Not burning off calories like you used to? Here are some surprising things that could be dragging the process down.
1. Your Genes
Metabolism is how your body changes food into energy. If your body is slow at burning calories while you rest or sleep, you probably got that from your parents, through your genes.
What you can do: Since you can’t change your genes, focus on your habits. One of the best ways to pep up your metabolism is to get more exercise. Look for ways to sneak more activity into your day.
A shift in your hormones can put the brakes on your body’s energy use. That can make you tired. Some conditions, like an underactive or overactive thyroid and diabetes, are hormonal diseases that affect your metabolism. Stress also releases hormones that can trigger a slow-down.
What you can do: If you have a medical condition, keep up with your treatment. And make it a priority to nip stress in the bud
3. Your Lack of Sleep
Good shut-eye helps your metabolism stay steady. When you toss and turn night after night, it’s harder for your body to use energy well, which can make conditions like diabetes and obesity more likely.
What you can do: Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep. If you’re not there now, try it for a week and see how much better you feel.
4. Strict Diets
How you lose weight matters. If you don’t eat enough, your metabolism switches to slow-mo. Severe diets, especially when you also exercise, teach your body to make do with fewer calories. That can backfire, because your body clings to those calories, which makes it harder to take weight off.
What you can do: Although it may take longer, keep your weight-loss plan realistic, not drastic.
5. Trendy Salt
Sea salt is a darling for foodies and chefs. You’ll find it in top restaurants and gourmet kitchens. But it lacks iodine, which your thyroid needs to manage your metabolism.
What you can do: Just a dash of iodized table salt meets that need. Or enjoy an iodine-rich food, like shrimp.
6. You’re Parched
Without enough H2O, your metabolism can stall. How about a tall, cool glass of water? Some studies show that it helps the body burn energy and fuels weight loss. At any temperature, water also helps you fill up, so you eat less.
What you can do: Sip it throughout the day. You also can eat more foods that are naturally rich in water, such as watermelon or cucumbers.
7. You Drink Decaf
It’s a good option if you like a cup before bedtime. But you’ll miss out on the jolt of caffeine that gets your metabolic motor running. Remember that some research shows coffee can affect blood sugar levels. So you may need to limit it if you have diabetes.
What you can do: If you can’t handle caffeine, lean into the other tips in this slideshow. Many things can help your metabolism, and you’ll want to use as many of them as possible.
8. Not Enough Calcium
You need it for more than your bones. It’s also a key nutrient for a swift metabolism, among the other positive things it does for your body. Many people don’t get enough of it.
What you can do: There are many delicious options! You can get calcium from milk and dairy products, of course. It’s also in many fortified foods (such as cereals, orange juice, and soy or almond milk), canned salmon, turnip greens, kale, and tofu.
9. Your Thermostat Is Set Too High
It’s not always a good idea to heat things up in the bedroom — at least not when it comes to your metabolism. Room temperatures of 75 degrees keep your body from making brown fat, which is loaded with calorie-burning cells.
What you can do: Turning the thermostat down to 66 degrees before bedtime boosts brown-fat levels. When it’s cold outside, taking regular brisk walks also may do that.
10. Your Meds
Some drugs can slow down your metabolism. These include many antidepressants and certain antipsychotics doctors use to treat schizophrenia. Many other medications, like those that slow the heart rate, also can have that effect.
What you can do: Let your doctor know if you think your prescriptions might be a problem. There may be something you could take instead.
11. Cutting Carbs
Sure, easing up on unhealthy carbohydrates can help you manage your weight and burn fat faster. But your body needs them to make insulin. Go low-carb all the time and you make less of this key hormone. Your metabolism stalls and you don’t burn as many calories as you once did.
What you can do: Get your carbs from fruits, vegetables, and grains that are rich in nutrients, like sweet potatoes and whole wheat flour. They’ll keep your metabolism in check and head off those cravings that can take you off-track.
12. Being Nocturnal
Catching the red-eye flight or working the night shift messes with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Those changes can lead to a sluggish metabolism and other problems like diabetes and obesity.
What you can do: Reset your body clock. If you take a lot of red-eye flights, get a different departure time. If you work at night and can’t change, talk to your doctor about healthy ways you can get on track.
13. Changing Meal Times
When you eat is as important as what you eat. Skipping meals or grabbing a bite on the go creates social — and metabolic — jet lag. Shifting meal times can wreak havoc with your metabolism and raise your risk for heart disease.
What you can do: Consider a regular mealtime with your family, and stick to it.
14. Chronic Stress
When you are in a stressful situation, your body makes a hormone called cortisol. It’s meant to give you a quick boost of energy. But if you’re stuck in a stressed-out zone, the body thinks you still need to fight, so it keeps making cortisol. High levels of this hormone make it harder for your body to use insulin. That puts the brakes on your metabolism and fuels weight gain.
What you can do: Find ways you can de-stress. Breathe deep. Do something you love. Find what works for you.
15. A High-Fat Diet
Eating loads of fatty foods like greasy burgers and buttery goodies is never a healthy idea. It changes how your body breaks down foods and nutrients. Your body’s ability to use insulin is affected, too. That’s called insulin resistance, and it’s been linked to obesity and diabetes.
What you can do: Reach for more fruits and vegetables, and drink more water. Beans, peppers, and shellfish are good options, too.