5 surprising habits that could slow your metabolism

By Liz Meszaros, MDLinx
Published August 12, 2019

Key Takeaways

Medically speaking, there are a number of things that can slow your metabolism: high cortisol or insulin levels, low estrogen or testosterone levels, some medications, and thyroid imbalances. But, did you know that there are other factors—much more mundane, everyday habits—that could affect your metabolism rate as well?

Here’s a list of some surprising, everyday practices you may not have realized could slow your body down.

Strict dieting. Cutting your calories too much could put your metabolism into slow motion. Severe diets actually teach your body to function with fewer calories, essentially switching it into “starvation mode.” When this happens, your body tries to conserve as much as fuel as possible—because it doesn’t know when more “fuel” is coming—by slowing down your metabolism. Add exercise to a strict diet, and your body will hang on to every calorie even more.

What to do instead: Eat a small, well-balanced meal every 3 to 4 hours. And keep your weight-loss efforts realistic. Don’t cut back too dramatically on your calories. Finally, focus on getting enough protein, which will satisfy your hunger and keep your metabolism going.

Skipping meals or changing mealtimes. Changing your mealtimes can signal your metabolism to go into conservation mode as well because—as it does when you cut back calories too much—it doesn’t know when your next meal is coming.

What to do instead: Don’t skip meals or just grab a bite on the go. Keep your mealtimes regular, and your body will stay on its regular metabolic schedule, happily burning calories.

Setting your thermostat too high. Keep your bedroom cool, especially at night. Did you know that if your room is above 75 °F while you sleep, it can keep your body from making brown fat, which is full of calorie-burning cells. Sometimes called “good” fat, the primary function of brown fat is to turn food into body heat. Brown fat is thought to be more like muscle, and when activated, burns white fat (bad fat). Leaner adults tend to have more brown fat than heavier adults. So do human newborns and hibernating mammals!

What to do instead: At night, turn your thermostat down to 66 °F before you go to bed. It will boost your brown fat levels. You can also take brisk walks outside when temps are low to achieve the same effect.

Not eating an early breakfast. Your metabolism needs a boost in the morning, after all those hours without eating. If you wait until closer to lunch time to have your breakfast, you are losing precious hours of calorie-burning time.

What to do instead: For an optimal boost of your metabolism each day, eat your breakfast within 15 minutes to 1 hour of waking up.

Quitting coffee. If you’ve recently stopped drinking coffee, be aware that it may slow your metabolism. Boosting metabolism is one of the numerous benefits of coffee. Although the boost is temporary, it is significant. Caffeine is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, and speeds up the heart rate and metabolism.

What to do: Three to five cups of coffee per day is considered a healthy intake. Drink too much, however, and the benefits may turn into a disadvantage.  Also, watch the cream and sugar; you don’t want to add too many calories to your cuppa’ joe.

Not drinking enough water. Every cell in your body needs water to function, so make sure you are drinking enough water.

What to do: Drink water throughout your day, every day. Although the old adage that says everyone needs 8 glasses of water per day is probably not accurate, try to drink when you are thirsty. And remember that some of your water comes from food as well, so try to include foods like watermelon and cucumber in your diet, as they are naturally rich in water.

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