Metabolism is the process of converting food into energy. The rate at which our body stores and utilizes energy is determined by several factors, including our genes, age, body size, sex, and health status. While some of those factors cannot be changed (like our genes), we can affect some factors like weight gain. Indeed, most of us only start to think about our metabolic rate when we notice changes in our waistline. Yet, boosting your metabolic rate for weight loss can be particularly challenging, especially for people with a condition like hypothyroidism.
The thyroid is the metabolic powerhouse of the body. Along with regulating metabolism, this small but mighty gland is also responsible for growth and development and regulates several vital body functions. Thyroid hormones are necessary to fuel all of these body processes. When the thyroid cannot make enough thyroid hormone to support the body, we enter a hypothyroid state, causing our metabolism can slow.
People with hypothyroidism struggle with symptoms related to a slowed metabolism, including weight gain, low energy, constipation, dry skin, and a slowed heart rate. Fortunately, there are ways to give your metabolism a boost, even when you have an underactive thyroid.
5 tips to boost your metabolism with hypothyroidism
Tip #1 Take thyroid medication
For many, the root cause of a slowed metabolism is an underactive thyroid. Hypothyroidism is not curable, but it is treatable, and proper management can return people to a euthyroid state. People with hypothyroidism must be on thyroid hormone replacement medication for the rest of their life.
Thyroid medication helps restore your regular metabolic rate and resolves many frustrating symptoms, including weight gain. It is essential to note that hypothyroidism rarely is the cause of excessive weight gain, though it can be responsible for about 5-10 pounds of excess weight. Typically, this weight is an excess accumulation of salt and water in your body instead of an increase in adipose (or fatty) tissue. Most people will find they can lose some weight once their thyroid stabilizes.
Taking the correct dose of thyroid hormone is crucial for returning your thyroid levels to a healthy state. In the past, people have increased their thyroid medication doses beyond their body’s requirements to help with weight loss. However, too much medication can put you in a hyperthyroid state, leading to severe complications like bone and muscle protein loss and even heart problems. While too much medication can result in weight loss, people usually regain the weight once they return to their correct medication dose.
Thus, if you have symptoms of slow metabolism, it is essential to check your thyroid hormone levels with a complete thyroid panel and work with an endocrinologist to determine a thyroid treatment plan accordingly.
Tip #2 Avoid crash diets and skipping meals
Diet is one of the key ways we can control weight. After all, metabolism is determined by how the body converts our food into energy. Therefore, what we eat has a significant effect on how energy is utilized and stored. Yet, many weight-loss diets encourage severely restricting portion sizes or even skipping meals, which can put the body into starvation mode.
Starvation forces your metabolic rate to slow because it requires you to conserve as much energy as possible. Therefore, skipping meals or eating an insufficient number of calories can have the opposite effect on your weight loss goals.
Using your diet is crucial in managing weight loss. It is essential to eat enough calories and get the nutrients you need to support a healthy body. Talk with your doctor or a thyroid nutritionist about tailoring a meal plan to your specific needs.
Tip #3 Drink plenty of water
Water is vital for the body to function, and hydration may influence our metabolic rate as well. One study found that increasing your water intake can boost your metabolic rate by 30% because it has a thermogenic effect (meaning it produces heat). Additionally, some studies find that increasing your water intake may decrease your food intake, which can help deliver weight loss results with hypothyroidism.
Tip #4 Intensify your exercise regime
Exercise is one of the best ways we can directly boost our metabolic rate. When we increase the physical demands on the body, our metabolic rate has no choice but to speed up to burn more calories and deliver more oxygen and nutrients to our muscles. The more effort and energy you exert, the more significant the boost in metabolism you can expect.
Strength training and cardio workouts are equally crucial for boosting your metabolism, so make sure your workout plan includes both types of exercises.
Examples of strength training include:
- Weight lifting
- Resistance-band training
- Hill or stair climbing
Examples of cardio exercises include:
- Jogging or running
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts are a great combination of both strength and cardio exercise for hypothyroid patients that not only boosts your metabolic rate but helps you burn fat.
Tip #5 Get more quality sleep
A century ago, most people slept for about nine hours each night. According to the Sleep Foundation, American adults now sleep seven hours each night on average, which is the recommended amount of rest for adults. Yet, most adults claim their sleep quality is poor, and many people struggle with fatigue throughout the day.
Not getting enough sleep can adversely affect your metabolism. Studies find that too little sleep also results in a significant risk for obesity and insulin resistance. If you find you are tired throughout the day or frequently take naps (or wish you could), you may not be getting enough rest to meet your body’s needs. Disconnecting from our busy world is challenging. Still, shutting off your devices and hitting the pillow earlier may significantly impact your metabolic rate, thyroid health, and overall well-being.