If you’ve been struggling to lose weight or are frustrated at your body’s ability to pack on muscle, don’t despair. It could be that your metabolism is to blame – and if that’s the case, there are steps you can take to remedy this. Stress, poor sleep, bad eating and overtraining can all inhibit your metabolism, making it harder to shed pounds. On top of that, you may feel tired and lethargic. But what exactly is your metabolism and which behaviours can negatively affect it?
Most people are familiar with the term ‘metabolic rate’, but few seem to know what it truly means. Your metabolism is like the engine in your car. It’s responsible for breaking down the molecules in your body to provide energy and synthesising the compounds your cells require to function. Like a car, your metabolic rate can be revved up or it can be slow and sluggish. If it’s the latter, avoid the following pitfalls to boost your metabolic rate and keep your body ticking over like a finely tuned racecar.
Dodging breakfast might seem like a shortcut to weight loss, but it’s more likely to have the opposite effect. This practice can cause your body to enter starvation mode and store calories for later use. In effect, it lowers your metabolic rate and slows down weight loss. Studies have also found a strong link between skipping meals and an increase in belly fat. To keep your metabolism up, eat smaller meals more frequently. If you’re too busy to eat more than three times a day, replace one or two meals with a protein shake or healthy snack.
Fat-loss diets are notorious for their tendency to decrease metabolic rate. Many of the weight-loss plans touted by celebs and lifestyle magazines provide less than 1,000 calories a day, which is a recipe for disaster. Not only will this drastic calorie reduction leave your system out of sync, but you’re setting yourself up for subsequent weight gain and hormonal imbalances. If you genuinely want to lose weight, change your eating habits over the long term rather than resorting to quick fixes. Cleaning up your diet and making better food choices will boost your overall health and facilitate sustainable weight-loss.
Sleep and metabolism are strongly connected. Research shows that people who don’t get enough rest tend to weigh more than those sleeping at least eight hours per night. Poor sleep doesn’t just leave you tired and fatigued; it also slows your metabolism, causes muscle loss and affects post-exercise recovery. This habit can also interfere with your hormone levels, leading to decreased testosterone production, insulin resistance and adrenal disorders.
Low protein intake
Protein takes longer to digest than carbs and fats. For this reason, it requires more energy. A high protein intake equals a faster metabolism. The more you reduce your caloric intake, the higher your protein intake should be to compensate. People who work out regularly require even more protein in their diet. Be sure to eat plenty of fish, poultry, lean meat and eggs. Supplementing your diet with a protein shake such as Healthy Whey is a simple way to meet your daily protein quota without taking in excess calories.
Not drinking enough water is a surefire way to slow down your metabolism. Proper hydration keeps your metabolism up and helps eliminate toxins. Studies have found that drinking six cups of water daily can increase resting metabolic rate by about 50 calories a day. H2O improves your body’s ability to burn fat, fuels your muscles and ensures optimum performance.
Performing too much cardio or lifting weights for too long can lead to overtraining, which results in a slower metabolism. Excessive cardio decreases your metabolic rate and burns muscle, making it harder to lose fat. It also elevates levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which further affects your metabolism. Listen to your body and train smart: unless you’re training for an endurance event, limit your cardio sessions to 40 minutes to prevent catabolism and unless you’re a pro athlete, your strength workouts shouldn’t last more than an hour.
From crash diets to overtraining, eliminating bad habits will not only perk up your metabolism: it’ll turn your body into a highly efficient fat-burning machine.