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Which is a sign of a higher metabolism: being thinner or being warmer?

by (1195)
Updated November 27, 2014 at 4:00 AM
Created December 11, 2012 at 1:07 PM

This may start out sounding like a Car Talk question, but I have a disagreement with my husband about perceived temperature that I am hoping my fellow PH's will help me with, namely I am always hot and he cold. This means fighting over the thermostat setting, amount of covers etc... (He prefers to sleep in 75 degrees, while I want the window open and 60 degrees). We both exercise a lot, so it isn't a circulation issue on his part (See I am assuming he's the one with the problem). It has always been this way since we met as vegetarians 18 years ago (so it isn't likely a hormonal issue on my part, nor a reflection of my recent move to paleo). He is a pescetarian who has never eaten meat, even as a child (due to inherent disgust). I have eaten meat since pregnancy ten years ago. He is fairly lean (not skinny, but well-muscled) while I an a life-long fitness buff with probably 23-4% bodyfat.

He says he has a high-metabolism because he is slim and has only ever put on weight during a period when he drank a lot of beer. I say I have a high metabolism because I am consistently warm. If metabolism was just measured by body-fat %, that would mean most women would have lower metabolisms than most men. Is this true?

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10994 · December 11, 2012 at 11:34 PM

I've noticed it in my family, and even in myself as I've transitioned from Vegan/vegetarian to paleo. And I still see it in my sister since she's gone vegan. So at the very least, you guys aren't alone. And I'm not saying he would necessarily have to eat more meat, just that that might be one possible route y'all could try.

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10994 · December 11, 2012 at 11:32 PM

Yea, it's just something to consider I guess. But remember that it wouldn't have to be you consuming more protein than him necessarily, you could be consuming more for your body type or maybe it has something to do with micronutrients. If you do a google search though you'll find that being cold is very often correlated with vegan and vegetarian diets. https://www.google.com/search?q=vegetarians+always+cold and https://www.google.com/search?q=vegans+always+cold .

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12702 · December 11, 2012 at 11:17 PM

I'd say there are certainly going to be exceptions to most rules, but additionally these are studies on obese people not trying to lose weight. When people lose weight their metabolism decreases, this is pretty much fact. I'm curious about this myself, but perhaps obese people experience a greater decrease in metabolism during weight loss. Maybe their body defends more vigorously their body weight set point, if you like that theory. I don't really know.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3
12702 · December 11, 2012 at 11:17 PM

I'd say there are certainly going to be exceptions to most rules, but additionally these are studies on obese people not trying to lose weight. When people lose weight their metabolism decreases, this is pretty much fact. I'm curious about this myself, but perhaps obese people experience a greater decrease in metabolism during weight loss. Maybe their body defends more vigorously their body weight set point, if you like that theory. I don't truely know.

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1195 · December 11, 2012 at 10:43 PM

Thanks Mscott. These results are counterintuitive. From what I gathered in my quick read of your links, the obese are not obese due to a lower than average metabolism and in fact have higher metabolisms on average than normal weight people. So what does this mean? That they are obese because they eat more than they burn in spite of their higher metabolisms? This is confusing since there seem to be many reports on here of heavy people who eat very little (and eat paleo) and who can't lose weight.

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1195 · December 11, 2012 at 7:51 PM

Thank you for these. Interestingly, I have always run hotter even as a vegetarian. My entire life various people have always remarked on how underdressed I am, so it isn't just that I likely consume more protein than he does.

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10214 · December 11, 2012 at 5:12 PM

Women DO have lower metabolisms than men, on average about 10% at equal weight and age. This makes some women upset, especially if they are trying to lose weight.

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4875 · December 11, 2012 at 2:38 PM

He likely has a dysfunctional thyroid.

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3 Answers

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10994 · December 11, 2012 at 1:50 PM

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/32/7/1423.full.pdf , http://www.precisionnutrition.com/members/showthread.php?t=14586 , http://www.jacn.org/content/21/1/55.full

My sister has been vegan for 6 years and has a very hard time regulating her body temperature. My dad has been vegetarian for 40 years and always has cold hands and feet (for him that might be poor circulation though). The first article i cited links to a journal where they conclude that low protein diets (most protein in plants is bound to cellulose and not as bio available as meat protein, you can look up the boavailability of proteins on nutritiondata.com) result in a different temperature regulating response in rabbits. #3 shows thermogenesis is increased 100% on a high protein diet.

I've noticed that I used to have trouble regulating my body temp before I went paleo and introduced more meats, like steak. I grew up from 8-19 on a low protein veggie diet, and me and my sister used to both be sensitive to temperature changes but that's changed this winter. I don't think being warmer or thinner necessarily facilitates a higher metabolism than the other though.

Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5
10994 · December 11, 2012 at 11:34 PM

I've noticed it in my family, and even in myself as I've transitioned from Vegan/vegetarian to paleo. And I still see it in my sister since she's gone vegan. So at the very least, you guys aren't alone. And I'm not saying he would necessarily have to eat more meat, just that that might be one possible route y'all could try.

Ef32d6cc543a74319464e2100e5a9ffd
1195 · December 11, 2012 at 7:51 PM

Thank you for these. Interestingly, I have always run hotter even as a vegetarian. My entire life various people have always remarked on how underdressed I am, so it isn't just that I likely consume more protein than he does.

Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5
10994 · December 11, 2012 at 11:32 PM

Yea, it's just something to consider I guess. But remember that it wouldn't have to be you consuming more protein than him necessarily, you could be consuming more for your body type or maybe it has something to do with micronutrients. If you do a google search though you'll find that being cold is very often correlated with vegan and vegetarian diets. https://www.google.com/search?q=vegetarians+always+cold and https://www.google.com/search?q=vegans+always+cold .

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12702 · December 11, 2012 at 10:27 PM

I don't know about being warmer, but it's probably not being thinner. Contrary to popular belief, fatter people usually do not have lower than average metabolisms and in fact, they frequently have higher metabolisms:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19136994

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19369382

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1339917/

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673678903008

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/35/3/566.short

Being thin however does not appear to follow a very clear trend in this regard. The metabolic rate of thin people varies heavily depending on the person/group, everything from higher to lower than average, at least according to my reading.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3
12702 · December 11, 2012 at 11:17 PM

I'd say there are certainly going to be exceptions to most rules, but additionally these are studies on obese people not trying to lose weight. When people lose weight their metabolism decreases, this is pretty much fact. I'm curious about this myself, but perhaps obese people experience a greater decrease in metabolism during weight loss. Maybe their body defends more vigorously their body weight set point, if you like that theory. I don't truely know.

Ef32d6cc543a74319464e2100e5a9ffd
1195 · December 11, 2012 at 10:43 PM

Thanks Mscott. These results are counterintuitive. From what I gathered in my quick read of your links, the obese are not obese due to a lower than average metabolism and in fact have higher metabolisms on average than normal weight people. So what does this mean? That they are obese because they eat more than they burn in spite of their higher metabolisms? This is confusing since there seem to be many reports on here of heavy people who eat very little (and eat paleo) and who can't lose weight.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3
12702 · December 11, 2012 at 11:17 PM

I'd say there are certainly going to be exceptions to most rules, but additionally these are studies on obese people not trying to lose weight. When people lose weight their metabolism decreases, this is pretty much fact. I'm curious about this myself, but perhaps obese people experience a greater decrease in metabolism during weight loss. Maybe their body defends more vigorously their body weight set point, if you like that theory. I don't really know.

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80 · December 11, 2012 at 9:53 PM

I don't have any studies to point you towards, but I am interested in reading the answers to your question. I have been a vegetarian (though an occasional consumer of fish and seafood) since I was a teenager (about 15 years) and have only recently (the past few months) started adding some high-quality meat to my diet. I am quite thin (BMI of 18) and I also have difficulty regulating my temperature. I am always chilly and like your husband I prefer to sleep in a very warm room. My husband is not a vegetarian, though he has eaten mainly vegetarian meals (because I've cooked them) for the last 9 years. He is also quite thin (6'3" 170 lbs) and walks around all winter in a sweater while I'm in my parka. We are both moderately active.

When I started to eat paleo, I quickly lost about 5 pounds despite eating what seemed like a lot of fat and certainly enough calories. I struggle to gain weight without eating a lot of carbs. Since I'm naturally thin I've always thought I must have a fast metabolism, but I'm not sure about the temperature question. I imagined that if I gained some weight I would feel warmer, but my husband doesn't have much extra fat and never feels the cold, so I don't know.

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