There’s every chance you’re tuned into reality that building muscle is the key to boosting your metabolism (muscle burns through calories faster than fat – although you should be aware that your appetite is likely to increase as a result of this.)
But know that, while more marginal, there are other factors that come into play. In fact, some ostensibly benign behaviours could be slowing yours down, without you realising it.
Read on to learn what you’re doing wrong—and how to fix it.
1. You ditched dairy
Muscle is essential for keeping your metabolism humming and women who consumed three to seven servings of dairy per day lost more fat and gained more muscle mass than women who downed less, according to research from McMaster University.
2. You crank up the heat
To fry fat, dial down the thermostat.
Participants who slept in bedrooms cooled to 66°F for a month doubled the amount of brown adipose tissue—a type of fat that burns rather than stores calories, researchers at the National Institutes of Health found.
Brown fat becomes more active in cooler temperatures to help keep us warm. So the more active your brown fat, the more calories you’ll burn throughout the day.
While it’s too early to say how long you need to spend in the cold to reap the calorie burning rewards, turning down your heat, sleeping in cooler temps and spending time outdoors may make a difference.
3. You cut carbs completely
True, study after study shows that for weight loss, a low carb diet trumps a low fat one. But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate carbs completely, especially if you exercise regularly.
During exercise, your muscles demand glycogen from carbohydrate stores in your body.
If you don’t consume enough carbohydrates, your glycogen levels will be too low and you won’t have the energy to exercise as intensely.
As a result, you’ll burn fewer calories during your workout as well as post-exercise since your body won’t require as much energy to recover.
Instead, consume a serving of carbs (about the size of one cupped palm) such as oatmeal, brown rice or sweet potato at each meal.
4. You speed through strength training
Bicep curls, bench presses and deadlifts are great ways to build muscle. But speeding through the reps causes you to miss out on the major metabolism boosting benefits that come from the eccentric—or lowering—aspects of these movements.
Eccentric movements are more muscularly damaging, so they require more effort from your body to repair and recover compared to concentric or lifting motions. That equals more calories burned.
Researchers in Greece found that women who performed one weekly strength workout that focused on eccentric movement increased their resting energy expenditure and fat burning by 5 and 9%, respectively, after just eight weeks.
5. Your snacking could be improved
Instead of reaching for low calorie eats like rice cakes, welcome nuts back to snack time.
Research suggests that polyunsaturated fatty acids—especially in walnuts—may enhance the activity of certain genes that control fat burning, so you torch more calories throughout the day, according to a review in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Aim for about one to 1.5 ounces (a small handful) of walnuts per day.
6. You go easy while exercising
There’s a reason it seems like you’ve been hearing about high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for years now—it can work.
When women performed a 20-minute HIIT workout three times per week, they shed nearly six pounds more than those who exercised for 40 minutes, three times a week at a steady pace, Australian researchers found.
Interval training also results in greater post-exercise oxygen consumption than exercising at a sustained pace, which means you continue burning calories for a period of time afterward.
7. You sprinkle sea salt on food
Sea salt is a tastier option than plain old table salt, but it lacks iodine—a key element that gives your thyroid gland (which controls your metabolism) its mojo.
Without adequate iodine, your thyroid is unable to produce thyroid hormones and your metabolism can take a major nosedive.
Reach for iodised salt instead. Each quarter-teaspoon provides nearly 50% of your recommended dose of iodine. In addition, regularly put iodine rich eats such as seaweed, cod, prawns and eggs on the menu.
8. You skip your morning workout
Daylight is essential for your metabolic health, so step outside for a jog or walk first thing in the a.m.
In fact, people who soak up the most sunlight early in the day have a lower body mass index compared to those who are out in the sun later in the day.
Northwestern University researchers speculate that early morning sunlight may help regulate your circadian rhythm, which controls countless functions in your body, including how well you sleep, how much food you consume and how much energy you burn—all essential components of a healthy metabolic rate.