Got Slow Metabolism Issues?
Is a slow metabolism the obstacle between you and your best you? For a lot of women 50 and over, it is. If you too are realizing that you’re doing the same thing and your weight or waistline or both are increasing, and trying to modify what you’re doing isn’t working, then this post is for you.
It doesn’t matter if you think you have always had a slow metabolism or if you feel it suddenly has slowed (because of weight loss, new medications, or hormone fluctuations you haven’t yet figured out how to dance with), revving up a slow metabolism is more than physical.
If you don’t believe that a slow metabolism is temporary, and that you can do something to change it, you’ll struggle to change it. If you believe this is just you, and you keep it as a part of your identity – even defend that this is the way you’ve always been and the way you’ve always done things – you get to keep it. So before you read anything more, realize that you will choose to find fault or a reason to think, “this won’t work for me”if you really are not ready to change. Your current status is somehow working for you if that’s true. Not well, but it’s a form of self-protection you’ve landed on to keep you from doing something else, or being vulnerable somewhere else. That’s not an exercise or nutrition problem. That’s a self- efficacy, and self- esteem challenge you need to overcome before any superficial fitness program will work.
Why Don’t We All Have A Fast Metabolism with So Many Exercise Options?
There are a lot of fitness options out there. There are still a lot of overweight, obese, out of shape people out there. What’s the problem? Should there be such a gap if all these programs are viable ways to get fit?
The problem is, they’re not. They’re not all just items on a menu you can choose, order, eat and be full. You can’t just choose the one you like the best (or hate the least) and use it expecting results. That includes boosting a slow metabolism. Not just any exercise is going to work effectively. Will it increase the calories you use if you’re doing pilates vs. lying on the coach? Yes. But not significantly. Will it increase your lean muscle tissue and decrease your percent body fat? Not significantly. If you’re looking for time efficient lean muscle increases, fat reduction, or both, then weight training is your best option.
But which kind of weight training boosts a slow metabolism best? There are two kinds of weight training to consider and under them more variation than that even. Again, you can’t just decide, hey I prefer body weight, or hey, I love barre classes, and use that as your resistance training and expect the change in lean muscle that effects metabolism that you would if you overloaded the muscles in a complete way. Getting tired or feeling like you worked hard is not the same as reaching fatigue that is oh, so necessary beyond 50 for metabolism boosting (and bone density). You’ve been lead astray if you’ve read that. From couch to light weights or yoga, yes, you’ll make small improvements in bone density. They will stop after a certain point, the same way walking does not improve bone density after you’ve walked regularly for a period of time. It’s not additional stress enough.
So what does work to fix your slow metabolism? Here are the two types of weight training protocols most often used – and confused.
Full Body Exercise Workouts
There are two types of Full Body workouts and you want to be sure you make the distinction between them. The first type can improve movement mechanics by integrating and creating core activation, creating motor learning patterning. These can use muscle within a workout but don’t provide enough load to boost metabolism.
- Combining compound exercisesof upper and lower body in one exercise
- Lighter weight for the smallest muscles you’re working and potentially the speed of the movement
- Often a drill, exercise in a circuit, or against the clock for speed
The second type of full body workouts optimize metabolism by increasing lean muscle tissue (increasing energy expenditure at rest) long term.
- Compound body part exercise
- Heavier (or lighter weight) done to muscle fatigue
This form of exercise breaks down a whole body targeted workout into body parts. To do this you’d focus on specific muscle groups on specific days.
- Allows less time on more days per week (or not)
- Employed body builders, figure competitors
- Requires a very regular commitment to the weight room
- For results of body builders you must do multiple sets of multiple exercises for each body part (the time per day isn’t all that short)
You Still Got It, Girl describes various repetition ranges (to fatigue) for various goals.
- Weight Loss
- Bone Density
- Functional or Performance-Enhancing Fitness
It’s not a one-protocol-fits-all, not even for your midlife goals. Your best protocol may depend on whether you need to gain weight (muscle), lose weight (fat), increase bone density, want to improve your movement mechanics or your golf performance.
It does depend on your status and hormone balance. So if an over 50 athlete is striving to do better at triathlon her strength triathlon specific training protocol should take into consideration her hormone status. She’s more prone to negative effects of stress that might require less volume and more intensity or strategic planning of workouts instead of slogging in more miles (traditional endurance training). The same goes for a woman over 50 who has had breast cancer, and or any women in hormone flux that began in late 40s and ends with death-do-us-part who wants to become her best fitness self.
Choose Your Solution to Slow Metabolism
Your first solution for a slow metabolism won’t necessarily be your last one. Fitness requires progression. The workout you need today isn’t the same one you need in three months or six. In fact, if you were doing the same without progression, reaching fatigue, or variety, you’d regress. The body adapts quickly so there must always be an element of change in the sequence, the timing, or the weight in order to arrive at overload. Yet, random change doesn’t work to advance you the way planned and specific does.
Someone who wants to do a half marathon can’t randomly drop into group fitness classes. A woman who wants to complete a hike to a specific summit can’t just “go for a run.” When you want to do a specific goal better you need a specific plan for that goal, including weight loss, which ultimately is fat loss combined with lean mass gain or maintenance.
A woman with cortisol elevation causing ghrelin and leptin issues can’t do the same 5:30 pm bootcamp her best friend thrives in. What about Beach Body or P90x? They’re purchasedby millions, should they work for you? I’ll let you answer that for yourself. Do you hear constantly that someone you know is using them and at their best weight and energy level thanks to one of them? I never do. I often hear, I used to do that, until …or, I’m a coach! (from someone with no previous fitness education or certification).
Finding the right program you can do forever is like finding a lifestyle pattern of eating you do that makes you happy, healthy, and full of life. It’s not hard to follow and it makes you feel better not tired. You look forward to it, to the way it feels during and after. Sure, some parts of it may be challenging, the chef doesn’t come over and some of the exercises take effort that may cause sweating and breathlessness (if you don’t like that) but it’s worth the small extra effort it takes to make a new pattern of doing something a habit.
Your Current Status and Need
- Corrective movement
- Movement patterning
- Health-specific goals
- Weight loss
Your Exercise Goals
- Better movement (pain-free or performance)
- Bone Density
- Time efficiency
Your slow metabolism solutions will change as your status does. If you’ve currently got an injury or you’re participating in some seasonal activity that will change what you choose. If you’re schedule and time demand changes that will change what you do.
Getting a Target
The opposite of a random “exercise” program is one with purpose. Athletes don’t exercise they train.You should too. Train with a purpose every time you exercise. Sometimes that is for recovery and or relaxation. If the purpose is metabolism, then whatever weight load option suits your needs, it must take you to fatigue.
Heavy weights may not be the answer for you – now or ever. You can increase speed (use power), you can emphasize the eccentric (lowering) contraction, and you can slow the speed overall to reach overload with lighter weights so that you don’t have to do dozens and dozens of repetitions.
Heavy weight training and power weight training have the greatest influence on excess post oxygen consumption (EPOC). That is the energy it takes to bring your body back to it’s pre-exercise state. The higher EPOC the more influence on metabolism. As long as you reach fatigue, however, even with light weights, you will be enhancing this EPOC.
In order to put purpose in your exercise sessions you first:
- Match your needs to a protocol
- Match your goals to a protocol
- Fit your schedule (and life demands)
Compound exercises: use multiple joints and therefor multiple muscles in the same exercise. Squats, lunges, chest press, and rows are compound exercises, bicep curls, triceps kickbacks, and lateral raises are not.
Power: strength + speed, despite popular information that supports super slow, in general research supports using powerful movements as quickly as possible without loss of control boosts energy expenditure and “cost” of exercise more.
Eccentric: the contraction that occurs when you lower a weight, you’re going with gravity but you want this to be under control. Not controlling it, such that you are swinging and allowing momentum to occur both reduces the benefit of exercise and increases risk of injury
EPOC: excess post oxygen consumption is what you’re really hoping for with the right exercise. That is, if your body has worked hard during exercise, it has to “payback” and work hard to bring you back to a pre-exercise state. It requires energy, sometimes up to 24-38 hours of excess energy is spent after a vigorous exercise session to return you to normal
Recovery: This piece can’t be skipped. If you’ve deduced that boosting your caloric expenditure for 24-38 hours after exercise every day would be good, you’re incorrect. You have to recover between or all of the good is washed away.
Protocol: the sequence of exercises and the way they are repeated is the protocol. Circuit Training, Paired Supersets, and Tri-sets are among the biggest metabolic boosters.
Major muscles: Includes 8-10 muscle groups, often stimulated best by compound leg exercises, compound push and pull exercises for upper body. The metabolic benefit of exercise comes from working largest muscles in the body first and foremost. If you’re short on time and want sleeveless-worthy arms, choose squats, lunges, chest press and rows over those arm exercises. What? Yes. You’ve got to boost metabolism if you want to uncover pretty muscles. If you don’t boost your metabolism, and don’t burn fat to see tone you won’t see those pretty arm muscles. Indirectly you are working those arms. They play a supporting role in every upper body exercise. Seen a swimmer? They don’t spend time doing biceps and triceps. Don’t swim? Try boxing for 8 weeks and you’ll love your arms (and your core and reduce your stress level!)
Schuenke MD, Mikat RP, McBride JM. Effect of an acute period of resistance exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption: implications for body mass management. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2002 Mar;86(5):411-7.
Baker D and Newton RU. (2005). Acute Effect on Power Output of Alternating an Agonist and Antagonist Muscle Exercise During Complex Training. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 19(1), 202-205
Hunter, GR, Seelhorst, D, and Snyder, S. Comparison of metabolic and heart rate responses to super slow vs. traditional resistance training. J Strength Cond Res 17: 76-81, 2003.
Da Silva RL, Brentano MA, Kruel LF. Effects of different strength training methods on postexercise energetic expenditure. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Aug;24(8):2255-60.
Hot, Not Bothered, Atkinson, Debra. 2017
You Still Got It, Girl, Atkinson, Debra 2015