A slow metabolism. I’ve heard people say that they were born with it. I’ve heard others blame it on their age. Both could be true because your metabolism is influenced by your age, sex, and body composition. However, I’m not sure anyone knows that sabotaging their metabolism is something that they may have brought on all on their own.
If you’re following any of the popular fad diets and/or exercise programs out there right now, (no carbs, cardio only over weight training, and intermittent fasting just to name a few), the “healthy” habits that you are integrating into your daily life in an effort to lose weight, may actually be hurting you.
First things first, what actually is your metabolism? People have long associated a faster metabolism with those that are thin or those that are able to eat more without gaining weight. But scientifically speaking, what actually is your metabolism? Formally known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR), your metabolism is a measure of exactly how much energy (i.e., calories), your body requires in a day to accomplish basic functions like keeping your heart beating. Depending on your age and your lifestyle, your BMR accounts for 40%-70% of all the calories you use in an average day. I’ve often heard it referred to as an engine: your metabolism is those series of chemical reactions that occur inside your body that converts what you eat and drink to energy that your body can use.
When faced with unwanted weight, it’s easy to point our fingers at our slow metabolism. The good news is that individuals have more control over their individual metabolism than they know. There are a number of things that you can do, and avoid doing, to keep your metabolism running at top speed.
If you are feeling that your metabolism is in need of a makeover, I encourage you to read the list below to make sure that you’re not making any of these metabolism-slow mistakes.
You’re Not Eating Enough: When you’re not taking in enough nutrients, your body thinks you are starving so your metabolism slows down to compensate for the lower caloric intake in order to save energy for later on. So, if you’re skipping meals, feeling starving all the time and lacking energy, and the scale is not moving, it could be because you are not eating enough. A standard weight-loss diet should not dip below 1,200 calories per day in order to stay out of starvation mode!
You’re Restricting Carbs: So many of us do this. We’ve talked about the popular no carb diets in this space so much recently and how they really aren’t doing us any favors. Cutting carbohydrates may seem like a quick fix to some but in the long run, carb cutting is killing our metabolism. Carbs are the muscles main source of energy. When we eat carbs, our bodies store them as glycogen, which is used throughout the day, especially when we exercise. The average person needs at least 100 grams of carbs daily. More if your very physically active or working out hard at the gym. I encourage my clients to pay attention to their energy levels throughout the day. If you are lacking energy or mental clarity, you probably need to fuel up with more carbs. Go for whole-food carb sources like oatmeal, brown rice, potatoes, fruits, veggies, and beans. Plus, because carbs play a role in protein synthesis, the process in which our muscles rebuild and grow, ample carbs are necessary for maintaining and building muscle. Which brings me to my next point…
You Work Out But Not With Weights: Research does show that cardio burns calories and therefore helps with weight loss but only doing cardio alone will not do your metabolism any favors. We know that muscle burns more calories than fat so your muscle mass has a big impact on your metabolism. Try to work in at least two strength training sessions a week in order to build muscle. The more muscle you have, the higher your baseline metabolic rate will be! Remember my post about Pilates a few weeks ago? Try adding some Pilates to the mix with your weight training for a really well-rounded workout!
You’re Eating Snacks All Day Long: You’ve probably heard people say that they “graze” all day long to keep up their metabolism. While eating frequently, and in small doses, can be beneficial, it can also hinder your weight loss goals and slow down your metabolism if you’re reaching for the wrong things. I believe that a few healthy small snacks here and there are OK but it’s really more important to eat smartly during meals. Reaching for snacks that are high in carbs, sugars, and other additives that might raise blood sugar levels can put too much pressure on the body and hinder metabolic efficiency.
You’re Not Reading Labels: While some products might seem “healthy” from the outside, they may not be if they are actually high in additives like GMO’s and refined products that are secretly put into our foods. Read labels and be weary of these five things: refined white sugar, gluten, non-organic dairy, GMO’s and unnecessary salt and preservatives. We sabotage our metabolism when we eat too much of these things, which just overloads our metabolism with so much stress that it’s not able to process all of it. Think clean when reading labels and purchasing products at the grocery store.
You’ve Sworn Off Fat: It’s all about balance here, right? I tell my clients this all the time. You may think that by eating fat that you will immediately start gaining weight. But that’s not the case. Eating healthy fats will not make you fat. In fact, eating healthy fats like those found in olive oil, avocado, nut butter and fatty fish, help power your metabolism to be more effective and actually burn more fat. Find a proper balance of good fat in your diet to ensure you’re metabolism stays stable.
If you don’t find yourself guilty of any of the above, but still think that your metabolism has something to do with your issues losing unwanted weight, I have more good news for you. Instead of just avoiding all of the above, try incorporating the below tips into your daily routine. All of the below will help boost your current metabolism:
Sleep More: Studies show that sleep deprived individuals have a decreased ability to manage blood sugar levels and also may seem to find themselves hungrier (the body’s way of saying it is lacking energy). So, sleep more for a healthier metabolism.
Drink More Water: Research has found that consuming water, especially ice water or very cold water, may have a positive impact on how many calories you burn throughout the day. This is due to a process called thermogenesis where the body must burn calories to warm the water up to body temperature. Hydrating with water also saves calories over alternative beverages and plays a key role in helping to regulate whole-body metabolism (especially during exercise). So skip the sugary drinks and always choose water.
Eat Enough Protein: Research has found that protein intake has a profound impact on metabolism. Researchers examining the effect of dietary compositions on caloric burn have found that those taking in adequate levels of protein have a higher energy expenditure at rest. Another reason why restricting your diet only sabotages your metabolism.
Stay Cold: Another interesting tip backed by research is to stay cold. Much like the tip I mentioned above regarding drinking very cold water, research shows that keeping the heat low in your home also boosts metabolism. Again, thermogenisis causes the body to burn calories in order to elevate body temperature which in turns increases the metabolism.
I saw something on The Today Show the other morning. J. Lo and A Rod were encouraging others to go on a strict no sugar, no carb, 10 day challenge in an effort to lose weight. All I could think to myself was that I hoped my clients weren’t watching. What could be worse than restricting your diet so much that you enter into starvation mode and therefore mess with your metabolism? Seeing that story lead me this post. I felt compelled to share with all of you that simple dietary modifications that won’t leave you exhausted, constipated, starving and mean, can make a big difference in how fast your body burns calories at rest. We can increase our metabolism naturally and it doesn’t have to be hard! With all the diet fads and misinformation out there today, I hope that this post has helped you demystify some of the diet myths you’ve heard and instead encourages you to focus on habits that uplift you and make you feel healthy and energized each day. Xx Janine