If you have a sluggish metabolism, you may feel like it’s a curse you just must live with. The bad news is slow metabolism can make it harder to maintain a healthy weight. The good news is your rate of metabolism is not static or fixed, and can be influenced by lifestyle changes, habits, and nutrition. Below, I’ve rounded up seven simple evidence-based ideas you can implement in five minutes or less that can give your metabolism a helping hand. But first, let’s unpack what metabolism really is about and what factors can impact your metabolic rate.
While metabolism is often thought of as how quickly a person burns calories, it’s actually a complex physiological and hormone-driven process that regulates how your cells process and create energy. Many different and synergistic processes can affect your own personal metabolic rate, especially disease processes, age, and hormone imbalances. As a reminder, if you have a health condition, you always need to be sure to seek professional medical advice before changing your lifestyle or eating habits.
Now, let’s dive into some ideas for boosting metabolism. Keep in mind these ideas may seem small and insignificant, but each improvement in your approach to a healthier lifestyle can deliver compounding results for your health.
Improve insulin response.
Metabolism is driven by hormone responses and insulin is a key player in the metabolic process. (Cruz-Pineda, et al., 2021) Ways to improve your insulin response include swapping refined flours and sugars for whole grains and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. A focus on eating low-glycemic foods can be a simple swap that can positively affect your metabolic process and improve the way your body burns energy. Not only is a plant-centered whole foods diet good for your metabolism, it can also provide a whole host of other health benefits as well.
Eat enough food.
Severely limiting your caloric intake, such as with yo-yo crash diets, can trigger your body to go into “starvation mode” and actually slow your metabolism, making it harder to manage your weight. Focus on eating adequate calories from nutrient-dense food with an emphasis on plant-centered, fiber rich foods.
Read labels to minimize MDCs.
Metabolism Disrupting Chemicals are grouped in a class of chemicals being researched for their endocrine disruptive properties. MDC’s are found in environmental exposure and current research is showing they have a host of negative benefits, including slowed metabolism. Some of these to watch out for include BPA, phthalates, and more. (Zissu, 2016)
Get direct sunlight first thing in the morning.
Even five minutes outside can trigger your internal clock and jumpstart your body’s hormone responses. Getting natural light in the morning helps regulate the circadian rhythm, which is associated with insulin sensitivity, glucose control, and energy expenditure.
Take a cool shower.
Research has shown taking cool showers has a host of benefits including boosting metabolic rate and stimulating the production of brown fat, which is a type of fat that helps keep your body warm and actually burns energy, regulates glucose and metabolism! As a bonus, it also helps boost your immune system. (Don’t use this method if you have heart disease, unless you’ve been directed to do so by your doctor.) (Cleveland Clinic. 17 Jun 2021)
Cortisol, often referred to as the “stress hormone,” slows metabolism and makes your body more effective at storing fat. (Abraham, et. al., 2013) Using meditation, pranayama-style breathwork, or other ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system can lower cortisol levels instantly and over time. In turn your body may be able to better regulate your metabolic processes.
Drink herbal tea instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.
Sugar-sweetened beverages, particularly those loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, can slow metabolic rate and contribute to weight gain in the belly and hips. Instead, polyphenol-rich Oolong or ginger herbal teas may also help with weight management and promote a balanced metabolism.
A version of this article was first published at http://www.elementshealthandwellness.com. All rights reserved by the author.
Abraham SB, et. al. “Cortisol, obesity, and the metabolic syndrome: a cross-sectional study of obese subjects and review of the literature”. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Jan;21(1):E105-17. doi: 10.1002/oby.20083. PMID: 23505190; PMCID: PMC3602916.
Cruz-Pineda, Walter, et. al. The Journal of Leukocyte Biology. “The regulatory role of insulin in energy metabolism and leukocyte functions”. 16 March 2021. https://jlb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/JLB.2RU1220-847R
Spritzler, Franziska. “6 Mistakes That Slow Down Your Metabolism. Healthline. 24 Apr 2019. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-mistakes-that-slow-metabolism#TOC_TITLE_HDR_6
Zissu, Alexandra. NRDC. “9 Ways to Avoid Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals.” 18 Jan 2016. https://www.nrdc.org/stories/9-ways-avoid-hormone-disrupting-chemicals
“Are Cold Showers Good for You?”. Cleveland Clinic. 17 Jun 2021. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/are-cold-showers-good-for-you/