Metabolism

Think you know about metabolism? Chances are, your understanding varies greatly from reality. Throw aside the common excuses attached to metabolism and learn how to finally get your under control, once and for all.

How to Fix a Slow Metabolism

The rate at which we burn calories and how quickly we gain weight is related to our metabolic rate. Here are 5 habits that may be slowing down yours.

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Struggling to lose weight? What about feeling overly tired throughout the day?

A slow metabolism may be at the root of the cause.

Learn what habits may be stalling metabolic processes and how you can increase your metabolism once and for all!

What Does Metabolism Mean?

The metabolic system is rather complex. But metabolism is basically the chemical processes in which the body transforms calories from food into usable energy. Or, put more simply, metabolism converts food into energy.

The energy is used to carry out vital processes such as movement, oxygen circulation, and cell repair each second. Ultimately, metabolism is ongoing and continues even when the body is at rest.

Metabolism and the calories you burn are largely affected by many factors, including:

• Body composition: Body composition, or muscle versus fat tissues, mostly determines the rate at which energy is produced. A pound of fat burns two calories daily, while a pound of muscle needs about six calories to sustain itself!

• Gender: Men tend to have faster metabolisms than women, primarily related to a lower body fat percentage and greater muscle mass.

• Age: Age plays a large role in metabolism, as fat tends to displace muscle mass. Your metabolism slows down as early as mid 20s with an approximate two percent decrease every 10 years after.

• Hormones: The thyroid gland and the hormones it produces, such as thyroid stimulating hormone, regulate metabolism. Abnormal responses in cortisol and insulin levels can also alter metabolic rate.

• Genetics: The fate of metabolism has an established genetic component. Some people inherit faster and more efficient metabolisms than others.

5 Habits That May Slow Down Metabolism

Metabolism can be impacted by fixed factors, including gender and genetics. However, there are day-to-day habits that may be slowing down metabolism.

1. Cutting calories too low.

Reducing calories does show to facilitate weight loss. But going too low can compromise the body's ability to shed pounds and overall health.

Unless medically advised and monitored, nutrition experts discourage going below 1200 calories a day to sustain important body processes. Being devoid of available energy can force the body to tap into muscle stores, in turn slowing down metabolism.

2. Living a sedentary lifestyle.

Living a sedentary lifestyle can notably decrease the number of calories burned each day.

That being said, going without physical activity makes it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight and metabolism.

3. Being dehydrated.

Water maintains and boosts metabolism, as it aids in the digestion of food and transports nutrients throughout the body. Adequate intake of water also acts as a natural appetite suppressant, reducing the risk of overeating.

Truly, water is the body's highest prioritized medium for carrying out vital processes. And even being slightly dehydrated can compromise these tasks.

4. Not sleeping the recommended 7 to 9 hours.

A lack of sleep can cause weight gain and fuss with metabolism. Being sleep deprived also messes with hormones that help control hunger levels.

What's more, inadequate sleep can increase negative feelings such as anxiety, irritation, and stress.

5. Feeling overly stressed all the time.

Being overly stressed can start impeding on more than emotional health. When stressed, the stress hormone cortisol is released.

The hormone is known to heighten cravings, store fuel and energy, and slow down metabolism.

How to Restart Your Metabolism

Though metabolism naturally slows with age, there are several ways to combat the declination. Tried and true methods to support healthy metabolism and weight include diet, exercise, and other lifestyle choices.

1. Fuel metabolism with nutrient-dense foods.

Eating enough is key to speed metabolism, but so is doing so with nutrient-dense foods. More specific nutrients include the following:

• Protein: Some of the best foods to boost metabolism are protein sources. Amino acids, or the building blocks of protein, are essential for muscle synthesis and supporting lean body mass to innately boost metabolism. The macronutrient also produces metabolic hormones and induces satiety.

The current dietary reference intake (DRI) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (g/kg) of body weight. However, needs may vary based on age and activity level. In fact, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, athletes may require 1.2 to 2.0 g/kg. Chicken, eggs, beef, tuna, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and beans are significant sources of protein to include in a balanced diet.

• Dietary Fiber: Dietary fiber is an indigestible plant component that supports digestive and heart health. Fiber also enhances satiety similar to the fashion of protein and slows carbohydrate absorption.

Men and women should aim for about 38 and 25 grams of fiber each day, respectively. Meet these goals by increasing whole grains, fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds in the diet.

Healthy fats: In addition to protein and fiber, the body needs fat in order to maintain a steady metabolism. Healthy fats boost metabolism to help rid the body of unwanted, excess body fat.

It is important, though, to limit unhealthy fats such as trans fats. Include more unsaturated fats in the diet, including fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados are also great sources of healthy fat.

Other foods and drinks that may speed up metabolism include chili peppers, coffee, and tea. All-in-all, though, focus on a balanced diet rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Limit the intake of foods laden in refined flour, sugar, oil, and salt.

2. Ensure adequate hydration.

Being hydrated can help speed up metabolism and energy levels. And water should be the primary hydration source.

General recommendations detail healthy men and women to consume at least eight, 8-ounces of water per day. Also limit juices, soft drinks, and other sugary beverages that tend to offer nothing more than empty calories.

3. Exercise on a regular basis.

Aerobic exercise helps burn more calories while intense training can lead to the "afterburn" effect. This is when extra calories burn even after the exercise is completed.

Aim for at least 150 minutes of cardio weekly, or 30 minutes most days of the week. Cardio exercises include brisk walking, jogging, biking, and any activity that elevates heart rate.

Incorporate at least two to three resistance training sessions each week as well. Because muscles are exerted, the muscle fibers experience small tears that are reformed to build and strengthen the muscle. Supporting and building muscle mass increases basal metabolic rate. Work all muscle groups evenly, including the back, chest, core, shoulders, arms, and legs.

Ideally, dismiss a sedentary lifestyle and add more movement in the day. This may include standing while talking on the phone or taking the steps over the elevator.

4. Manage stress with positive coping strategies.

One of the best ways to reduce the risk of stress and weight gain is by relieving it. Common stress-relieving techniques include:

• Practicing deep breathing and meditation

• Taking a warm bath

• Reading a favorite book

• Listening to music

• Calling a close friend or family member

• Walking in nature

All-in-all, metabolism is impacted by a number of factors and varies from one person to the next. That being said, recommendations are not universal for all.

Consulting with professionals, including a dietitian, can help determine a personalized plan to reset your metabolism and nutrient needs. A personal trainer can also help ensure a safe and effective workout regimen.

Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on May 15, 2013. Updated on October 22, 2019.

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