Is Your Sluggish Metabolism Causing Weight Gain?

Originally published 6/4/13, this article has been updated and reposted due to its popularity and importance for Optimum Health.

Do you have a “sluggish” metabolism? If so, it impacts you daily. After all, your metabolism is the driving force for 3 crucial aspects of life:

  1. Energy production from food and/or body fat
  2. Life functions (breathing, heart beating, and digestion)
  3. A strong and healthy body (brain, bones, muscles, and hair)

These 3 functions demand an energy source, i.e. calories! If any one of these 3 aspects of metabolism slows down, negative consequences are inevitable, including weight gain, since calories will sit there, not being used!

Patients typically come to me with chronic, unwanted weight gain. Daily, I problem solve on issues of metabolism, sense of well-being, and body weight. Even a slight decrease in the metabolism rate can cause significant weight gain over time. A 1% reduction in resting metabolism, if eating remains the same, will result in about 13 calories a day of unwanted weight gain. Over 30 years, this is 50 lbs of unwanted body weight! YIKES! (Note: Excess body weight, including fat, blood vessels, and other tissues is 2,800 calories per pound.)

Like my patients, you can position yourself for a healthy metabolism with a simple self-assessment followed by addressing your metabolism health. First, ask if any of the following common findings describe you:

Common Findings with a Sluggish Metabolism:

  1. “Feeling cold.” If you tend to be “cold” when others are warm, you likely are not producing adequate body heat, an indicator of a “slow metabolism”.
  2. “Feeling tired.” If you are more tired than you should be, you likely are not experiencing the energy production that is optimal.
  3. “Weakness.” If your muscles or bones have become weaker over time, it indicates a metabolism problem. Likewise, weak, brittle nails or slow-growing hair indicates a metabolism defect. The same is true of each body organ that is not as strong and healthy as it should be. Multiple causes are possible, including hormone problems, inactivity, and poor nutrition.
  4. “Unwanted weight gain.” If your weight keeps increasing, even though your eating patterns have remained stable, there likely are metabolism changes at work.

Now, if concerns exist, address the following 6 areas…

Common Causes of a Sluggish Metabolism:

  1. Fatigue. This creates a cycle of slow metabolism. Fatigue results in less physical activity and weaker muscle and bones over time, which further slows the metabolism, creating more fatigue. Fatigue is both a cause and a consequence of a slow metabolism! Sleep may be the answer, but many need medical evaluation to determine the cause.
  2. Nutrient deficiencies. These are common to the point of being epidemic. Magnesium, calcium, potassium, vitamin D, iron, fiber, and other crucial nutrients are frequently less than optimal. We MUST get all essential nutrients in optimum amounts for optimum health and metabolism! Nutrient-rich foods and quality nutritional supplements are the solution. (Note: Our Essential Nutrients Package contains our Metabolism Essentials Multi, Omega 3 Essentials, and Cal Mag Essentials. It is designed to give assurance that all essential nutrients are consumed daily.)
  3. Protein deficiency. Protein contains the “building blocks” for life. Amino acids from quality protein are necessary to produce muscle, blood, body organs, and brain chemicals. Common foods are often protein deficient, especially at breakfast, lunch and snack times. Lean protein sources and quality protein-based meal replacements are great solutions.
  4. Aging. This one is inevitable…. or is it? There is new research indicating that optimal nutrient intake (including nutrients in our Essential Nutrient Package), fitness activities, lower calorie diets, and maintaining a lean body are actually able to slow aging at the level of the DNA (known as telomere length). I embrace these strategies. Research has shown there is a 7.5% decrease in physical activity with each decade of aging. Further, resting metabolism decreases by about 150 calories per day with each decade of life. This can mean a total decrease of 200 calories burned per day after 10 years of aging if “nature takes its course”. Our metabolism is slowing over time unless we are being VERY proactive. I say let’s fight aging! Staying active and getting your nutrients and protein are also keys.
  5. Hormone deficiencies. Thyroid and sex hormone deficiencies can slow metabolism directly and also result in less physical and sexual activity, which further impairs metabolism rates. Management of deficiencies, when appropriate, can be very helpful.
  6. Medications. Beta-blocker medications that slow the heart rate are notorious for slowing the metabolism an average of 180 calories per day! Other medications can also cause metabolism issues, including weight gain. If you have concerns, ask your physician if any of your medications may be affecting your metabolism or weight.

There are other causes of a slow metabolism, including sleep deprivation and stress. If you feel your metabolism is sluggish, address each of the above factors systematically. Get a medical and nutritional assessment if you feel your metabolism is impaired and the cause is not an easy fix. Life is too short to have unnecessary limitations on your energy or unwanted weight gain with all its negative consequences. As always, contact us if you need assistance.

Go for Optimum Health! You are worth it!!!

Rick Tague, MD, MPH & TM

Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H. & T.M. is a nutrition & weight loss specialist and the Founder & Medical Director of the Center for Nutrition and Preventive Medicine, P.A.

Dr. Tague is an Alpha Omega Alpha honors graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. He also holds a Masters Degree in Public Health from Tulane. Dr. Tague is board certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Family Medicine. His medical practice has focused on optimum health, nutrition, and weight loss since 1996.