid function (too active or too inactive) also have an impact on your metabolism. If you suffer from one of these diseases it is therefore very important to strictly follow the treatment.
A lack of sleep
A good night’s sleep also helps to maintain your metabolism. If you suffer from chronic insomnia or often work at night, your natural sleep-wake rhythm is disrupted and your metabolism has a harder time functioning properly. Sleep deprivation mainly disrupts the processing of carbohydrates. This can lead to glucose intolerance and a delayed metabolism and at worst to obesity or diabetes.
Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep. If you don’t make it, try to go to bed a little earlier. You’ll feel much better after a week. If you work a night shift, ask your doctor for advice on how to put as little strain as possible on your body.
A crash diet
Are you weighing a few pounds too much? Then it’s a good idea to go on a diet, but the way you do that is very important. If you do not eat enough (less than 1000 kcal per day), your metabolism switches to slow motion. Very strict diets, which are also supplemented with a lot of sports and exercise, alert your body. They give your metabolism the signal to function on the back burner and be much less content. At the same time, your muscle mass decreases, which also reduces your calorie burning. When you switch back to a normal diet later, your body is still in saving mode and all the extra calories are piled up as extra pounds.
So you better not diet too drastically. Make a realistic plan where you gradually lose weight. It will take a little longer but it is the only thing that works long term.
Sea salt and other fancy salts
Sea salt, Fleur de sel, Himalayan salt… it is trendy to exchange the regular table salt of yesteryear for a fancy variant with a beautiful color and structure. But you should be careful that that replacement also contains enough iodine. Your thyroid needs iodine to make your metabolism run smoothly, because that chemical plays a key role in the production of thyroid hormones. You need it not only for your metabolism but also for the development of your nervous system and your growth.
So occasionally use just iodine-rich table salt and add some more iodine-rich foods to the menu such as white fish, boiled eggs, semi-skimmed milk and oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring)
Too little fluid or even dehydration
If you don’t have enough fluid, your metabolism will also falter. Water helps your body to burn energy and lose weight. Water, both cold and hot, also gives a feeling of satiety, which makes you eat less.
Thus, provide your body with enough moisture and make it a habit to drink a glass of water from time to time. Foods that contain a lot of water, such as boiled oatmeal, watermelon, strawberries, tomato, lettuce, pumpkin or cucumber, are also ideal for a little extra refueling.
A caffeine shot will make your metabolism run at full speed. Anyone who drinks decaf is therefore depriving themselves of a metabolism booster. However, some caution is required in diabetes patients. Some studies show that coffee can affect blood sugar levels.
A lack of calcium
Calcium is not only necessary for a healthy bone structure, it also plays a key role in your metabolism. So make sure you absorb enough calcium. Dairy products are rich in calcium, but also fish, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, spinach and apricots are good suppliers of this important substance.
It’s too hot in the house
If your metabolism was in charge, the thermostat would be a few degrees lower. At an ambient temperature of 24 °C, your body will produce no or insufficient brown fat. Brown fat cells do not store fat, which the ‘ordinary’ white fat cells do, but they are packed with combustion cells that convert the fatty acids into heat. People with more or more active brown fat are therefore on average also slimmer.
Do you want to boost the production of brown fats? Set your thermostat to 19°C before bedtime in the evening. And take a regular walk when it’s cold outside, which also helps.
Too few carbohydrates or too much fat
Avoiding unhealthy carbohydrates as much as possible is a good idea. It helps to burn fat faster and maintain your weight. But your body does need healthy carbohydrates to make insulin, and if you always eat low-carbohydrate foods, you will produce less insulin. As a result, your metabolism will slow down, causing you to burn fewer calories than usual.
So you would do well to eat enough healthy sources of carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They will keep your metabolism at cruising speed and suppress your desire for unhealthy snacks.
Foods rich in unhealthy fats also affect the way your body breaks down food and nutrients. They also negatively affects your ability to absorb insulin and can lead to insulin resistance in the worst case scenario.
Eating at irregular hours
It’s not just what you eat that plays a role. When and with what regularity you eat, is equally important. Skipping meals or snacking at irregular intervals is detrimental to your metabolism. Shifting and procrastinating meals saddles your metabolism with jet lag. Over time, something like this can completely affect your metabolism and even increase your risk of heart disease. So eat at regular intervals and do so in a calm manner.
Some people claim that they gain weight when they are stressed too much. In a state of stress, your body turns on cortisol. It is a hormone produced in the adrenal cortex and aims to give you a quick energy boost. If you have chronic stress, your body has to come to your aid constantly and continues to produce cortisol. Too high cortisol levels complicate insulin management, which in turn results in a delay in your metabolism and weight gain.
Are you constantly stressed? Then it is very important that you relax. Breathe quietly and deeply, find a hobby that relaxes you, do a sports activity where you relax or you can enjoy yourself.
Other factors that play a role in the functioning of your metabolism are your gender, your height and your age. Men have on average more muscle mass and a lower fat content than women, which means they consume more energy. Younger people have more cell renewal than older people, which also requires more energy. Large people have a larger surface area to warm up and therefore need more energy.
Certain medications such as antidepressants or drugs that slow down the heart rhythm can also lower metabolism. If you are affected, discuss it with your doctor for alternatives.
Erica is an experienced nurse working in the central Florida area. She focuses on subjects related to pregnancy and infant health. She is a mother of two with hobbies ranging from dancing to playing the piano.