Your metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy.
The higher your metabolism is, the more calories (energy) you burn each day.
As we age, our metabolic rate begins to slow down, which is part of the reason weight gain occurs as we get older.
But, aging isn’t the only thing that causes metabolism to slow down. A number of other factors also influence metabolic rate including gender, heredity, and amount of lean mass.
Your daily choices (lifestyle habits) also directly influence metabolism and can either help you burn fat or gain it.
Today, we cover 8 bad habits that kill your metabolism.
Let’s get started.
8 Bad Habits That Slow Your Metabolism
Sitting Too Much
These days we have more technological comforts than ever before. But all progress comes with a price.
In exchange for the comforts of the modern era, we are more sedentary than ever.
Instead of walking or biking to work, we drive or ride municipal transportation. Instead of shopping for our own groceries, we have them delivered to our house. Instead of performing manual labor, we work behind desks and computers.
Add it all together and it adds up to very little movement during the day.
And the less movement that occurs, the fewer calories you burn during the day.
Yet, despite our reduced levels of physical activity, we’re still consuming lots and lots of calories.
This combination of a sedentary lifestyle and high-calorie intake leads to a slowing of the metabolism and lots of weight (i.e. fat) gain.
As if unwanted weight gain wasn’t bad enough, numerous studies find evidence of a relationship between sedentary behavior (sitting) and increased rates of all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer death as well as the incidence of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Increased non-exercise activity (fidgeting, parking further away, taking the stairs instead of the elevator) is one of the easiest ways to boost metabolism and increase the number of calories burned during the day.
It’s low impact, won’t impair recovery from intense workouts, and increases blood flow and circulation (which actually accelerates recovery).
One easy way to reduce the amount of sitting you do during the day is to set a reminder on your phone every hour to get up and walk for 5-10 minutes. Another way to increase your movement is to get a standing desk at work or go for a walk when talking on the phone instead of sitting or lying down.
These small decisions may seem inconsequential, but over time, they will amount to big changes in your total energy expenditure during the weeks and months ahead.
Not Exercising Regularly
Building off the last point, not only is being sedentary a surefire way to kill your metabolism but so too is not exercising regularly.
You see, your metabolism is made up of four primary factors:
- Basal Metabolic rate (BMR) -- the number of calories your body would burn in a day if all you did was lay in bed. The vast majority of your metabolic rate is comprised of your BMR.
- Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) -- the number of calories your body expends breaking down the protein, carbohydrates, and fat you eat in food into individual amino acids, sugars, and fatty acids. TEF can account for up to 10% of TDEE.
- Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) -- fidgeting, blinking, tapping your foot, walking up the stairs, etc. NEAT is highly variable from one day to another and from one individual to another. It can play a significant role in how high or how low your total daily energy expenditure is, and as a result, your metabolism, too.
- Thermic Effect of Activity (TEA) -- the amount of energy your body burns during structured physical activity (i.e. exercise)
Similar to the thermic effect of food, the amount of calories you burn each day from structured exercise is small compared to your BMR, but it still matters.
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What this means is that if you do not regularly exercise (3-5 times per week), and you live a relatively sedentary lifestyle, you’re not really increasing your energy expenditure during the day above and beyond your BMR.
Coupled with a high-calorie diet, this can lead to unwanted weight gain.
Regular exercise helps stimulate metabolism, support health & longevity, increase the number of calories burned during the day, and if you perform the right kind of exercise (more on that next!), you can actually boost your metabolism!
Not Lifting Weights
So often when people think of “exercise,” they think of performing cardiovascular exercise (cardio) -- going for a jog, hopping on the elliptical, or pedaling time away on a bike.
And while these are all fine forms of exercise, they’re not the only type of exercise you should be performing.
Cardio does help stimulate metabolism and increase the number of calories you burn during the day, but that boost in calorie burning stops shortly after you stop exercising. And, cardio also does little to help build muscle and strength.
This is important when you realize that the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism is as muscle is more “expensive” from an energy standpoint than fat. Furthermore, muscle tissue is also the body's largest repository for glucose.
The reason this is noteworthy is that the more muscle you have, the more effectively and efficiently your body can handle carbohydrates.
To build muscle you should perform resistance training (lifting weights) 2-4 times per week.
Not only does resistance training help you to build muscle and strength, but it also boosts metabolism for up to 38 hours after training.
Moreover, as we age, metabolism naturally slows and muscle breakdown increases. Aging also tends to go hand and hand with more sedentary lifestyles. Add these factors together and you’ve got the perfect recipe for unwanted fat gain.
To help fight back Father Time and fat gain, you want to build muscle, and the most effective way to do that is by engaging in regular bouts of resistance training.
Not Consuming Enough Protein
Whether you want to lose fat or build muscle, consuming enough protein each day is vital to your success.
You see, protein supplies the building blocks your body needs (amino acids) to repair and build muscle tissue.
Not consuming enough protein can impair your recovery from training and stunt your muscle and strength progress. Basically, not consuming sufficient protein is a surefire way to make your efforts in the gym go to waste.
But, that’s not all.
Protein is also highly satiating (meaning it keeps you full), and it’s also the most energy intensive macronutrient for your body to breakdown and absorb.
In other words, by consuming a high protein diet, you are helping to keep hunger in check, and boosting your metabolism (since your body has to expend more energy to break down protein than either carbs or fats).
Therefore, you want to consume adequate protein each day to keep metabolism high, support muscle growth, and limit cravings.
Not Getting Enough (7-9 hours) Sleep
One pillar in the success (or failure) of anybody transformation that isn’t stressed heavily enough is sleep.
Yes, proper diet and hard training are vital to your success, but so too is the amount and quality of sleep you get each night.
During sleep is when our bodies replenish energy stores, clean up waste products generated during the day, and do the majority of repair and growth.
Restricting sleep effectively “kneecaps' these processes from happening, which leads to you feeling tired, unmotivated, and under recovered.
But, there’s more.
Sleep deprivation also messes up your hormone levels, which has a direct impact on hunger and satiety signals as well as metabolism.
Research has shown that when individuals don’t get enough sleep, levels of the hunger hormone (ghrelin) increase while levels of the satiety hormone (leptin) decline.
Basically, when you don’t get enough sleep, you feel hungrier during the day, and you’re less likely to feel full following a meal.
Moreover, not getting enough sleep also reduces motivation to exercise and it decreases the amount of movement you do the day after.
To top it off, sleep deprivation also impairs insulin sensitivity, effectively reducing how efficiently your body handles glucose, making it more likely to store fat than burn it for energy (or store it in muscle).
The takeaway here is that you NEED to get enough sleep each and every night -- 7-9hours -- if you do not want to kill your metabolism.
Both adequate 7-9 hours and quality sleep is also necessary for your ability to grow and repair muscle. Poor quality sleep will negatively impact your growth hormone levels because up to 3/4 of daily human growth hormone release happens during the deepest sleep cycle. If you cannot get good nights’ rest and if you keep waking up at night, you will benefit from this product.
Letting Stress Get the Better of You
When we’re stressed, levels of the “stress” hormone (cortisol) increase.
In acute situations (getting chased by a cheetah, attempting a max weight lift, etc.), cortisol is beneficial as it heightens energy, alertness, and motivation.
However, when we are chronically stressed, cortisol levels remain elevated which has numerous negative ramifications.
For starters, chronic stress increases appetite and the desire to eat comfort foods (high-fat, high-carb, high-calorie food). It also decreases our desire and motivation to exercise.
To top it off, it also reduces sleep quality
All of these things kill metabolism.
While you can’t completely eliminate stress from your life, you can take steps to limit certain stressors and improve the way you manage stress.
Doing so will help you feel more balanced and at ease during your daily life, and keep your metabolism chugging along!
To lose weight, you must be in an energy deficit whereby you consume fewer calories than you burn each day.
However, in an effort to drop fat fast, many individuals cut their calorie intake too severely, often times adopting crash (read: fad) diets than have them consuming a maximum of 1000 calories per day.
Following these absurd, “quick-fix” diets is a one-way ticket to muscle loss and a slow metabolism.
Yes, you will lose weight following these ultra-low calorie diets, but you’ll also lose a lot of muscle mass (which lowers your metabolism). And, to make matters worse, you’re more than likely to gain all of the weight back once you start eating normally again.
That’s because crash diets do not teach individuals how to sustainably lose weight and keep it off once they’ve lost it.
Losing weight takes time, patience, and persistence.
But, taking the slow and steady path helps keep your metabolism from slowing down, losing muscle, or developing an unhealthy relationship with food.
Drinking Too Much Alcohol
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but drinking too much alcohol can lead to a slower metabolism and increased fat gain.
The reason for this isn’t that alcohol consumption directly slows your metabolism. In fact, studies show that in the short term, consuming alcohol increases resting energy expenditure.
The reason drinking too much kills metabolism is that it disrupts lipid metabolism (“fat burning”) and increases energy intake by increasing hunger levels.
Basically, when you drink too much alcohol, your body’s ability to burn fat is hindered until it eliminates all the alcohol from your system, and it increases the total number of calories you eat during the day, which leads to fat gain.
Plus, if you drink too much, you’re less likely to exercise or be highly active during the day. Again, both of these things kill metabolism.
Suffice it to say that if you’re trying to live a healthy, fit, and active lifestyle, alcohol consumption needs to be kept in check.
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- Schmid, S. M., Hallschmid, M., Jauch-Chara, K., Born, J., & Schultes, B. (2008). A single night of sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels and feelings of hunger in normal-weight healthy men. Journal of Sleep Research, 17(3), 331–334. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2869.2008.00662.x
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- Caton, S. J., Ball, M., Ahern, A., & Hetherington, M. M. (2004). Dose-dependent effects of alcohol on appetite and food intake. Physiology & Behavior, 81(1), 51–58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2003.12.017