Whether it’s your heart beating, nerves communicating or muscles pumping – your metabolism is a 24 hour, non-stop process that powers everything you do. To carry out these bodily functions, we require energy that ultimately comes from our food.
Metabolic rate is affected by many factors, including our age, weight and genetics. Although there’s not a whole lot we can do about those things, there are certain diet choices that can dramatically slow metabolism. These ‘healthy’ mistakes may be bringing your metabolism to a grinding halt:
Many people on a ‘diet’ drastically reduce the amount of food they eat. Problem is, when you reduce your intake too much your body switches into starvation mode, which slows your metabolic rate in order to preserve energy. Not eating enough can lead to muscle loss (instead of fat loss), which in turn reduces your metabolic rate, and having a higher muscle to fat ratio is key to a faster metabolism.
The Fix: Eat regular, balanced meals to keep blood sugar levels on an even keel. and opt to include a balance of wholegrain carbohydrates, protein and good fats in each meal.
Missing the most important meal of the day also signals the body to conserve energy (just like eating too little) and can often set you up to overeat later in the day. Studies also show that people who eat breakfast have more balanced diets, are less likely to be overweight or obese and have a reduced risk of metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
The Fix: Having a healthy breakfast (ideally within one hour of waking) should help to keep your metabolism humming along.
Not only does calcium strengthen your bones, it also helps to regulate fat metabolism, which in turn determines whether you use energy efficiently or store energy as fat. What’s more, a diet low in calcium can reduce lipolysis (the breakdown of fat) leading to a slower metabolism and weight gain. Dairy is also rich in quality proteins, which help to build up and repair muscle – just want you want to keep the metabolism alive and kicking.
The Fix: Opt for 2-3 servings a day of good quality dairy or high calcium foods. Think natural yoghurt, cheese and milk or milk alternatives.
While a low-carbohydrate diet can be good for weight loss in the short-term, it’s not beneficial in the long-term, especially if you are exercising. During exercise your muscles are like sponges sucking up glycogen (a stored form of carbohydrate) as the preferred source of fuel, so if you are not eating enough carbohydrates, your glycogen stores will be low and you may tire out early.
The Fix: Rather than ditching carbs completely, choose them wisely. Opt for low-GI carbs such as rolled oats, brown rice, quinoa and sweet potato and avoid refined sources like high sugar cereals, white rice and processed, packaged foods.