Metabolism is a huge topic in the world of fitness and nutrition. There are countless videos and articles online that give tips on how to increase metabolism so you can shed fat and lose weight effectively. That said, despite this topic being covered quite extensively, you will be hard pressed to find anyone giving tips to slow down metabolism. People with a naturally fast metabolic rate can find it quite frustrating to try and add weight or build any kind of significant muscle mass as their bodies burn through energy stores very fast. If you’d like to finally figure out how to slow your metabolism down, to gain weight and muscle, then this article is for you. In this article we will be outlining foods that can help you gain weight, as well as the activities which potentially could reduce how fast your metabolic rate goes, and much more.
What Is Metabolism?
An article by the National Library of Medicine describes metabolism as the whole sum of reactions which occur throughout the body within each cell and that provide the body with energy. This energy provided is essential for everything we do including movement, reproduction, growth and development, etc (10).
In simpler terms, metabolism is a summation of all chemical processes in the body that allow an organism – including human beings – to sustain life. In this internal process, the body expends energy and burns calories in order to keep you alive. This internal process never stops running, for it is essential to processes such as blood circulation, breathing, controlling your body temperature, cell repair, waste elimination, ensuring your brain and nerves function – basically everything need to keep you alive.
Read More: Metabolic Type: How To Find Out Yours?
What Causes Metabolism To Slow Down? Factors Influencing The Speed Of Your Metabolic Rate
Every human being has functioning metabolism- after all, we cannot survive without one. However, not every metabolism works at the same rate. Some people, especially those who are naturally thin (and in some cases underweight) often have fast metabolism, while for others it is low or slow.
Natural factors that influence how fast or slow your basal metabolic rate – the number of calories you burn as your body performs basic (basal) life-sustaining functions – include:
- Age – A study looking at how metabolism works throughout the course of human life found that babies (up to a year) have very fast metabolism.
This metabolic rate starts to decline from age 1 to 20 years old, where it remains steady till we get to about 60 years old. After 60, our metabolism starts to decrease again (2).
- Sex – A review published in 2020 found that women have a metabolic rate that is about 5 to 10 percent slower than their male counterparts.
The researchers theorized that this is mainly due to body composition, i.e. women tend to have less muscle than men and usually carry about 10 percent more body fat (6).
- Diet – Other than basal metabolic rate (BMR), we also have a resting metabolic rate (RMR). The RMR refers to the amount of calories your body burns while at rest. Think of it as your BMR plus other low effort tasks, like going to the bathroom, yawning, etc.
A review published in 1990 stated that in terms of diet, eating more food appears to increase resting metabolic rate while eating very little (e.g consuming very low calorie diets) and fasting leads to a decrease in your resting metabolic rate (5).
- Exercise – Working out more will help increase your metabolic rate while, reducing the amount of exercise done or not working out at all will reduce it.
- Sleep – Like diet, sleep is a factor on how well your body functions. In a study published in 2016, researchers found that sleep deprived participants had a slower resting metabolic rate, compared to well rested participants.
The researchers also found that going back to a regular sleep schedule helped the metabolism of the previously sleep deprived participants increase and go back to normal (13).
- Thyroid Issues – The thyroid is a vital hormonal gland that has a huge role to play in your metabolism as well as growth and development. If this gland is not working well – i.e it’s over or underactive, it will cause a hormonal imbalance that affects how fast or slow your metabolism is (4, 16).
- Injury Or Disease – A study published in the Turkish Journal of Surgery stated that when the body is suffering from a disease or trauma caused by injury, it increases its metabolism by 20 to 25 percent. Researchers also found that after surgery and during the healing process, the metabolic rate also goes up by 15 to 30 percent (11).
From the list above, we can see that there are a number of things which can slow your metabolism down. Things as simple as how much sleep you get at night, what you eat, how much exercise you do, and even the state of your overall health can reduce your metabolic rate, although we wouldn’t suggest depriving yourself of sleep or starving yourself if you are trying to gain weight.
When it comes to weight loss, progress is made by inches, not miles, so it’s much harder to track and a lot easier to give up. BetterMe app is your personal trainer, nutritionist and support system all in one. Start using our app to stay on track and hold yourself accountable!
How Do I Slow Down My Metabolism To Gain Weight?
For many people, a fast metabolic rate is a great thing. It helps them lose weight and/or maintain a healthy weight. However, if it’s too fast, some people end up being too thin and underweight, which is not healthy.
If you are in the later group, the question of how to slow your metabolism down to gain weight is certainly one that you have struggled finding answers to. Here are some tips on how to naturally slow down your metabolism without risking your health
- Eat more – Eating less is not the answer to a slower metabolic rate, especially if you are trying to gain weight. While eating more can increase your resting metabolic rate, eating an excessive amount of calories – more than your body needs and burns thus creating a calorie surplus – will lead to weight gain.
To do this, get a calorie calculator and input what you eat for about a week. This will show you what your mean daily calorie intake usually is. From here try adding 300 to 500 calories to this number. Eat this number for a week or two and then try adding another 300 to 500 calories more. Including more healthy fats in your diet can help you increase your calorie intake.
- Add more carbohydrates to your diet – When it comes to weight loss and a faster metabolism, then protein is your best friend. However, if you are looking to slow your metabolism down and gain weight, then reducing your protein intake and increasing carbohydrates intake is your best bet.
Findings from a randomized controlled trial published in 2018 found that eating a low carbohydrate diet leads to increased energy expenditure compared to eating a moderate or high carbohydrate diet (3). Increased energy expenditure means your metabolism is working fast which may lead to weight loss – and a harder time gaining weight.
- Exercise less – We do not mean to lead a completely sedentary lifestyle. While a sedentary lifestyle is one of the most common factors of weight gain, it can also segway into a slew of health issues like heart disease, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and more (9).
If you workout, try doing fewer high impact workouts. High impact workouts burn calories very fast in the moment and long after you’re done working out – as they keep the metabolism high. This is great for weight loss but terrible for weight gain. Low impact exercises will still affect the metabolic rate, but not as much as high impact exercises.
- Build muscle – Weight gain doesn’t always have to come from fat. It can come from increased muscle mass. Switch from cardio workouts to more strength training exercises as they are better for muscle gain
A point to remember is that unlike cardio which burns a lot of calories in the moment, strength building tends to continue to burn calories long after your workout is done. Counter this by eating in a calorie surplus.
- Reduce caffeine intake – Over the years, studies have shown that caffeine can increase your resting metabolic rate by 3 to around 11 percent, depending on the quantities you take(1, 8). While this is great for fat and weight loss, it doesn’t work quite as well for the opposite. Opt for decaf the next time you make your coffee order.
How Long Does It Take Your Metabolism To Slow Down?
As previously stated, your metabolism naturally slows down from age 1 to 20. From 20 to 60 it remains steady and then starts to naturally decline after 60 years. However, if you are actively trying to slow down your metabolism there isn’t a specific amount of time that you should wait to see results. Just practice patience and consistency.
Can Intermittent Fasting Slow Down Metabolism?
No it does not.
While long term fasting will certainly cause a drop in metabolism (7), the multiple findings over the years on short term fasting have shown that it tends to increase your metabolic rate (12, 14, 15).
What Foods Slow Down Your Metabolism?
Junk foods and high sugar foods will certainly help slow down metabolism. However, they are not good for your body and health in the long run. It’s best to safely reduce your metabolic rate by increasing your carbohydrate intake.
Be sure to eat healthy complex carbs and ignore refined carbs. Examples of healthy carbs include vegetables, quinoa, farro, barley, legumes and lentils, sweet potatoes, whole grains, brown, wild or black rice and oats.
Want to build an attention-grabbing bubble butt, blast away fat that’s stored in all the wrong places, spring-clean your diet, turn back the clock on your skin, skyrocket your self-confidence and shatter your insecurities? Check out the BetterMe app and set this plan in motion!
The Bottom Line
Like with weight loss, slowing down your metabolism is highly dependent on activities we do on a daily basis. While slowing down your metabolism through unhealthy means is tempting, we encourage you to try healthy methods of doing this, gaining healthy weight the natural way. Eat more healthy carbohydrates, exercise using lower impact workouts and more weight, and eat on a caloric surplus. It will take time, but it will be worth it in the end.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Comparison of changes in energy expenditure and body temperatures after caffeine consumption (1995, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Daily energy expenditure through the human life course (2021, science.org)
- Effects of a low carbohydrate diet on energy expenditure during weight loss maintenance: randomized trial (2018, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- How does the thyroid gland work? (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Impact of energy intake and exercise on resting metabolic rate (1990, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Impact of sex and age on metabolism, sympathetic activity, and hypertension (2020, faseb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Metabolic adaptation to caloric restriction and subsequent refeeding: the Minnesota Starvation Experiment revisited (2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Normal caffeine consumption: influence on thermogenesis and daily energy expenditure in lean and postobese human volunteers (1989, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Physical inactivity a leading cause of disease and disability, warns WHO (2002, who.int)
- Physiology, Metabolism (2022, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Response to trauma and metabolic changes: posttraumatic metabolism (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Resting energy expenditure in short-term starvation is increased as a result of an increase in serum norepinephrine (2000, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Resting metabolic rate varies by race and by sleep duration (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The cardiovascular, metabolic and hormonal changes accompanying acute starvation in men and women (1994, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The effect of starvation on insulin-induced glucose disposal and thermogenesis in humans (1990, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Thyroid Hormone Regulation of Metabolism (2014, journals.physiology.org)