What is Metabolism? There’s a lot of talk about metabolism in the world if diet, fitness and health. What is metabolism, exactly? More to the point, what’s a slow metabolism? And how do you know if you have one?

In short: metabolism describes any chemical reactions in the body dedicated to growing your cells and keeping them alive. Metabolism isn’t just about your weight and it isn’t just about energy. It’s about maintaining your general health – keeping you alive rather than declining.

That’s why, even if you’re at a reasonable weight, maintaining a healthy metabolism is essential to your overall health.

How Do You Know When You Have a Slow Metabolism?

You may have heard of or have been told you have a “slow metabolism.” Only your doctor can tell you for sure. But if your metabolism is running slowly or inefficiently, you may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Weight gain, or inability to lose weight with moderate dietary changes and exercise
  • Fatigue, sluggishness
  • Digestive issues; slow, sluggish digestion, constipation
  • Frequent heartburn
  • Low blood oxygen levels (metabolism controls respiration as well)
  • A generally weak feeling
  • Pale skin
  • Weak, poor-growing hair and fingernails

What Contributes to a Slow Metabolism?

Many things can affect your metabolic rate negatively, including:

  • Your age
  • Your sex (women are more likely to have slower metabolisms than men due to overall lower muscle mass)
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Metabolic and/or hormonal issues such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or thyroid disease
  • A high fat intake
  • A high meat intake (meat itself is not “bad,” but it digests very slowly and can turn things sluggish within your body)
  • Too little lean body tissue/muscle mass v. body fat
  • Some over-the-counter medications
  • Some prescription medications

How Can I Increase a Slow Metabolism?

Get on your feet. Even half an hour of light exercise a day can boost your metabolism for hours.Drink more water. You need water in order to keep up a healthy system in general, including your metabolism. And your cells need plenty of water to function.

Check out “natural fat burners. ” Certain foods and herbs are known to help boost metabolism. These include bitter orange extract, cayenne (capsicum), ginger root, and caffeine. Go light on dairy. For some people, the lactose (natural sugar) in dairy products can have a negative impact on the metabolism.

Eat poultry and fish rather than red meat, and make it as lean as possible. The more fatty the meat, the slower it will digest in your body.

Ask your doctor for a full metabolic blood workup. Make sure it includes a thyroid panel.

Make sure you’re eating enough. Eating way too little can actually decrease your metabolism.

Eat small, frequent meals. Large meals will slow you down as your body turns its resources toward digestion. It also causes a bigger dump of insulin into your system to combat the carbs and calories. Eat lighter but don’t skimp on calories. (Here’s a basic calculator for determining what your caloric needs are.)

Increase muscle mass. Start a workout routine of light weights. There’s no need to bulk up (in fact, for women, it’s relatively hard to actually get bulky on a mild to moderate weight resistance routine). Just aim to increase your percentage of lean muscle mass. Muscle requires more energy than fat and will keep your metabolism revving.

If you have depression, treat it. Nobody knows so far exactly what the mechanism is, but sometimes, depression and a low metabolic rate go hand-in-hand. For now, it’s a chicken-or-egg question. In addition to this physiological response, depression may keep you from getting up and moving around, which will only make a slow metabolism problem worse. See your doctor or therapist to find out what you can do.

A slow/inefficient metabolism is a real medical issue that can impact your health and your life. Don’t sit there and suffer — it’s time to take your life, and your health, into your own hands.

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