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Updated December 28, 2020
Metabolism is one of those things we tend to chalk up to genes—something that you’re either blessed with or you’re not. But rather than being a mystical process, metabolism is simply a measurement of the amount of energy used to maintain basic functions of living, like breathing, blinking, pumping blood and more. However, a slow metabolism has been bane of many who see it as a primary source of weight gain (and their inability to lose the weight, no matter how much they diet).
The typical adult will burn between 1200 and 1600 calories daily through activity, body functions while at rest and exercise. But as you age or health problems settle in, slower metabolism often follows, leading lead to a number of unwanted symptoms, including: frequent headaches, poor digestion, sleep problems, mood swings, food intolerance, and of course, the notorious weight gain.
While metabolism is at least partly set by nature and your genetic makeup, it may be possible to improve a slow metabolism so you can burn more calories by setting new daily habits for your health.
Ready to up your metabolic burn? Do these things.
Make sure you’re eating enough food
While you need to cut calories to lose weight, you also need to eat to jump-start your metabolism. This might seem a little counterintuitive, but it’s all about balance (and nutritious food). When you eat less than what your body needs for basic functioning your body tries to hang on to the little food that it’s receiving, sending your body into metabolic slow-down to conserve energy. The threshold for how much to eat really depends on your height, age and weight. But on average, women should be consuming between 1200 and 1500 calories and men between 1500 and 1800.
Drink plenty of water
According to a study published in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, dieters drinking at least 17 ounces of water each day experienced an average metabolic increase of 30 percent. That boost occurred right after drinking the water—between 10 and 45 minutes for healthy men and women. Drinking more water may help you eat less throughout the day, thus doubling down on potential weight loss.
Get some rest
Sleep is vital to so many processes within the body, and a Swedish study found that even a single night of poor sleep can cause metabolism to slow and burn up to 20% fewer calories. And that’s not even mentioning the increased calories one typically eats after a less-than-full night’s sleep.
Have a little caffeine
Caffeine provides a little metabolic boost to the body, so whether you prefer coffee or green tea, adding a cup of caffeine to your day can raise your metabolism by about 12%. According to Japanese researchers, a cup of coffee each day can help you burn more than 100 extra calories per day. That said, the boost seems to be more pronounced in lean people. Those with a high BMI likely won’t see as many benefits from this morning habit.
When you increase your muscle mass, you also get the added benefit of improving your resting metabolism. Your resting metabolism refers to the calories you burn without really trying. For example, we burn calories while we work, watch television or walk around throughout the day. So, boosting that baseline burn means you’ll be able to keep weight off more easily. Do this by strength training exercises, which can include lifting weights, doing crunches and push-ups and even things like yoga and Pilates.
Add some protein to the mix
To build lean muscle through weight training, you need protein. Add a small serving to each meal, such as a couple of tablespoons of nuts to your salad, a cup of low-fat yogurt or three ounces of lean protein. Eating more protein on its own won’t stimulate any major calorie burn. But, eating protein provides your body with the amino acids it needs to build muscle. When its paired with exercise, that’s where the magic happens.
Lean into grazing
Don’t get us wrong. We’re not advocating for donut breaks throughout the day. Instead, focus on eating small meals throughout the day. The process discourages overeating and may have a positive effect on cholesterol, blood sugar and it might even reduce the risk of diabetes.
Skip the libations
While the rules of moderation can certainly apply to drinking alcohol, your metabolism will thank you for skipping out on that second drink. Your body doesn’t metabolize sugars and fats as quickly when you’re drinking which ends up slowing down your metabolism.
In the end, there are a lot of factors at play when it comes to your weight. These little changes do add up, though. Ultimately, an increased metabolism can help you lose weight and boost your energy levels for the day (and life) ahead.