There are certain things most of us do every day, often without thinking of them, which slow down our metabolisms. Are you self-sabotaging your efforts and limiting your potential to burn more fat and lose more weight each day? Here are eight important things to consider.
1. A lack of sleep
Lack of sleep has a direct impact on our hormonal (endocrine) system, particularly three very important hormones that impact our metabolism and our ability to lose weight – cortisol, ghrelin and leptin. Of particular importance, these hormones regulate fat metabolism and fat storage, as well as our appetite. For instance, when we don’t get enough sleep we produce more cortisol, which not only increases fat storage but also influences where that fat is stored. Another hormone that is affected in this way by a lack of sleep is ghrelin, which regulates hunger. Leptin levels, on the other hand, decrease, and this hormone is needed to suppress our appetites and moderate our body’s energy balance. As a result, we tend to eat more and store more fat when we’re sleep deprived.
2. Not eating enough
Yes, you read right! While we need to cut calories to lose weight there’s a fine line between creating a negative calorie balance and starving your body. Someone who diets on a severely calorie-restricted diet will force their body into ‘survival mode’ as their body requires a certain number of calories to maintain basic biological functions. This is made worse when a dieter exercises intensely. In survival mode, your metabolism will slow as your body tries to conserve as much energy as possible. In this state, it’s more likely that your body will preferentially store fat to try and counteract the effects of the severe calorie restriction.
3. Skipping meals
Every morning is a mad rush to shower, get dressed, get the kids ready for school and then fight your way through traffic to get to work. This often leaves little or no time for breakfast, so you skip it. However, skipping a meal, particularly breakfast, will deprive your body of much-needed calories for the day. This causes your body to overcompensate for lost calories at the next meal, which means you’ll also be more likely to make unhealthy choices because your body is now deprived. Breakfast is also the meal you need to bring your body out of the catabolic (muscle breakdown) state created during the night as we remain in a fasted state for eight or more hours. By prolonging this state your body can enter that ‘survival mode’ we explained previously. Therefore, to keep your metabolism high and functioning properly it’s very important that you never skip a meal, especially breakfast.
4. You’re dehydrated
What many people fail to realise is that your hydration levels directly affect your metabolism as your body needs water for important metabolic processes to occur. As such your metabolism slows down when you’re in a dehydrated state. We also often confuse hunger with thirst: we then tend to eat instead of drink, which can lead to weight gain. Ideally, we should all be drinking 8–10 glasses of water a day.
5. Eating refined carbs
Ditching the refined carbs will help to down-regulate insulin production, the main hormone that governs your body’s fat storing response and when you swap these carbs for more natural sources like fruits and vegetables you’ll also increase your fibre intake, which can enhance your body’s fat burning abilities. Ideally, we should all be consuming up to 25g of fibre a day.
6. Insufficient protein
Many women fail to consume enough protein as they fear of building more muscle. The amount you should consume each day depends on your weight, with a recommended average intake of between 1.2-1.8g per kilogram per day for women.
7. Constantly sitting
Our modern lives dictate that the majority of us now have desk jobs, which requires that we sit for most of the day. We then climb into a car and sit in traffic for a few more hours, and then plop ourselves on the couch when we get home. This inactivity is really detrimental to our metabolisms as it reduces the amount of energy we burn each day to perform our basic daily tasks. Being constantly on the move, or at least doing something every hour, will keep your metabolism revved up. Throw some intense exercise into the mix and you have a great way to stoke your metabolic furnace and boost the number of calories you burn each day.
8. Only doing cardio
While aerobic exercise is the most effective at burning calories on a per-unit-time basis, it also has the potential to destroy muscle – the most metabolically active tissue in our bodies. To maintain and build muscle, which boosts your basal metabolic rate you need to include weight or resistance training in your programme (try this kettlebell workout!). Cardiovascular exercise in the form of sprinting and high-intensity interval training is also more effective at boosting your metabolism, as it creates the largest metabolic disturbance. This means your body will work longer and harder to recover after a tough session, all the while burning more calories during the process.
As such, to start seeing the weight and fat loss results we want we just need to stop sabotaging our best efforts in the gym and in the kitchen by avoiding these simple yet common mistakes.
Join the conversation online – let us know what you think of these tips!
Author: Tanja Schmitz
Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.