10 Easy Tips for Kick-Starting Your Metabolism Into High Gear
Your metabolism is a system of chemical reactions in your body that convert food into energy. This created energy is used to support almost all of your body’s functions, from moving to thinking to breathing.
As we age, our metabolisms begin to slow. We might notice this more as we start to gain a few pounds in middle age, despite maintaining the same diet and lifestyle for years. If you’re feeling the effects of this slowdown, use these 10 helpful tips to kick-start your metabolism.
1. Gain More Muscle
While you don't have to bulk up much, putting on a little more muscle mass is a great way to give your metabolism a jolt once it becomes sluggish. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body has to burn to sustain that muscle even when you're not doing anything. Numerous studies have shown that those who have more muscle mass have a higher metabolic rate than those with less muscle. Add strength training to your workout routine to give your metabolism a boost, or just grab a couple of lightweight dumbbells the next time you take a walk.
2. Increase Your Water Intake
Proper hydration is key in keeping your metabolic rate high because your body needs water to burn calories. Dehydration is one of the factors that can slow down a person's metabolism. While it's important to drink plenty of water, it’s also important not to overhydrate. Aim to drink at least 100 ounces of water a day, or more if you have a larger build.
3. Eat Breakfast
Eat a healthy, high-protein/low-fat breakfast to start your day and boost your metabolism. Upon waking, you’ll likely have gone about 10 to 12 hours without any food. Skipping breakfast means you’d be depriving yourself of food even longer, causing your body to store fat in the process. This slows down your metabolism.
4. Stop Starving Yourself
Many people believe that starving themselves can help with weight loss, but this major nutrition mistake can actually have the opposite effect. As mentioned, skipping meals can cause your body to store fat and slow your metabolism. While you might drop a few pounds quite quickly, you’ll also likely lose some muscle, and we know that more muscle equals greater calorie burn. You also run the risk of binge eating later to satisfy yourself after going without food for an extended period.
5. Eat Smaller Portions, and Eat More Frequently
Try eating smaller portions — but also eating more frequently — so you don't feel like you're starving and then eating too much at one meal. This approach keeps you full, allowing you to control your calories and prevent overeating. Try to listen to your body’s cues and eat when you’re hungry. Sometimes, that hunger pang is an indication that you need to drink more water, so start with a glass of water before you eat. This is a great way to eat healthier and give your metabolism the boost it needs to burn fat.
6. Get Active
While weight training to build muscle is important for boosting your metabolism, it’s also important to stay active overall. Add an extra cardio workout to your week. Take a walk outside at lunchtime. Or add aerobics, running or swimming to your regular workouts. Remember that aerobic and cardio exercises burn lots of calories and are good for your heart, while strength training builds muscle, which in turn burns more calories. Variety can be key in keeping your workouts engaging. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five times a week.
7. Steer Clear of Crash Diets
Crash diets can be very effective at helping people shed pounds in a short amount of time, but they can be disastrous for your metabolism. For one thing, most crash diets cause you to starve yourself through calorie deprivation, which means your metabolism will slow down. Also, crash diets deprive you of the necessary nutrients for maintaining muscle. This reduction in muscle mass can also slow down your metabolism, too. Eat a healthy diet, with a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins (fish, chicken, lean beef), whole grains and low-fat dairy.
8. Do Your Own Cooking
Cooking your own food and cooking in a healthier manner not only keeps you active but also gives you more control over what goes into your meals. The effort it takes to cook a healthy, wholesome meal is ultimately much better for your metabolism and your waistline than going to a restaurant or fast-food place. Try to cook for yourself as much as possible to increase your metabolism, and have fun — you might mix things up with meatless Monday or taco Tuesday.
9. Fidget More
Standing or sitting completely still for extended periods while at your desk or on the couch will slow down your metabolism. Keep your body moving constantly by tapping your feet, stretching or moving your legs and being fidgety. Constant movement can keep your metabolism cranked, plus you're burning calories, even if it's only a small amount. Consider investing in a standing or sit/stand desk and try standing for 30 minutes to an hour several times throughout the day. Set a timer and take a five-minute break every hour.
10. Reduce Your Stress Levels
An increased level of stress can slow down your metabolism by creating a hormonal imbalance in your body. Increased levels of stress can put strain on numerous parts of your body and can increase your tendency to overeat. Try to carve out some time in your schedule every day for "you time" doing a hobby or spending some moments outdoors in the fresh air. Try a yoga or meditation app — and remember to breathe.
Medical content reviewed by Kelsey Powell, MS, Medical Sciences