You’ve heard it all before — if you could just boost your metabolism a bit, then you could achieve that goal weight on the scale and the muscles of your dreams. You may know that exercise and movement can boost your metabolism, but is a slow metabolism really to blame if you can’t seem to keep unwanted pounds off and get the body you’ve always wanted?
According to Mayo Clinic, your metabolism is the process your body goes through to convert what you’re eating and drinking everyday into energy you can use. Essentially, the calories from your food and drinks that you consume are then combined with oxygen to give your body the energy boost it needs to function. Your body uses energy to keep you alive (chewing, breathing, and circulating blood throughout your body all take calories), and the minimum number of calories you burn a day without any physical activity varies greatly depending on your body size, sex, and age. The more efficiently your body goes through this metabolic process, the more efficiently you’ll burn calories.
Think your metabolism needs a boost? Check out these 10 mistakes you’re making that are hurting yours.
1. You’re not getting enough sleep
Sleep is your body’s time to restore, and it’s good for keeping your metabolism working properly as well. SFGate explains those who do not get the proper amount of sleep may have a higher chance of developing a metabolic disorder down the road. In addition to this, the hormones that are responsible for regulating your appetite, ghrelin and leptin, are also affected when you don’t get enough sleep. This will cause you to feel less satisfied after your meals and hungrier than normal, which affects your metabolism as well.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder, and when you don’t get the amount of sleep that you should be getting, your body becomes less sensitive to insulin, the hormone that is necessary to help your body turn food into fuel. This can eventually lead to insulin resistance and diabetes, so it’s vital to your metabolism (and your overall health) that you’re getting the sleep you need. Hover around seven to eight hours of sleep a night for the perfect amount — any less than this and your metabolism may suffer. Any more than this will leave you at risk for weight gain, too.
2. You’re not drinking enough water
Staying hydrated isn’t just the key to feeling more awake and boosting your workout performance — it’s also key to keeping your metabolism healthy and active. Shape explains even if you’re only mildly dehydrated, you could be slowing your metabolism down by up to 3%, which can lead to weight gain in the long run. And, if weight gain is your primary concern, then drinking a few glasses of water before a meal is always a good way to manage how much you consume before you even start eating — you’ll naturally feel fuller, no matter how hungry you were.
3. You’re not lifting weights
Before you jump on the treadmill at the gym and leave the weight machines and free weights in the dust, it’s important to keep in mind that weight lifting is what pushes your metabolism into high gear, not cardio. While performing cardio is important for getting that heart rate up and burning calories in the moment, it’s the building of muscle that’s going to keep your metabolism higher over a longer period of time, which keeps you burning more fat and calories even during your rest periods.
According to Men’s Health, there’s one type of weight lifting technique that skyrockets your metabolism higher than all the rest, and that’s the rest-pause technique. In this technique, you choose the heaviest weight for each exercise while still maintaining proper form, and you perform only a few reps (around six). Then, you rest for 20 seconds, and continue performing a couple more reps. You rest for an additional 20 seconds, and perform as many reps as possible before stopping. Then, you rest for about two minutes before starting a new exercise. Working your muscles to their maximum, even if you only do a few reps at a time, boosts metabolism levels higher than if you were using light weights.
4. You’re not eating enough protein
Protein is essential for building muscle, and if you’re hitting the gym consistently, your post-gym snack or meal should have plenty of protein to help repair your body and make it even stronger. While carbs and fat are also important components of your diet, it’s the protein that will keep you fuller for longer. It’s also protein that will help keep your metabolism at a healthy level.
Digesting protein takes more effort from your body than digesting carbs and fat, says Livestrong.com. And, because your metabolism will be working harder and faster during digestion when you eat protein, there’s also a thermic effect that occurs that’s much higher with protein than it is with carbs and fat. The more energy that’s put into breaking down your food, the more heat is generated within the body, which is what the thermic effect is referring to. Out of every 100 calories from protein that’s consumed, about 25 to 30 calories are burned just from this thermic effect during digestion. Also, the muscle the protein in your diet has helped develop aids your metabolism, too.
5. You’re not going outside
Here’s yet another reason as to why you should leave your office during your lunch break to get outside as much as possible. Ben Spencer, a science reporter for Daily Mail Online, explains sunlight doesn’t just provide you with vitamin D, but it also provides you with metabolism-revving benefits so you can stay healthy even if weight lifting and eating protein aren’t on your to-do list. When you’re exposed to sunlight, your skin releases nitric oxide, which is key in keeping your metabolism healthy.
Researchers at Edinburgh and Southampton Universities studied the effects of sunlight on the metabolism with rats, and they found it’s the nitric oxide we release when we’re exposed to the sun’s rays that help us better process food and sugar. Though more research is needed to completely confirm this theory, studies previously have shown that nitric oxide is also responsible for lowering blood pressure. It’s clear this substance may also have a positive effect on the metabolism as well, especially when combined with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise.
6. You’re skipping your morning coffee
You may have decided to cut back on your caffeine intake for various reasons, but this could be a misstep. There’s been a fair amount of research supporting the idea caffeine can favorably affect metabolism, and one 2011 review adds to the evidence. This particular research found this to be true for caffeine as well as a combination of caffeine and catechins, which you’ll get from green tea. This means you can stick with whatever brewed beverage you prefer.
7. You’re not embracing the winter temperatures
If you live in a place where the winters are long and brutal, it’s time to step out to embrace it. Research from a 2014 study suggests intermittent cold exposure requires the body to expend more energy, which in turn boosts metabolism. It’s important to note this study was performed on mice that were fed a high-fat diet, and further studies are needed to determine whether or not humans will react the same way.
The exposure to the cold increased the metabolic rate of the mice substantially, and brown fat was activated as well. Live Science says this is the type of fat that burns energy and stores heat instead of storing calories. While your metabolism may possibly get a boost from the cold, it’s also important to note the mice in the study had an increased appetite from the extra energy expenditure. Hanging out in the snow is not a guarantee for weight loss, but your metabolism may still benefit.
8. You’re stressed
We all know the negative impacts of stress, but Livestrong.com says you could also be damaging your metabolism if you can’t seem to get your worries under control. When you’re stressed, the hormone cortisol releases glucose into your bloodstream. Glucose is necessary — it’s the main source of energy for the muscles and it helps you think faster, too. But when your cortisol levels are constantly high, your metabolism slows down.
Research can illustrate this. In a study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, 58 women were given high-fat meals and were asked about stressors that occurred the day prior to the study. The researchers found women who were under a greater amount of stress burned calories slower than the women who reported feeling less stressed. It might be a small sample size, but the evidence seems consistent with other examples.
9. You’re not drinking oolong tea
Most of us think of green tea as the healthiest beverage on store shelves, and we touched on it earlier, but there’s another option that may be equally as good for your metabolism: oolong tea. One study involving 102 participants found regularly consuming the beverage aided in weight loss by boosting metabolism. Oolong tea also contains about half the caffeine of green tea, so it’s a good option if you want to cut back on how much caffeine you consume.
10. You’re going low-carb
When you’re looking to lose a few pounds, it’s common to gravitate toward a low-carb diet. While you may see the scale tip in your favor with this approach, avoiding as many carbs as possible can seriously damage your metabolism.
According to Muscle & Strength, carbs help increase cellular hydration, which also gives the cells greater volume. This sends a signal to your body that you’re in a fed state, which keeps your metabolic rate high. While eating too many carbs can backfire and cause you to gain weight, cutting them altogether can be detrimental to any weight-loss goals you may have. Always aim to add healthy carbs to your diet too, as not all are created equal.