Despite your valiant efforts to slim down, nothing seems to be working. You sweat it out at the gym and you eat right—that’s all there is to it, right? Unfortunately, no. Our body’s metabolism—or its ability to burn calories—also plays a major role in weight loss. The quicker your metabolism is, the easier it will be for you to lose weight. If yours seems to be on the slower side, it could explain why the scale isn’t tipping in your favor despite all of your hard work and dedication.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to boost your metabolism. But first, you must identify the daily habits that are likely to blame for slowing it down. Once you’ve done that, the rest is a cinch! Scroll through to see which metabolism-sabotaging mistakes you’re making and the best ways to reverse the damage.
You Sweat Small Stuff
So what if that boy from OkCupid didn’t message you back. It’s so not worth stressing out about. Neither is that traffic jam that’s making you late for work. Not only can stress cause headaches, stomach distress, high blood pressure, chest pain and sleep disturbances, it also causes the body to metabolize food more slowly, according to research published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. To add insult to injury, the types of food we crave when we’re stressed out tend to be fat and sugar-laden treats like doughnuts and chocolate. Researchers say that the combination of high-cal cravings and a stress-induced snail-paced metabolic rate can result in significant weight gain.
The Fix: To keep your metabolism running strong, fight stress with laughter. Research shows that smiling and laughing causes levels of stress hormones to diminish. Exercise can also be an effective outlet. Hit the gym or set aside 12 minutes to do some tension-squashing Snaxercise. Want to do something more low-key? Try yoga. Not convinced? Check out our report on the 7 Surprising Reasons You Should Be Doing Yoga Now.
You Opt for Coffee Over Green Tea
We get it. You’re totally obsessed with your double shot skim latte. It helps wake you up in the morning and gives you the boost you need when the work day gets to be too much. But if you always opt for coffee over tea, you could be missing out of some major metabolism-boosting effects. In a recent 12-week study, participants who combined a daily habit of 4-5 cups of green tea with a 25-minute workout lost an average of two more pounds and more belly fat than the non tea-drinking exercisers. What’s its magic? The brew contains catechins, a type of antioxidant that triggers the release of fat from fat cells and helps speed the liver’s capacity for turning fat into energy
The Fix: Start sipping the green brew for a slimmer, more efficient calorie-burning you. We like the Lipton and Yogi varieties. Even if you’re not a fan of the green, you can still see slim-down benefits. Sip on any of these 4 Teas That Melt Fat Fast.
You Sit All Day
You may already know that the more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories your body will burn at rest. But when you sit all day at your desk, the bulging biceps and washboard abs you worked so hard to build at the gym begin to break down. This slows your resting metabolism and can make it harder to reach your weight loss goals.
The Fix: Quit your desk job—only kidding! We don’t expect you to give your two weeks notice to rev up your metabolism—and, luckily, you don’t have to. Simply getting up from your chair and taking a two-minute walk once every hour can do the trick, says Albert R. Matheny IV, RD, CSCS, Co-Founder of SoHo Strength Lab. Set your phone alarm to go off once every hour so you don’t forget to take a break.
You Skimp on Protein
We already told you that the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn–no matter what you’re doing. Yes, hitting the gym helps you build muscle to begin with, but eating protein keeps it from breaking down and slowing your metabolic rate as a result.
The Fix: Protein needs differ by individual, but typically consuming 0.8 to one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day should be sufficient enough to fuel weight loss, says Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN, a New York City-based Dietitian. For a 130-pound (58 kilogram) person, that would equal between 46 and 58 grams of protein. Good sources of the nutrient include tofu, milk, Greek yogurt, black beans, chicken, fish, beef, pork, hemp seeds, quinoa and other pseudograins. Research has found that because protein is more difficult for the body to break down and digest than other nutrients, it can increase post-meal calorie burn by as much as 35 percent. Aim to incorporate some protein into every meal and snack throughout the day to hit the nutritional mark and keep your metabolism running strong. For a delicious place to start, try these 5 Filling Breakfasts for Weight Loss that are packed with protein, but come together in a flash.
You Hit Up Happy Hour Regularly
After a long day at the office, it’s totally normal to want to blow off some steam with your co-workers. Hey, nothing says TGIF like a cold beer or some whisky on the rocks! While drinking in moderation every so often won’t do too much harm to your waistline, making it a habit can slow down your metabolic rate. Why? When your body has a cocktail to break down, it takes precedence over any food that you’ve already eaten that’s waiting to be digested. This slows down the entire metabolic process. In fact, some researchers claim boozing can decrease the body’s fat-burning ability by up to 73 percent!
The Fix: On the occasions that you decided to indulge, stick to low-calorie drinks. Alternate your alcohol with water to slow your pace, and cut yourself off after two drinks. Avoid ordering high-cal bar food like fries, and burgers, too. It’s hard to keep portions in check and pick the healthiest menu items after you’ve had a few. If you’re a wine drinker, seek out these 16 Wines for Weight Loss.
You Don’t Eat Enough
If you want to weigh less, you’ve got to eat less, right? Well, yes, but if you take in too few calories, it can cause your body to lose muscle mass, which will decrease the rate of your metabolism. Plus, when you skimp on calories, your body slows the rate at which is burns calories to conserve the fuel it’s got.
“Under-fueling is just as risky as over-fueling,” explains Carolyn Brown, MS RD at Foodtrainers in Manhattan. Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN agrees: “In an attempt for quick, noticeable weight loss, many people wrongfully believe that eating as few calories as possible is the best solution. Not only can this lead to numerous nutritional deficiencies as the body is getting less food overall, it can actually have the opposite effect on weight loss.”
The Fix: Instead of cutting calories like crazy, use our simple diet and exercise hacks that can help you slim down quickly and safely without screwing up your metabolism.
You Sleep During the Day
Research has found that people burn fewer calories when they sleep during the day and log their waking hours after the sun’s gone down. To come to this finding, University of Colorado at Boulder researchers studied 14 healthy adults for six days. For two days, study participants slept at night and stayed awake during the day, then they reversed their routines to mimic the schedules of night owls. When participants slept during the day, researchers found that they burned 52 to 59 fewer calories than they did while catching their zzz’s in the evening—likely because the schedule messed with their circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock that plays a major role in metabolism function.
The Fix: If you have no choice but to sleep during the day, aim to cut 50-60 calories from your daily diet. There are tons of easy ways to do this: leave the cheese or the top piece of bread off your sandwich, order a tall latte instead of a venti, opt for whole fruit instead of the dried variety, replace one serving of soda or juice with water, substitute applesauce for the oil while baking or ask for a veggie appetizer like a crudités in lieu of the breadbasket while dining out.