Boosting Your Metabolism For Dummies
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What aspects of your lifestyle could be impacting your ability to burn calories off? How are your habits affecting your metabolic rate? Following is a list of lifestyle factors that have the greatest impact.

Not moving enough

To lose weight, women are more likely to focus on reducing calories, and men are more likely to increase exercise than change their diet. Maybe it’s due to stereotypes around each activity. No matter your gender, you need to focus on both to get good results in weight and health.

Without incorporating activity and strength training, you’re missing out on reaping benefits for heart and bone health and disease prevention. In addition, your metabolism won’t be as revved if you’re just dieting to lose weight and aren’t thinking about preserving your lean muscle mass for long-term health. By getting a variety of exercise, you can keep your metabolic rate moving all day long.

Effects of too much stress

Pressure from work deadlines, taking care of your family, dealing with financial struggles or personal loss — Americans are seriously stressed out. Stress can be a big barrier to making healthy lifestyle changes, but it’s a double-edged sword: Stress itself can result in a sluggish metabolic rate.

Here’s how it works: When you’re stressed, your body releases cortisol, a hormone that regulates the energy you use and distributes fat within your body. Being stressed over the years, lots of cortisol floating around causes increases in blood sugar and insulin, which become more and more difficult to balance in the body. Cortisol increases your appetite and stores that extra glucose as fat.

Effects of sleep deprivation

If you’re experiencing stress in your life, your sleep is often affected as well. Either you aren’t getting enough good quality sleep because you’re tossing and turning, or you have disruptions in sleep because of your weight and respiratory issues.

Maybe you just have difficulty powering down at the end of the day or are at work late at night and up early in the morning. Over the past several decades, the amount of sleep Americans get on average has decreased 2 hours per night, from 8.5 hours to 6.5 hours.

Similar to stress, a poor night’s sleep — less than 7 hours — can cause you to wake up and go straight for that chocolate iced donut. Your inhibitions are lowered because you haven’t properly recharged. Also, you might find yourself eating more throughout the day because you feel like it will help you wake up.

On a more cellular level, research shows that not getting enough sleep directly impacts your hormones that regulate appetite and blood sugar control:

  • Ghrelin is increased: Increases appetite and decreases energy expenditure

  • Leptin is decreased: Decreases appetite and increases energy expenditure

  • Insulin is decreased: Regulates blood sugar

  • Cortisol is increased: Promotes fat storage

Effects of smoking and drinking

Turning to smoking or drinking alcohol as your main stress relief might work in the short term for you, but in the long term they negatively affect your weight and health.

Lifestyle habits you want to pick up include moderate amounts of caffeine and drinking enough water. They’ve both been shown to increase metabolic rate and keep you energized:

  • Drinking water: Research published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests that by consuming an extra 1.5 liters (about 34 ounces) of water per day over the course of a year, you could lose 5 pounds due to the increase in metabolic rate and calories burned.

    Add ice to your water! Much of the increase in metabolic rate is likely due to your body regulating temperature from drinking water that is cold.

  • Drinking caffeine: Found in coffee, teas, and colas, caffeine has been shown to increase metabolic rate and fat burned. Having 200–300 mg in addition to a nutritious diet might help boost your rate.

    Many caffeinated drinks like colas and specialty coffee drinks also contain a lot of refined sugar and saturated fat, which can outweigh the beneficial effects of the caffeine. Also, caffeine can increase anxiety and interfere with a good night’s sleep. Keep this in mind as you add caffeine to your day and moderate your amount if you experience these negative effects.

Effects of medication

Prescription medications can potentially affect your metabolic rate. Always consult your physician before discontinuing any medication if it has negative side effects like weight gain. Remember the positive effects of these medications; your doctor should determine whether the risks outweigh the benefits. You may need to change your eating behavior and exercise if you must continue on a particular prescription.

It’s also not always clear whether a medicine is resulting in weight gain because of your metabolic rate or whether it’s really due to improved appetite or other factors. For instance, an antidepressant might make you regain your appetite which was lost due to depression.

Weight gain from medication can result in serious health conditions like diabetes and metabolic syndrome, so always speak with your doctor about potential side effects. Some medications notorious for weight gain include anti-psychotics for mood disorders, corticosteroids to treat inflammation, and beta-blockers for high blood pressure.

Medications as well as lifestyle habits affect everyone differently. Being mindful of this is very important as you make your way down the road to boosting your metabolism and improving your health.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Rachel Berman, RD is the Director of Nutrition for, a free Web site and mobile app which provides tools to help people lead healthier lives. A nationally recognized nutrition expert, she has appeared on The Today Show, several local television and radio health segments, and is frequently quoted in print and online publications.

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