Is the menopause the reason for your slowed metabolism?

Has the Menopause slowed down your metabolism?

Does the menopause affect your metabolism?  It certainly seems so if you talk to the multitude of ladies who say they suddenly started to gain weight and just couldn’t shift it once they hit the menopause.

And it’s not just weight gain either.  You might feel tired or cold.  Your digestion might seem a bit more “sluggish”.  Your mood might not be as bright as it used to be.

You may be convinced that it’s all down to the menopause but it could be due to a slow metabolism and there’s more than just the menopause that affects your metabolism.

Why does this happen?  Why do metabolic rates slow down?

What can slow my metabolism?

Metabolism includes all of the biochemical reactions in your body that use nutrients and oxygen to create energy.  And there are lots of factors that affect how quickly (or slowly) it works, i.e. your “metabolic rate” (which is measured in calories).

We know that metabolic rate is much more complicated than the old adage “calories in calories out”!  In fact, here are a few of the common things that can slow it down.

Examples of common reasons why metabolic rates can slow down:

  • low thyroid hormone
  • your history of dieting
  • your size and body composition
  • your activity level
  • lack of sleep

We’ll briefly touch on each one below and I promise to give you better advice than just to “eat less and exercise more”.

Low thyroid hormones

Your thyroid is the master controller of your metabolism.  When it produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down.  The thyroid hormones (T3 & T4) tell the cells in your body when to use more energy and become more metabolically active.   Ideally it should work to keep your metabolism just right.  But there are several things that can affect it and throw it off course.  Things like autoimmune diseases and mineral deficiencies (e.g. iodine or selenium) for example.

Tip: If you’re concerned have a chat with your doctor about having your thyroid hormones tested.

Your history of dieting

When people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down.  This is because the body senses that food may be scarce and adapts by trying to continue with all the necessary life functions and do it all with less food.

While dieting can lead to a reduction in amount of fat it unfortunately can also lead to a reduction in the amount of muscle you have.  As you know more muscle means faster resting metabolic rate.

Tip: Make sure you’re eating enough food to fuel your body without overdoing it.  Eating slowly allows you to eat intuitively and will make you less likely to overeat.

Your size and body composition

In general, larger people have faster metabolic rates.  This is because it takes more energy to fuel a larger body than a smaller one.

However, you already know that gaining weight is rarely the best strategy for increasing your metabolism.

Muscles that actively move and do work need energy.  Even muscles at rest burn more calories than fat.  This means that the amount of energy your body uses depends partly on the amount of lean muscle mass you have.

Tip: Do some strength training to help increase your muscle mass.

Which leads us to…

Your activity level

Aerobic exercise will temporarily increase your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move and do “work” and you can tell because you’ll start to get warmer.

Even little things can add up.  Walking a bit farther than you usually do, using a standing desk instead of sitting all day, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can all contribute to more activity in your day.

As well as burning calories these activities are important for your general health.

The biggest bang for your buck though is to make sure you do some resistance training at least twice a week.  This maintains your lean tissue which is metabolically active, meaning it burns calories even at rest.  Also, strength training raises your metabolic rate for up to 24 hours.  Win win.

Tip:  Incorporate regular movement into your day and strength train at least twice a week.

Lack of sleep

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate or looking at it another way, the effect of lack of sleep!  The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Tip: Try to create a routine that allows at least 7 hours of sleep every night.

So you can see how complicated metabolism is and how the factors that affect it are also often affected by the menopause.  Many of things that affect the speed of your metabolism will also influence the symptoms you experience going through menopause.