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Are You Obese Because of Slow Metabolism?

Expertly reviewed by Chris Icamen · Dietetics and Nutrition

Written by Tracey Romero · Updated Mar 09, 2022

Are You Obese Because of Slow Metabolism?

People process food differently. Sometimes, people on strict diets barely lose any weight while others eat junk food every day and hardly gain a single pound. There are many factors that come into play such as genetics and lifestyle. But could a fast or slow metabolism play a role, as many believe?

What Is Metabolism?

Metabolism is the process in which your body turns the food you consume into energy that you need to function. Even when it looks like you’re not doing anything to spend energy, your body is constantly burning calories for involuntary functions like breathing, blood circulation, cell repair, and growth. This means that you are burning calories even outside your gym sessions!

The energy that your body uses for these basic, involuntary functions is called the basal metabolic rate. Several factors affect how fast or slow metabolism is, and oftentimes, people refer to the basal metabolic rate when they talk about “fast” or “slow” metabolism. These factors are age, body size and composition, genetics, and sex.

Is Slow Metabolism To Blame for Obesity?

Metabolism is likely not to blame for obesity. A metabolism slow enough to pose any serious health risks is rare. And oftentimes, being overweight or obese is a result of interaction between diet and lifestyle. 

There are other more likely factors that contribute to obesity than slow metabolism. Some of these are a caloric surplus, certain medications, genetics, a lack of physical activity, poor sleep and other unhealthy habits. Even engaging in crash diets with harsh calorie restrictions that break down muscle mass can be a factor.

slow metabolism

Can Metabolism Be Sped Up?

Metabolism is largely out of an individual’s control. But since body composition is one of the things that affects it, building considerably more muscle mass will have you burning more calories. This is actually why some people have a “fast” metabolism versus a slow metabolism. Their bodies simply have more muscle than fat, regardless of whether this is from genetics or their lifestyle. People with a slow metabolism are the opposite. 

Muscles burn more energy than fat, elevating the caloric intake you need. This makes it easier to achieve a deficit of calories instead of a surplus.

There’s very weak proof that food like black coffee, energy drinks, green tea, and spices speed up your metabolism. However, it can be far simpler to reduce the  calories you consume (eat less) and increase the time you dedicate to burning calories (exercise more).

It’s important to note that metabolic rate slows as you age. So even if you’ve been eating the same amount of food since you were young, there might be a point in the future that your metabolic rate slows down enough to cause weight gain without eating any extra food.

Effective Ways of Burning Calories and Managing Obesity

There are many effective ways of burning calories. These include the experts’ recommendation of:

  • 150 minutes of aerobic activity or cardiovascular exercise a week
  • Strength training 2 or more days a week
  • Making fitness a part of your daily routine by opting to bike or walk to places and take the stairs instead of the lift
  • There are other ways of managing obesity, like determining your metabolic rate and ideal caloric intake with the help of a healthcare professional like a nutritionist. 

    It’s also a good idea to get your calories from healthy food and lean protein that will help you build muscle mass. At the same time, you should keep away from saturated fat, simple carbohydrates, and refined or processed sugars. 

    Space your calories out over the duration of a day by having smaller, more frequent meals interspersed between healthy snacks. This way your body consumes more energy. 

    Finally, make sure not to starve or dehydrate yourself because that could turn out to be counterproductive to your weight control journey.

    Key Takeaway

    Having a fast or slow metabolism may be out of our hands but making lifestyle choices that encourage a healthy lifestyle is definitely in our control. Try and find a support system or workout buddies to help you in your journey and make sure to build healthy habits not just with eating but with self-care and sleep as well.

    Learn more about Obesity here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Expertly reviewed by

    Chris Icamen

    Dietetics and Nutrition

    Written by Tracey Romero · Updated Mar 09, 2022

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