3 Things That Will Slow Down Your Metabolism

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Written by Guest | Last Updated October 31st, 2019
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Guest Post by Rio Rocket

You've read the hype:

Boost your metabolism with this fruit.

High-metabolism diet to lose weight with this product.

Increase your metabolism permanently and naturally in this many weeks.

Yes, you've seen advertisements, articles, books, and diet plans that make claims about coffee, spices, supplements, and food products to levels near-hysteria. Claims that seem to imply you can transform an average body to one of a high-paid fitness model, like the one on the product packaging, in only this many days.

Let's start with this short high school biology refresher: Metabolism is the biological process that describes all the chemical reactions occurring in every cell of your body. Your metabolic rate is the rate at which your body burns calories at rest. The terms "metabolism" and "metabolic rate" are often used interchangeably. Class dismissed.

Why a higher metabolism is desirable

People seek to increase their metabolism because the higher your metabolism, the more calories you burn and the leaner your body will be. Or is it the leaner your body is, the more calories you burn and the higher your metabolism will be?

"While exercise is excellent for health, alone it has little to no effect on actual weight loss."

Let's first establish that you just can't increase your metabolism at will. Coffee, teas, spices, supplements, and even exercise can only temporarily increase your metabolic rate. Afterward it just resets to your basal metabolic rate or "resting metabolism," which measures how many calories you burn while doing nothing. While exercise is excellent for health, alone it has little to no effect on actual weight loss as documented in this report of exercise intervention studies. Here's the reason: Most of the energy you burn is while you're at rest.

Alexxai Kravitz, a neuroscientist and obesity researcher with the National Institutes of Health, explains that exercise is “. . . only around 10 to 30 percent [of total energy expenditure] depending on the person, excluding professional athletes who workout as a job.”

What's this you say? How can that be true? It may not sound logical, but it's exactly the misunderstood fact that leads most people in endless loops on their approach to weight loss when their strategy involves futile attempts to increase their metabolism.

Your resting metabolism accounts for 60 to 80 percent of your total energy expenditure. Physical activity only accounts for 10 to 30 percent of your total energy expenditure unless you have a very physically demanding job such as a professional athlete. Food digestion accounts for the remaining portion which is about 10 percent.

It holds true that two people with the same exact body composition and weight can have completely different metabolisms. One can eat copious amounts of food and gain nothing. The other can gain a substantial amount of weight while eating only modest amounts of food.

Your resting metabolism is determined by several factors. Some include family genetics, the amount of lean muscle and fat tissue in your body, and gender not activity. Since these aren't all factors we have much control over, let's focus on what slows our metabolic rate down to figure out what we can do about those we factors we can control.

1. Getting older

This is a factor you can't actually help either so let's just get this out of the way early. Don't fret. There's gold at the end of this rainbow. The slowing of our metabolism due to aging is inevitable and it begins as early as 18 in most of us; your body has already been making adjustments along the way. Researchers haven't solved the mystery yet as to why you burn fewer calories at rest as you get older even if you maintain the same exact fat-to-muscle ratio. The good news is that it's very gradual and your body is highly adaptive so age should never deter you from any weight loss goal. You've already got what it takes at any age.

2. Ignoring the need for weight training

If you are not in the practice of building muscle as you age then you are definitely going to experience, at some point, a noticeable shift in metabolism. Lean muscle tissue contributes 20 percent to your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) while fat only accounts for 5 percent (for individuals with about 20 percent body fat). No matter how much you weigh, the more lean muscle and less fat you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate. Muscles use more energy at rest than fat. So let's be clear, it's never too late to start pumping iron.

3. Dieting

This fact may shock many people but it’s the truth. Drastic weight loss programs and crash diets have the most drastic effect on resting metabolism and not in a good way. When an individual experiences rapid weight loss, their basal metabolic rate actually slows down due to a process called metabolic adaptation or adaptive thermogenesis.

Slimming down typically results in muscle loss, less body mass, and therefore the body requires less energy to keep running. After significant weight loss however, researchers have discovered that the slowdown of the resting metabolism is often more than what it should be for the dieter's new body size.

"Yes, in the long term, diets can make you fat."

In the scenario of the contestants of Season 8 of The Biggest Loser, even after losing anywhere from 91 pounds to as much as 239 pounds, researchers still found 13 out of the 14 contestants put back on a significant amount of weight six years later. Four contestants were even heavier than when they originally appeared on the show.

Their basal metabolism slowed down tremendously after crash dieting, essentially burning 500 calories fewer each day. This effect lasted six years later even while they were putting the weight back on. Yes, in the long term, diets can make you fat.

The gold at the end of the rainbow

On average 15 percent of all people lose 10 percent percent of their weight or more and keep it off. In a study by the National Weight Control Registry, adults who have lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off for at least one year have done so through restriction of their caloric intake, elimination of high-fat foods, decreasing portion sizes, counting calories, and exercising regularly at varying degrees with walking being the most common exercise.

There was quite a diversity in their meals with no need or requirement of a fad or crash diet for success. Sleep deprivation has negative effects on metabolism because it boosts the hunger hormone ghrelin and decreases the fullness hormone leptin. So get a good night's rest. Always!

The replacement of cooking fats with coconut oil was also a factor. Coconut oil is a medium-chain fat that increases the metabolism more than in long-chain fats such as butter. For people who cook at home often, this can play a significant role in its effect on the metabolism over the years.

"Play the long game; don't sweat daily results."

All it takes is a few simple lifestyle changes, mindful food preparation, and sensible portions to have a truly lasting effect on the part of the human metabolism we can control. Play the long game with your personal health goals. Don't sweat daily incremental results by comparing yourself to bodies on product packaging and have faith in the results of slow and steady progress. That's a much healthier mindset and it only took reading this many words: 1,254.

Rio Rocket is a multi-hyphenate performer in the entertainment industry, graphic artist and branding expert, and high-level health and fitness enthusiast. He currently is in his third year of following a strict intermittent fasting regimen and prepares keto-friendly and slow-carb recipes for all diet types. You can follow him on Instagram.

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