7

votes

Has paleo permanently lowered my metabolism?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 14, 2012 at 1:47 PM

An issue that seems to pop up with some regularity is that some people (especially women) experience a puzzling weight gain on paleo, and now the same has happened to me.

I started paleo at the beginning of September. For the first two months I maintained my normal weight (120 lbs) with about 2000 calories a day. And since then my weight has gradually crept up to 126. This might not seem like a lot, but my weight has been around 120 lbs for the last 30 years, give or take a pound or two. And this is not just random fluctuation. My clothes are tight, and the scale shows 126 day after day. This is not fat into muscle - my waistline has expanded and my body fat percentage increased. I don't feel fitter, just fatter.

I keep records of my caloric intake and energy burned through exercise for ever day, and this is what appears to have happened: I now only need 1600 calories a day to maintain my weight, and anything more leads to weight gain.

My carb to fat to protein ratios haven't changed significantly. The amount of calories I burn through exercise hasn't changed. The type of exercise I do has changed only marginally. (I keep daily records through Fitbit and Cron-o-meter, so this isn't just guessing).

In other words, I seem to now need 400 calories less per day to maintain my weight. Maybe forever?

Any thoughts on why this might be?

UPDATE: As per some of the recommendations I upped my net carbs to around 120g a day, via sweet potatoes and bananas. I've also continued to eat 300 cals less than before, and the weight gain has stopped and is gradually reversing. I do think I now need need around 250 fewer daily calories than before. My theory is that meat, coconut oil and oily fish are completely digested, whereas I used to eat a lot of high-fiber carbs which probably don't get fully digested, and perhaps even lower the absorption of fat and protein. Oh well.

1096aa84d006fe967128ffbd37e8070e

(1002)

on February 19, 2012
at 06:07 PM

Saves money and time in the kitchen too!

9e20abb05f3f6e3cc4bb107f8980aecd

(5939)

on January 15, 2012
at 02:27 PM

I agree with JayJay, it's unlikely this is permanent. However, when you are very well nourished your basal calorie needs will be lower. That is healthy and probably extends lifespan.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on January 15, 2012
at 07:03 AM

How many eggs for breakfast? Two? Six? Eight? How much fish? How much meat? Three oz? Four? Six? The kinds of food you eat have not changed. What about the amounts of food? Metabolism for women is different than metabolism for men. Women don't need as much protein and fat. How do I know? By reading a lot about indigenous tribes. My advice to you is to learn how to listen to your body as your guide. Listen to what it wants and make appropriate changes. I don't think you have lowered your metabolism permanently, don't beat yourself over it. Our bodies are brilliantly designed.

60af23519906aa54b742ffc17477c3d3

(1186)

on January 15, 2012
at 05:31 AM

Thank you for saying this. People here tend to be a bit "fat crazy" in a way that is healthier than the "anit-fat" of SAD, but people need to realize that your body will only burn so much fat. Fat doesn't create thermogenesis like carbohydrates do, and eating all fat, while good for insulin resistance and epilepsy, isn't always the best way to go about fat loss. People think calories don't matter and you can somehow trick your body into burning body fat by eating high fat, like your body is a child. Your body is the master...you are the student here, people.

5fd34f9a735d223510165dab258f0f27

(108)

on January 15, 2012
at 04:09 AM

Measurement of serum estradiol have shown both low and high levels during perimenopause. There are periods of increased estrogen (when some women experience hot flashes, night sweats and breast tenderness) and there are periods of deficient estrogen (which is a cause of weight gain and loss of bone density). Graphs show estrogen fluctuating wildly. However, perimenopause is still a time that estrogen levels begin to decrease despite estrogen trying to have its last hoorah. During the middle and late stages of perimenopause, the levels will be lower than during the premenopause stage.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on January 15, 2012
at 01:17 AM

Not like eating a bit less is the worst thing that could either especially with higher quality foods.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on January 15, 2012
at 01:15 AM

I would not consider your response or that of many to be "permanent". Changing the signals you send via changes in lifestyle invoke changes in metabolism and physiology. The mind and body responds. So don't feel like you have made any errors that can't be rectified.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on January 15, 2012
at 01:12 AM

Not much of anything you do is "permanent" in regards to the human condition and health. Changing the signals you send via changes in lifestyle invoke changes in metabolism and physiology. The mind and body responds. So don't feel like you have made any errors that can't be rectified.

293ba4c95d190bc616b27d85b10d705a

(661)

on January 15, 2012
at 12:59 AM

I went Vlc and now my tsh is too high. Ft3 too low. Definitely get those and sex hormones checked

Cbb1134f8e93067d1271c97bb2e15ef6

on January 14, 2012
at 10:29 PM

"The myth of perimenopause is that it is a time of dropping estrogen levels and estrogen deficiency. This idea arose because a separate phase of perimenopause as distinct from menopause was not described until recently and because hot flushes commonly begin in perimenopause. In reality perimenopause estrogen levels average about 20-30% higher than premenopausal values and often swing widely."http://www.cemcor.ubc.ca/help_yourself/perimenopause

3f3236d1f951d4b4c25eff387699a905

(554)

on January 14, 2012
at 09:55 PM

Found it! http://paleohacks.com/questions/78343/is-lowered-t3-resulting-from-a-low-carb-diet-problematic#axzz1jTK7o5k0

21b36b3de8ff31b0d41e7f0f4b5c1e03

(1688)

on January 14, 2012
at 08:40 PM

From the sounds of some of the responses I should just get comfortable with my lower caloric need, but I have to admit I'm a bit bummed if I have indeed permanently lowered my BMR by 400 calories. I wish I had known beforehand. And I now feel a bit hungry at the end of every day. I will therefore experiment by eating more carbs and less protein. I already get 320 cals a day from starches, so I'll go a little higher, like 500 cals. My O6/03 ratio is 2.5:1, which I think is probably OK given that I don't do fish oils. I will report back if I make any discoveries. Thanks for all suggestions.

Cbb1134f8e93067d1271c97bb2e15ef6

on January 14, 2012
at 07:37 PM

OK, ignore above question. I see below where you have gotten into specifics!

Cbb1134f8e93067d1271c97bb2e15ef6

on January 14, 2012
at 07:34 PM

You have not specified how you eat, just that "my carb to fat to protein ratios haven't changed significantly." So, what are you eating? How much and what kind of carb , for instance. Repsonses seem to be assuming you are low carb, high fat etc. But nothing in your question tells me anything, really, about your diet, except that ostensibly avoids, perhaps, grains and other NADs, as you identify as "paleo." Also, is it correct that you are in your mid forties or older, as being at "120 for the last 30 years" might imply?

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on January 14, 2012
at 05:46 PM

Andy you aren't allowed to edit my post like that, DOGMA TROLL.

D5d982a898721d3392c85f951d0bf0aa

(2417)

on January 14, 2012
at 04:22 PM

Agreed. One a non-indulgence day, I'd have to really WORK to eat 200 grams of carbs. And I weigh *cough cough* a good bit more than Sigrid and cannot yet report the consistently high quality eating habits that she has.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on January 14, 2012
at 04:16 PM

In the past I counted calories and felt deprived. Now I eat what I want and feel great while slowly losing weight. Am I eating less? Probably, but it doesn't matter. My pulse is 10+ beats slower so my metabolism probably is lower and I don't care.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on January 14, 2012
at 03:47 PM

It should be noted that Cliff is probably the only person who considers themselves Paleo who would say 200g carbs is a minimum for a 126lb woman. 80g is not particularly low-carb for you.

21b36b3de8ff31b0d41e7f0f4b5c1e03

(1688)

on January 14, 2012
at 03:05 PM

Thank you very much for your suggestions. Here is a bit more detail: I get 8 hours of sleep a night, I drink maybe a couple of small glasses of wine a week, am not stressed. My ratios are 18 : 22 : 60, with an average of 80 net carbs a day. Should I go higher on the carbs and fat and lower on the protein?

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on January 14, 2012
at 02:58 PM

Definetly low carb in my book, 200g is the minimum in my opinion.

21b36b3de8ff31b0d41e7f0f4b5c1e03

(1688)

on January 14, 2012
at 02:55 PM

Very little stress now and before; I eat maybe a couple of pieces of fruit a week (unchanged), carb level is steady at 80 grams a day, give or take 10 grams, I do not sweeten my food, I ate no more or less around Christmas than I usually do. There really have been no major changes that I can think of, except for falling temperatures. However, I spend as much time outside as before; usually around 1.5 hours a day.

21b36b3de8ff31b0d41e7f0f4b5c1e03

(1688)

on January 14, 2012
at 02:42 PM

I eat around 80 grams of carbs a day on average. Is that low carb? What would be a good number to aim for?

21b36b3de8ff31b0d41e7f0f4b5c1e03

(1688)

on January 14, 2012
at 02:40 PM

Breakfast: eggs, lunch: large salad and some fish (sardines or salmon or tuna), dinner: grass-fed meat of one kind or another (lamb, beef, pork) or occasionally duck or fish and lots of vegetables. I get most of my carbs from vegetables but will occasionally have a banana or sweet potato. Occasionally also a bit of butter and nuts in small quantities. The kinds of foods I eat have not changed over the course of the last five months. It's just that my weight was stable on it for two months and then started going up.

Bdede2dbc411f2533a7e6f13674ade51

(804)

on January 14, 2012
at 02:37 PM

I eat so much less on Paleo, yet feel so much more satisfied. It's one of my favorite things about the lifestyle. I NEVER feel bloated after I eat now, whereas I felt bloated after almost every meal pre-Paleo.

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11 Answers

best answer

5
Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on January 14, 2012
at 02:03 PM

I have read accounts from others who have described this (including men.)

I never counted calories before going Primal, so I have no numerical comparison, but I have noticed that I am definitely eating less food after being Primal for just over a year. I eat to hunger.

Given that the nutrient density of Paleo foods is higher than the SAD diet, it makes sense that I get "more bang for my buck" and thus need fewer calories. Also, without grains & legumes messing up my digestion, it makes sense that I am absorbing more of what I'm eating.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on January 14, 2012
at 04:16 PM

In the past I counted calories and felt deprived. Now I eat what I want and feel great while slowly losing weight. Am I eating less? Probably, but it doesn't matter. My pulse is 10+ beats slower so my metabolism probably is lower and I don't care.

Bdede2dbc411f2533a7e6f13674ade51

(804)

on January 14, 2012
at 02:37 PM

I eat so much less on Paleo, yet feel so much more satisfied. It's one of my favorite things about the lifestyle. I NEVER feel bloated after I eat now, whereas I felt bloated after almost every meal pre-Paleo.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on January 15, 2012
at 01:17 AM

Not like eating a bit less is the worst thing that could either especially with higher quality foods.

1096aa84d006fe967128ffbd37e8070e

(1002)

on February 19, 2012
at 06:07 PM

Saves money and time in the kitchen too!

best answer

10
9e20abb05f3f6e3cc4bb107f8980aecd

on January 14, 2012
at 06:14 PM

Hi Sigrid,

I think it is probably a combination of (a) going too low-carb which lowers energy expenditure to conserve glucose, reducing calorie needs; (b) being deficient in some nutrient -- possibly glucose, possibly others -- which impairs tissue quality and upregulates appetite a bit; leading to (c) a new equilibrium in which you need higher fat mass and higher leptin, which upregulate fat burning and energy expenditure, to "balance the books" and reach weight stability (calories in = calories out).

So I would supplement micronutrients, increase carbs toward 400 calories a day preferably from starches, reduce omega-6 if you haven't already, and your weight should go back.

21b36b3de8ff31b0d41e7f0f4b5c1e03

(1688)

on January 14, 2012
at 08:40 PM

From the sounds of some of the responses I should just get comfortable with my lower caloric need, but I have to admit I'm a bit bummed if I have indeed permanently lowered my BMR by 400 calories. I wish I had known beforehand. And I now feel a bit hungry at the end of every day. I will therefore experiment by eating more carbs and less protein. I already get 320 cals a day from starches, so I'll go a little higher, like 500 cals. My O6/03 ratio is 2.5:1, which I think is probably OK given that I don't do fish oils. I will report back if I make any discoveries. Thanks for all suggestions.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on January 15, 2012
at 01:15 AM

I would not consider your response or that of many to be "permanent". Changing the signals you send via changes in lifestyle invoke changes in metabolism and physiology. The mind and body responds. So don't feel like you have made any errors that can't be rectified.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on January 15, 2012
at 01:12 AM

Not much of anything you do is "permanent" in regards to the human condition and health. Changing the signals you send via changes in lifestyle invoke changes in metabolism and physiology. The mind and body responds. So don't feel like you have made any errors that can't be rectified.

9e20abb05f3f6e3cc4bb107f8980aecd

(5939)

on January 15, 2012
at 02:27 PM

I agree with JayJay, it's unlikely this is permanent. However, when you are very well nourished your basal calorie needs will be lower. That is healthy and probably extends lifespan.

4
E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on January 14, 2012
at 02:26 PM

Low carb diets basically trick your body into thinking its starving which lowers your metabolism. Eating more carbohydrates typically raises the metabolism and allows more calories to be eaten.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on January 14, 2012
at 03:47 PM

It should be noted that Cliff is probably the only person who considers themselves Paleo who would say 200g carbs is a minimum for a 126lb woman. 80g is not particularly low-carb for you.

D5d982a898721d3392c85f951d0bf0aa

(2417)

on January 14, 2012
at 04:22 PM

Agreed. One a non-indulgence day, I'd have to really WORK to eat 200 grams of carbs. And I weigh *cough cough* a good bit more than Sigrid and cannot yet report the consistently high quality eating habits that she has.

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on January 14, 2012
at 02:58 PM

Definetly low carb in my book, 200g is the minimum in my opinion.

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on January 14, 2012
at 05:46 PM

Andy you aren't allowed to edit my post like that, DOGMA TROLL.

21b36b3de8ff31b0d41e7f0f4b5c1e03

(1688)

on January 14, 2012
at 02:42 PM

I eat around 80 grams of carbs a day on average. Is that low carb? What would be a good number to aim for?

3
96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on January 14, 2012
at 02:46 PM

I've had fast days where eating too much coconut oil and almost no carbs or protein triggered thermogenesis. I've also had days where eating a lot of meat triggered thermogenesis. YMMV, but I'd tend to doubt that you've got lowered metabolism due to a Paleo diet.

Remember, a Paleo diet is not necessarily low carb/high fat, though that's what I do. If you're trying to burn off fat, getting most of your calories from fat, then some protein, and very little carbs 50-100g tends to work, but not for everyone. If you go to low carb, you could kick in cortisol, which may stall fat loss.

You might also be burning your own fat reserves for the rest of the calories. Also fat does strange things, you could go for weeks at the same exact weight, and overnight drop 3-4LBS of fat. It seems to hold on to water, probably to maintain the same structure, before it decides to let go. You might notice the fat becoming softer when this happens, but otherwise, there's no signs.

You should look at other factors as well, such as the amount of sleep you're getting, if you're drinking alcohol, or are stressed.

21b36b3de8ff31b0d41e7f0f4b5c1e03

(1688)

on January 14, 2012
at 03:05 PM

Thank you very much for your suggestions. Here is a bit more detail: I get 8 hours of sleep a night, I drink maybe a couple of small glasses of wine a week, am not stressed. My ratios are 18 : 22 : 60, with an average of 80 net carbs a day. Should I go higher on the carbs and fat and lower on the protein?

2
5fd34f9a735d223510165dab258f0f27

on January 14, 2012
at 08:27 PM

Hi Sigrid! I hope that you are a female (and that you haven't been through menopause) or else this answer will not pertain to you. I checked your age. If you haven't gone through menopause yet, there may be a chance that you are going through what is known as perimenopause weight gain. The weight gain is caused by low levels of estrogen in the body. Because the production of estrogen in the ovaries begin to fall, your body will turn to other sources of estrogen to combat the hormonal imbalance. One of the sources of estrogen is fat cells. It may be your body is holding onto your fat to keep your estrogen levels balanced. Because you are on a diet, your body will hold onto your fat even more.

5fd34f9a735d223510165dab258f0f27

(108)

on January 15, 2012
at 04:09 AM

Measurement of serum estradiol have shown both low and high levels during perimenopause. There are periods of increased estrogen (when some women experience hot flashes, night sweats and breast tenderness) and there are periods of deficient estrogen (which is a cause of weight gain and loss of bone density). Graphs show estrogen fluctuating wildly. However, perimenopause is still a time that estrogen levels begin to decrease despite estrogen trying to have its last hoorah. During the middle and late stages of perimenopause, the levels will be lower than during the premenopause stage.

Cbb1134f8e93067d1271c97bb2e15ef6

on January 14, 2012
at 10:29 PM

"The myth of perimenopause is that it is a time of dropping estrogen levels and estrogen deficiency. This idea arose because a separate phase of perimenopause as distinct from menopause was not described until recently and because hot flushes commonly begin in perimenopause. In reality perimenopause estrogen levels average about 20-30% higher than premenopausal values and often swing widely."http://www.cemcor.ubc.ca/help_yourself/perimenopause

2
Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on January 14, 2012
at 03:55 PM

Your metabolism typically runs faster to burn off excess carbohydrates, which is great if you need to keep warm and die young, but for the most part unnecessary. The diet you describe is more efficient and yes, you would expect your intake to go down as you adapt more to it. I assume you've not had issues of hunger? Your brain and body will happily take on food when available, and store it as fat, that's normal behaviour. If you never restrict food availability then you'll never use up that store. So you do have to think about how you're going to achieve that balance. It's not easy to try and match the exact calories you need every day. It can also be hard for some people to adjust to this new idea of what 'normal' wakefulness is without being on a permanent sugar high.

1
3f3236d1f951d4b4c25eff387699a905

(554)

on January 14, 2012
at 09:50 PM

I read somewhere that low carb can downregulate your T3 production. Maybe it's worth looking up.

3f3236d1f951d4b4c25eff387699a905

(554)

on January 14, 2012
at 09:55 PM

Found it! http://paleohacks.com/questions/78343/is-lowered-t3-resulting-from-a-low-carb-diet-problematic#axzz1jTK7o5k0

293ba4c95d190bc616b27d85b10d705a

(661)

on January 15, 2012
at 12:59 AM

I went Vlc and now my tsh is too high. Ft3 too low. Definitely get those and sex hormones checked

1
1c67bc28f4e44bbb8770b86df0463df3

on January 14, 2012
at 05:01 PM

Your metabolism may have lowered over the last 30 years (at which you weighed 120lbs)

If you have gained fat, 6lbs, while eating low carb paleo, it most certainly occurred due to your fat intake. If you consume more calories especially in fat than your Total Energy Expenditure over a period of time, you'll gain fat. Contrary to popular belief, eating fat does not increase fat burning in human beings, like carbohydrates do. In the presence of carbohydrate, your body will use that for fuel and glycogen restocking while storing dietary fat, as fat.

Once a person eats more than their TEE, whether that is 800,1200,2400, or 4000 calories, the body will lay down fat especially in the presence of fat.

60af23519906aa54b742ffc17477c3d3

(1186)

on January 15, 2012
at 05:31 AM

Thank you for saying this. People here tend to be a bit "fat crazy" in a way that is healthier than the "anit-fat" of SAD, but people need to realize that your body will only burn so much fat. Fat doesn't create thermogenesis like carbohydrates do, and eating all fat, while good for insulin resistance and epilepsy, isn't always the best way to go about fat loss. People think calories don't matter and you can somehow trick your body into burning body fat by eating high fat, like your body is a child. Your body is the master...you are the student here, people.

1
Cf89b6767687599fbbd8733757b5f215

(120)

on January 14, 2012
at 02:39 PM

Stress? Sleeping patterns? There may be something else other than diet and exercising that is causing your weight to fluctuate. If you are looking towards your diet what are your carb levels like? Whats your fruit intake? Do you sweeten with honey etc? Could this be caused by a blow-out at Christmas? These are the things i usually look for when i start filling out again.

21b36b3de8ff31b0d41e7f0f4b5c1e03

(1688)

on January 14, 2012
at 02:55 PM

Very little stress now and before; I eat maybe a couple of pieces of fruit a week (unchanged), carb level is steady at 80 grams a day, give or take 10 grams, I do not sweeten my food, I ate no more or less around Christmas than I usually do. There really have been no major changes that I can think of, except for falling temperatures. However, I spend as much time outside as before; usually around 1.5 hours a day.

1
F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on January 14, 2012
at 02:19 PM

Could you please list what kind of foods do you eat? Could you describe your typical daily menu? Not all calories are made the same.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on January 15, 2012
at 07:03 AM

How many eggs for breakfast? Two? Six? Eight? How much fish? How much meat? Three oz? Four? Six? The kinds of food you eat have not changed. What about the amounts of food? Metabolism for women is different than metabolism for men. Women don't need as much protein and fat. How do I know? By reading a lot about indigenous tribes. My advice to you is to learn how to listen to your body as your guide. Listen to what it wants and make appropriate changes. I don't think you have lowered your metabolism permanently, don't beat yourself over it. Our bodies are brilliantly designed.

21b36b3de8ff31b0d41e7f0f4b5c1e03

(1688)

on January 14, 2012
at 02:40 PM

Breakfast: eggs, lunch: large salad and some fish (sardines or salmon or tuna), dinner: grass-fed meat of one kind or another (lamb, beef, pork) or occasionally duck or fish and lots of vegetables. I get most of my carbs from vegetables but will occasionally have a banana or sweet potato. Occasionally also a bit of butter and nuts in small quantities. The kinds of foods I eat have not changed over the course of the last five months. It's just that my weight was stable on it for two months and then started going up.

0
8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on January 14, 2012
at 04:56 PM

Many women, especially, come to a paleo way of eating after chronic dieting. The diet creates changes in their metabolism, and in hormone levels that determine fat, bone and muscle deposition. It is probably more the case that you have increased your metabolism for a time, and your hormones are keeping you at what they think is the perfect weight. Eventually your metabolism will slow down too, but is better measured by temperature, not how many calories you take in. If your metabolism is working perfectly, calories don't matter. Your appetite and burn rate will adjust accordingly.

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