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16 Slow Metabolism Symptoms & What to do About Them

by Jessica Hegg April 19, 2017 0 Comments

woman on a brisk walk

Your metabolism is responsible for regulating functions such as body temperature, energy level, and how easily we gain and lose weight. All of which makes a big difference in overall feelings of well-being. Slow metabolism symptoms tend to kick in as we age, but some lifestyle habits and underlying medical conditions can also decrease metabolic rates.

Symptoms of a Slow Metabolism

Concerned that your metabolism isn’t keeping up? Watch for these 16 common slow metabolism symptoms.

1. Weight Gain

Metabolism is the process through which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. While your food intake and physical exercise are the biggest determiners of your weight, a slowed metabolism can contribute to weight gain. When your body slows your calorie conversion, you burn fewer calories from the same amount of food in a day. As a result, your body ends up storing more fat.

Track your weight and body fat with the right digital scale.

2. Lethargy & Chronic Fatigue 

Can’t shake that feeling of being tired and worn out? If your metabolism is lagging, your energy levels will be diminished as well. Some medical ailments like a reduction in your red blood cell count can cause both fatigue and accompanying metabolic slowdown.

3. Difficulty Losing Weight

In addition to causing weight gain, a slow metabolism can also make it harder to lose the weight you already have. Even with proper diet and exercise, it will take you longer to shed pounds compared to the average person.

4. Dry, Cracked Skin

The same hormones that keep your skin and nails healthy are the ones that control your metabolic processes. An imbalance in one can be seen in the other. Dry, itchy, oily skin accompanied by discoloration, paleness, or acne can be signs of reduced metabolic rate.

Find some tips for maintaining healthy skin here.

5. Hair Loss

Along with your skin and nails, your hair is constantly regenerating. If your slowed metabolism is affecting your body’s nutrient intake, your hair won’t have the supply it needs to stay strong, vibrant, and healthy. Hair loss or simply a change in texture can be a sign of a slowed metabolism.

6. Feeling Cold

Feeling cold regularly is a symptom of hypothyroidism, which is one of the main causes of a slow metabolism. Body heat is generated by metabolic activity, and a decrease in activity inevitably leads to a decrease in core body temperature. If you find yourself reaching for your heated blanket more often, it may be due to a slow metabolism.

7. Sickness or Weakness

Your body’s natural protection against foreign bacteria and viruses requires a healthy immune system. If your food-to-nutrient conversion is slacking, your body is more vulnerable to getting sick. Fluid build-up around joints and muscles as a result of a slowed metabolism can also cause stiffness, weakness, and even pain.

8. Sugar Cravings

In addition to regulating when stored fat is converted into energy, your adrenal glands keep your metabolism functioning properly. If your adrenal glands are unbalanced and you find yourself craving sugar to make up for lack of energy, it may be an indicator that your metabolism is affected as well.

9. Difficulty Concentrating

Your brain relies on the nutrients your body absorbs from food. If a sluggish metabolism is causing this nutrient-to-energy conversion to impede your normal brain function, concentration and alertness will also lag.

10. Headaches

Tension headaches and migraines can be associated with an underactive thyroid. In addition, an unhealthy fluctuation in the levels of the stress hormone cortisol causes a metabolic imbalance and has also been shown to trigger migraines.

11. Brittle Nails

In the same way, as a slowed metabolism affects skin and hair, it can also impact the health of your nails. Slow metabolism leads to a lower nutrient absorption rate, making your nails more brittle. 

12. Menstrual Problems

The thyroid is involved in many of the body’s functions and processes, including those linked with reproductive organs. If the thyroid isn’t producing reproductive hormones normally, menstrual problems may result. These can include cramping or an irregular cycle.

13. Depression

A slow metabolism can have wide-ranging effects on your body, and that includes mental processes. In addition to slowing cognition and impairing memory, it may also make you depressed.

14. Slow Pulse

Pulse rate is proportional to the speed of your metabolism, as the efficiency of your circulatory system affects the distribution of hormones throughout the body. However, keep in mind that a fast or slow pulse can be affected by a wide range of factors.

Keep track of your pulse with a convenient and portable pulse oximeter.

15. Decreased Sex Drive

Because of the close link between metabolism and hormone production, a slow metabolism can reduce levels of sex hormones. This will make it more difficult to experience sexual arousal.

16. Constipation

A slow metabolism can have a drastic impact on digestion, making food take longer to travel through your digestive system. If you’re having trouble in the restroom, it may be because of constipation caused by a slow metabolism.

    This list is not comprehensive, and some symptoms could also be indicative of other health problems. Always discuss symptoms with your doctor.

    What Causes Slow Metabolism Symptoms?

    Some things are out of our control when it comes to metabolism. Genetics, age, and sex all play a role in how efficiently our bodies use energy and maintain weight. Many think those who are obese have a slow metabolism, but that isn’t always true. There are many other factors involved in regulating metabolism.

    Your Thyroid

    Your thyroid is a gland in your neck that secretes hormones that regulate your metabolic rate. It’s also the defining factor in how efficiently your metabolism will function.

    Your thyroid helps to maintain healthy skin, hair, and nails. If your skin is dry and cracked, especially on or around your heels, this is a possible indicator that your thyroid is not functioning effectively.

    Hormone Production

    This goes hand and hand with thyroid health. Hormone levels and rate of production also play a significant role in the functioning of your metabolism.  

    Watch for these signs of a possible hormone imbalance:

    • Gender - Women will typically lose hair at the crown of the head and menstrual cycles may become irregular
    • Ongoing fatigue or low energy
    • Depression or feelings of anxiety
    • Weakened immune system

    Cortisol, our main stress hormone, plays a big role in our metabolism. Learn more about managing your body’s cortisol levels here.

    Insulin Levels

    Insulin is a hormone that affects your cells' sugar absorption rates. Those who have diabetes aren’t able to maintain insulin levels, which increases the overall amount of sugar in your circulatory system. This can cause a range of different effects, including lethargy, excess fat storage, and a slowed metabolism.


      Senior walking with cane support Adding brisk walks to your daily routine is an easy way to increase heart rate and improve metabolism. Need extra support? See our walking stick here.

      You may be causing slow metabolism symptoms without even realizing it.  Healthy daily habits are crucial for your metabolism.  Check to make sure you are unintentionally slowing your metabolism by any of these habits:

      • Significantly Reducing Calories

        Lower caloric intake reduces your metabolism as it forces your body to conserve calories rather than burn them. By eating less than your body requires, you’re unintentionally training your metabolism to slow down as it believes it’s preparing for starvation.

      • Skipping Breakfast

        Your metabolism slows while you sleep, so if you start your day without eating, your metabolism continues at a lower rate. Begin your day with a healthy breakfast and plan balanced meals throughout your day. Infrequent and unhealthy meals result in unstable blood sugar levels and floundering energy levels.

      • Inadequate Rest

        When you’re exhausted from stress and lack of sleep, your body has trouble completing its daily functions. Fatigue causes your metabolism to function at a lower rate.

        Ways to Improve and Lower Cortisol Levels

      • Low Water Intake

        Staying hydrated and drinking enough water will increase your metabolism. Dehydration causes your body temperature to drop, and your body will want to store fat to increase your body temperature. Thus decreasing your metabolic rate.

        The Benefits of Drinking Water

      Underlying Health Conditions

      While metabolism naturally slows as you age, there may also be underlying conditions that play a role too. If necessary, your doctor can order blood tests to rule out some of the potential underlying causes of an unbalanced metabolism listed below.

      • Hypothyroidism

        Underactive thyroid. Women over 60 are more likely to have hypothyroidism.

      • Cushing Syndrome

        A disorder of the adrenal glands, small glands located on the top of each kidney which results in high levels of the hormone cortisol. A few other symptoms include excessive body hair, irregular menstrual periods, purple stretch marks, and wounds healing slowly.

      • Hashimoto’s Disease

        An autoimmune disorder that attacks your thyroid and can cause hypothyroidism, which can lower metabolism. It primarily affects middle-aged women but can occur in men.

      Metabolic Testing

      If the signs or causes listed above sound familiar to you, it may be worth seriously considering whether you suffer from a slow metabolism. Before trying a specific treatment, it can be helpful to gain a more clear idea of your metabolic health.

      Metabolic testing allows you to get a full picture of your metabolism, measuring how your body burns calories, uses energy and converts oxygen. This is taken alongside factors like gender, age, diet, and activity level. There are different kinds of metabolic testing, each of which focuses on a different metric.

      • The VO2 Max test measures precise heart rate levels during cardiovascular exercise.
      • The Lactate Threshold test determines when your body supplies oxygen during athletic activities.
      • The Resting Metabolic test focuses on your metabolism when your body is at rest.

      To get started on these and other metabolism tests, talk to your doctor for more information.

      How to Fix a Slow Metabolism

      Fruits and vegetables

      Increasing intake of healthier foods (such as fruits & vegetables) helps to speed up slow metabolism ( Image Reference ).

      Don't waste any more time suffering from uncomfortable, slow metabolism symptoms. Making simple changes to your diet and exercise routine can greatly impact your metabolism. You'll start feeling the difference.

      Eat Foods that Boost Metabolism

      Increasing these foods in your diet can provide a short-term boost to your metabolism. If you incorporate them into your daily diet, you can make a difference that benefits your metabolism.

      • Protein

        Proteins such as lean poultry, eggs, fish, dairy, and beans keep you feeling fuller and boost your metabolism. Proteins are made up of amino acids, which are harder to break down than fat and carbohydrates, so you burn more calories while digesting them.

      • High Fiber Foods

        Fiber helps our body burn calories at an even rate, preventing blood sugar spikes and crashes.

      • Spicy foods

        Eating spicy food can please your palate while giving your metabolism a boost.

      • Green tea

        The mild caffeine and catechin in green tea can increase your metabolic function by 4-5%, plus you get the bonus of antioxidants which can lower the risk of some diseases.

      • Iodine-rich foods:

        Without adequate iodine, your thyroid cannot work effectively, negatively impacting your metabolism. Iodine-rich foods include seaweed, cod, shrimp, eggs, and salt.

      • Water

        Water helps our digestive systems do their work, which keeps your metabolism regulated. Learn more about the benefits of drinking water.

      Also, it’s important to eat regular meals and avoid over-eating. Eating well-portioned, regular meals helps keep our blood sugar levels balanced. Skipping meals or crash-dieting can have severe consequences on our metabolic rate.

      Avoid Foods that Slow Metabolism

      Reducing certain foods in your diet that can help to improve your metabolism:

      • Caffeine

        Gives you a nice boost to your metabolism, but too much caffeine can suppress your appetite. This can result in binge eating later in the day or not eating enough meals throughout the day, which both result in an unstable metabolic rate.

      • Alcohol

        Slows your metabolism because your body metabolizes alcohol before other food. Alcohol also adds additional empty calories.

      • Carbohydrates

        Are easily broken down by your body which results in little nutritional value and a slower metabolism because your body repeatedly uses less effort.

      • Sugary foods

        These play havoc with your blood sugar levels and are quickly absorbed.

      • Processed foods

        Can expose you to chemical preservatives thought to produce additional abdominal weight gain.

        Consider consulting with a nutritionist who can help you structure your caloric intake and meals to your advantage, but there are some easy changes you can make to your diet today.

        Exercise to Speed up a Slow Metabolism

        Running man

        Getting your heart rate up and an adequate amount of exercise helps to speed up a slow metabolism.

        A boost in activity level and exercise can have a positive effect on your body’s metabolic rate and help to decrease slow metabolism symptoms. Trying adding some of these activities into your daily routine to boost your activity level:

        • Take a walk

          Head out in the early morning sunlight to help regulate your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is like your ‘body clock’. It helps you maintain a healthy metabolism by improving how well you sleep, eat and burn calories. Plus, getting up early for breakfast and exercise gets your metabolism burning.

        • Incorporate strength training

          Mix up your cardio routine with some weights to build muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories, and this burn lasts hours after your workout ends.

        Sleep Well

        In addition to diet and exercise, sticking to a healthy sleep schedule is crucial when balancing your metabolism. Sleep deprivation can change the way your body processes sugars, as well as cause complications to your cardiovascular system. That’s why it’s crucial to develop healthy sleep hygiene habits.

        Make sure to go to bed at the same time each night, and maintain a dark, quiet, and comfortable atmosphere in your bedroom. It can also help to start a series of bedtime rituals like stretching, listening to music, or taking a bath, which can tell your brain that it’s time to sleep.

          If you’re having a hard time getting comfortable in bed, a foam mattress topper may give you the extra cushion you need.

          Start Relieving Your Slow Metabolism Symptoms

          Managing your metabolism isn’t always easy, though by knowing what to look for and choosing a few healthy habits, you can improve your energy and overall bodily health today. Keep in mind that slow, gradual changes are better than big, drastic ones, and even small changes can add up to make a big difference. If you have any questions or concerns, get in touch with your doctor for more information.

          Jessica Hegg
          Jessica Hegg

          Jessica Hegg is the content manager and at With vast product knowledge and understanding of individual needs, she aims to share valuable information on making smart buying choices, overcoming obstacles and overall improving the quality of life for others. Avid gym-rat and nutrition enthusiast, she’s interested in all things related to staying active and living healthy lifestyle.

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