Your metabolism refers to the rate that your body burns calories, a unit of energy that your body gets from the foods you eat.
Generally speaking, weight management comes down to the number of calories you eat versus the number of calories you burn every day. When you consume more calories than you use, the excess energy is stored as fat for later use. On the other hand, eating at a moderate calorie deficit means that your body needs to turn to its stored energy reserves for power. So this can then cause your body to “burn” fat and use those stored calories for energy.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should cut down as many calories as possible if you want to lose weight. It might sound contradictory, but eating too few calories can slow your metabolism down even more in the long run.
If you consistently eat at an extreme calorie deficit, you might also lose muscle mass in addition to fat, which isn’t good for your metabolism. In fact, it could be part of the reason that your metabolism has slowed down with age in the first place (more on that in a moment).
You could also inadvertently signal to your body that you’re being starved, which can set off a chain reaction where your body tries to preserve as much energy as possible in the form of fat. This means that your metabolism slows down even more in an effort to conserve energy, making it even harder to lose weight. This is commonly known as “starvation mode.”
The best way to make sure that this doesn’t happen is to determine your basal metabolic rate, or the number of calories that your body uses each day at rest, then subtract a moderate number of calories each day (no more than 500-1,000 calories) for a healthy and sustainable rate of weight loss. From there, you can plan your meals and snacks accordingly.
Tracking your calorie intake (like with a nutrition-tracking app) can also be helpful to ensure that you’re eating at a caloric deficit without depriving yourself of nutrients.
Your body naturally starts seeing a slight decrease in your metabolism as you age due to changes in body composition. But another huge reason that you could be burning fewer calories as you age may simply come down to lifestyle changes.
We tend to become less physically active as we get older for a variety of reasons like increasing work and family demands. Since calories are a unit of energy, this means that the less energy we use every day, the more likely we are to get into a caloric surplus, which causes our body to store the “extra” as fat. This often leads to that dreaded and unwanted weight gain later in life.
Staying active and exercising regularly is the best way to increase the number of calories you burn every day. As an added bonus, it also helps you to improve your overall body composition, which is great for your metabolism as well. The Physical Activity Guidelines For Americans suggests that you do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise (think walking, aerobics, or resistance training) every week.
The key here is to make sure that this is a consistent and long-term lifestyle change. Make consistent but reasonable fitness goals for yourself. For example, you can break your physical activity down into five 30-minute sessions throughout the week.
Even if you have physical limitations that prevent you from hitting the full 150 minutes, just making sure to move around more is a good way to burn more calories and give your metabolism a boost.
When we want to lose weight, we often put a lot of our focus in the gym on cardio-centric exercises like walking and running since these kinds of workouts burn a high number of calories. However, it’s more important now than ever to work on building lean muscle if you want to manage your body weight.
Your body composition, or the ratio of body fat to muscle, plays a big role in the speed of your metabolism. The tissues in your muscles are more metabolically active than your fat tissue, which means that muscles actually burn more calories than fat does. There’s evidence that the decrease in our metabolisms after 40 is completely due to the natural decrease in our body’s muscle mass. So one of the best ways to speed up your metabolism is to rebuild some of that lost muscle mass!
Try adding resistance and strength training to your workout routine so that you can start improving your lean muscle mass. Weightlifting is one of the most popular options that come to mind for resistance training. However, you can also do bodyweight workouts like planks, pushups, and air squats to build muscle if you don’t have access to resistance training equipment.
If you haven’t done any weightlifting training before, it might be a good idea to enlist the help of a trainer. You want to be sure that you are performing the exercises with correct form to minimize your risk of injury.
When it comes to exercise and speeding up your metabolism, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may give you the best bang for your buck.
HIIT combines elements of aerobic training with full-body strength training. HIIT exercises generally involve explosive movements like jumping jacks, sprinting, and burpees that are broken down into short and intense intervals with small breaks in between. This is a great way to get your heart rate up to near maximum in a short period of time, and studies have shown that these intense and time-efficient workouts are a great way to burn fat and increase your overall fitness.
A word of caution: as the name suggests, high-intensity interval training can be demanding on your body, especially if you are just starting out on your fitness journey Take it slow at first until you have a good grasp on your fitness level, and talk to fitness and/or health professional prior to beginning if you are still unsure.
Increasing your physical activity doesn’t always have to be confined to the gym, either. Sedentariness could be a big reason that you are burning fewer calories every day, especially if you work a desk job or spend a lot of time sitting down rather than standing up and moving around.
It burns more calories to stand than it does to sit, and breaking up your workday with moderate bouts of physical activity is a great way to stay metabolically active while on the clock. One interesting study compared the effects of sitting, standing, and sitting with a brief one-minute bout of stepping exercise every ten minutes. The researchers found that the participants who stood and the participants who did the sitting-stepping routine used significantly more energy than participants who sat the entire time!
Set alarms for yourself to remind yourself to get up and move about periodically, even just for a quick round of jumping jacks or a speedy walk around the office. If possible, you might also consider investing in a laptop riser or a standing desk to encourage standing rather than sitting.
Adequate hydration is important for staying healthy, and many of us simply aren’t getting enough water. As it turns out, adequate water consumption could play a role in increasing your metabolism as well.
One study that wanted to explore the relationship between water consumption and metabolism found that people who drank 17 ounces of cold water showed a 30% increase in their metabolism directly after their water consumption, due in part to the energy it took for their bodies to heat up the cold water.
The researchers then concluded that increasing your water intake to 1.5 liters every day could help your body burn about five pounds worth of calories. True, it’s a pretty small increase, but in combination with a consistent exercise routine and a calorie-restricted diet, it can help!
Keep an insulated water bottle filled with cold water on hand at all times to increase your water intake. You might also benefit from setting period alarms on your phone to remind you to take a drink every now and then.
If you still find it hard to get enough, you could also try adding no-calorie flavorings or infusing fruit or citrus into your water to make it more appetizing.
If you’re in the habit of reaching for a couple of beers at the end of a stressful day, you might want to reconsider.
Not only does drinking alcohol heavily add on quite a few extra “liquid calories” and make it that much harder to resist your favorite nutrient-dense foods, but it can also slow down your metabolism when you drink heavily. Unlike other foods, your body doesn’t store the energy from alcohol to be used later, so your body has to prioritize metabolizing alcohol first before anything else. This can slow down your fat oxidation – in other words, the process in which your body breaks down fat!
If you don’t want to give up the drinks completely, moderation is key. Limit your drink intake to one (for women) or two (for men) a day to minimize any negative health effects.
That daily cup of joe could be giving your metabolism a little boost!
There’s evidence that caffeine can actually increase the rate at which you oxidize fat and burn calories directly after ingestion. However, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t depend on caffeine alone for weight loss, since you would have to drink a pretty large (and potentially dangerous) amount in order to make any significant difference.
Green tea is an even better option than coffee if you’re looking for a milder brew that still makes a difference. This gentler drink usually contains less caffeine than an average cup of coffee, but it’s also chock-full of antioxidants that may also help give your metabolism a little boost.
Your body depends on more than just the calories you eat and the calories you burn every day. There could also be some other factors at play that are affecting your metabolism, including your hormones.
One potential culprit that could be slowing your metabolism down is chronic stress. If you’re constantly stressing out about your work, finances, and personal life, you could be releasing more of the “stress hormone” cortisol. Not only does a high level of cortisol make you crave calorie-dense “comfort foods,” but it can also change your metabolism and cause you to store fat.
If you’re concerned that your stress levels are affecting your metabolism, you may need to find healthy ways to cope. For example, talking it out with your friends, family, or a mental health professional could be helpful. In addition, gentle exercise and meditation are both proven ways to naturally lower your cortisol levels
On the subject of hormones, you may also want to take a look at your sleeping habits.
Under normal circumstances, your body releases a series of hormones according to a natural scheduled cycle called your “circadian rhythm.” Several of these hormones play a role in your body composition and metabolism including growth hormone, insulin, and cortisol. If you aren’t getting enough high-quality sleep, you could be negatively impacting these hormones, which can then mess with your metabolism even more.
Correcting your sleep could help get your metabolism back to where it should be. Good sleep habits include going to bed at a regular time, limiting your screen exposure close to bedtime, and keeping your bedroom comfortable
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