Habits That Slow Your Metabolism

Health Writer
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Your metabolism is the process that helps convert calories from food and drinks into energy. Genetics, family history, your size and muscularity contribute to metabolic rate, as does your gender and age. But those with a sluggish metabolism may experience weight gain or difficulty losing weight. Here are factors that can cause a sluggish metabolism.


A very low calorie diet

If your body thinks you are starving because you're following a low-calorie diet, your metabolic rate will slow down in an effort to preserve every calorie consumed.  That’s why experts recommend staying on a limited calorie diet for only a short amount of time. A very low-calorie diet is considered anything at or below 1,200 calories per day.


A sedentary lifestyle

Sedentary lifestyles are often associated with a sluggish metabolism. A way to counter this is to perform resistance or weight bearing exercise in order to build muscle mass. Aerobic exercise raises your heart rate and  will also rev up your metabolic rate. Very strenuous exercise also tends to reduce rather than increase your appetite, because it lowers levels of ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone.


Grazing, or eating many small meals

This habit may keep your metabolic rate steady, but you may also end up consuming too many calories. It may be better to stick to three meals and one or two small snacks to keep your metabolic rate efficient and stimulated. For others, a less-is-more approach may work. A 2013 diabetes study suggests two large meals may force your body to work harder and burn more calories during digestion.


Skipping breakfast

During sleep, your metabolic rate slows down since it is supporting a body in total rest mode. Having a meal right when you get up is like putting wood into the furnace and stoking the flames. Spark your metabolism by choosing a balanced breakfast of healthy grain, a serving of protein and a fruit.


Loading up on trans fats

These artery-clogging fats are found in fast foods and highly processed foods, and slow your body’s ability to burn fat. Even if the food label says 'zero trans fats,' check the ingredients for partially hydrogenated fats.  A food can claim ‘no trans fats’ if it contains 0.5 grams of trans fats or less.  So eating multiple servings of this food actually can add up to several grams of trans fats a day.


Not checking your thyroid

Known as hypothyroidism, a sluggish thyroid slows down your metabolic rate. It’s important to get enough iodine in your diet, since the thyroid cannot produce hormones without it. Iodine also helps convert food to energy. Since many of us shun salt--a key source of iodine--consider seafood such as cod, sea bass and haddock. Also, keep dairy products in your diet.


Metabolism booster: Eat protein

Your body takes more time (and works a bit harder) to digest proteins. A high-protein diet will also preserve lean body mass. As mentioned earlier, more muscle nudges your metabolic rate. Choose plant-based proteins such as nuts, seeds, legumes, and other protein sources including fish, very lean meats and fat-free dairy products like milk, Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese.


Metabolism booster: Green tea

According to recent studies, dieters who drank several cups of green tea a day experienced a small thermogenic effect. This may possibly be due to the catechins (antioxidants) which help with fat oxidation. Experts commonly recommend five, eight-ounce cups of unsweetened green tea daily.


Metabolism booster: Go spicy

 Studies show that foods that contain capsaicin like jalapeno, cayenne and chili peppers can provide a boost to your metabolism.  Make a hearty soup or chili with these spicy peppers.