6 Ways To Increase Your Metabolism To Lose Weight

When we find it hard to lose weight, metabolism is often the first thing to get blamed. But what does metabolism have to do with weight loss? And can your metabolism be changed to achieve health and weight loss goals?

What we eat, how much we move, and other lifestyle factors can all influence your metabolism. Keep reading to learn more, and discover six ways to increase your metabolism to lose weight.

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Metabolism and weight loss: how are they linked?

Your metabolism is the amount of energy (calories) your body burns to stay alive.

You use calories for daily activities, including exercise, but also simple things like breathing and sleeping. Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is what we call the energy required to keep your body alive and functioning while at rest. Genetics partly determines it¹.

How fast your body processes energy over time influences your overall metabolic rate, or in other words, the number of calories you can burn in a given period.

A fast metabolism means your body will naturally burn more calories, even when you’re resting.

If you have a slow metabolism, you will automatically burn fewer calories in a day.

Is your metabolism slow or fast?

So, how can you determine if your metabolism is slow (low) or fast (high)? Metabolic rate is complex — it’s influenced by your age, sex, and body composition. Your healthcare professional will be best able to provide a complete analysis of your metabolism. However, here are a few common metabolism indicators:

Signs of a slow metabolism:

  • Quick and unexpected changes in weight and appetite

  • Feeling sluggish and tired easily

  • Noticeable weight gain

Signs of a fast metabolism:

  • Unexplained, unintended weight loss

  • An elevated heart rate

  • Frequent bowel movements

  • Increased appetite throughout the day

  • Running hot (feeling sweaty or overheated)

If you want to increase your metabolism² naturally, here are some ways you can adjust your lifestyle and potentially boost your capacity for weight loss.

1. Eat enough throughout the day

Your body likes being in balance. To maintain your metabolic balance, it's essential to eat enough and to eat consistently. Irregular meal times can disrupt your circadian rhythm leading to an increase in metabolic risk factors.

In addition, skipping breakfast has been linked to obesity, and having a late lunch has hindered weight loss for some individuals³. By eating at set intervals, you'll be able to minimize unnecessary fat storage.

Also, undereating is a bad idea. When you severely restrict calories (eat much less than your body needs to function), your metabolism will decrease (to prevent starvation). This means you will burn fewer calories a day, making it difficult to lose weight consistently over time⁴.

Generally speaking, adult women need between 1,600–2,400 calories daily, and adult men need between 2,000 and 3,000 (depending on activity levels and other health needs)⁵.

2. Eat sufficient protein and fiber

Ensuring your meals and snacks have a good combination of fiber and protein can help you with your weight loss journey. Protein enables you to feel satiated and fuller with fewer calories, which helps reduce the need to go on a strict diet or drastically change your food portion sizes⁶.

Compared to carbohydrates and fat, protein promotes satiety and increases the amount of energy required to break down protein, increasing body temperature and boosting metabolism⁷. In addition, fiber takes up more space in your stomach than fat and carbohydrates, promoting feeling satisfied⁸. 

3. Strength training

The more muscle mass you have, the more energy your body processes at any given time⁹. Strength training is a healthy way to increase your metabolic rate and amount of muscle.

It’s estimated that every pound of muscle at rest burns about six calories daily. That's roughly about three times the number of calories it takes to burn a pound of fat¹⁰.

This means that if you gain an extra 10 pounds of muscle and lose about 10 pounds of fat, you will burn an extra 40 calories a day. While 40 calories might seem minimal, it still makes a significant difference in the long run. 

4. Have a healthy sleep schedule

When someone gets insufficient levels of sleep, the hormone ghrelin is released, making them feel hungry and can result in weight gain over the long-term¹¹. Poor sleep quality can also reduce the amount of leptin you release. Leptin is a hormone that is responsible for making you feel full and satiated.

Studies have also shown that sleep deprivation commonly results in metabolic dysregulation, more oxidative stress, insulin resistance, and glucose intolerance, leading to diabetes¹². 

5. Incorporate stress-relieving activities

Cortisol is a hormone that helps regulate appetite (among other things). When you experience prolonged stress, it can increase your cortisol levels¹³.

Researchers investigated the relationship between cortisol and weight loss and found that abnormal cortisol levels lead to people experiencing disordered eating styles¹⁴. Unhealthy eating patterns can also disrupt metabolism. That’s why stress-relieving activities can help lower cortisol levels and have desirable effects on metabolism.

6. Stand rather than sit

Several studies indicate that long hours seated can change your body's physiology, including reduced blood flow. In addition, sitting can decrease blood vessel health, and reduce compounds that control blood sugar and cholesterol¹⁵.

Sedentary living can also increase our risk for diabetes, heart disease, and weight gain. By swapping some of those hours you spend sitting to standing, you'll be able to burn more calories. For example, just an afternoon standing will help you burn significantly more calories than if you were sitting¹⁶.

The lowdown

A multitude of factors, including your sleep, diet, and daily movement, can alter your metabolism and affect the rate at which your body burns calories.

While metabolism is complex and can be influenced by many things, incorporating these lifestyle changes can help increase it over time in support of your weight loss goals.

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