Danny Cahill blinked through a blizzard of confetti as his family rushed on stage to hug him. He had just won Season 8 of the show “The Biggest Loser.” Danny had lost more weight than any previous contestant. In just 7 months, he dropped 239 pounds.
“I’ve got my life back!” he yelled to the cheering crowd.
But in the decade following this feat, more than 100 pounds crept back on. Like the other contestants, Danny’s metabolism had slowed radically while on the show. To keep from gaining even more of the weight back, Danny was living on a measly 800 calories a day.
A slow metabolism is a chronic issue for many people. It can make weight loss and maintenance nearly impossible. Avoid these 5 metabolism-wrecking mistakes so the weight you lose stays off.
For decades, people have been trying to lose weight by cutting calories alone, and when that stops working, they cut them down even more. But living in too big of a caloric deficit and chronically undereating is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your weight loss journey.
Continuously cutting your calories creates a starvation cycle. The fewer calories you eat, the fewer your body will burn. Chronically eating fewer calories than your body needs can decrease your metabolism by as much as 25%! Even worse, this adjustment in your metabolism can last long after you stop your calorie-restricting diet.
The 80s were awash with aerobics videos, and our approach to working out even today is shaped by what we learned decades ago. Today, we’re addicted to cardio more than ever with the invention of the Apple Watch. We love to see all the calories we burn during those cardio workouts, and we feel discouraged when our calorie count is lower during our strength workouts.
But, we know a lot more about physical fitness and our metabolisms than we did forty years ago. The fitness fact is that weight lifting will boost your calorie burn even more than cardio can.
Cardio workouts are beneficial for your health, but they should never take the place of weight lifting. Cardio burns more calories per session, but weight training helps you burn more calories every day. One study found that strength training results in a metabolism boost for up to 38 hours afterward!
We’re more sedentary than ever. The average American adult spends more than eight hours a day sitting. Sitting isn’t just wrecking our metabolisms. A study that documented 800,000 people and their sitting habits found that those who sit the most are way more likely to become diabetic, have a heart attack or stroke, and die younger. Sitting is bad news.
But walking is a simple solution. After decades of working in health and fitness, walking is one of the most underrated and valuable activities you can add to your life to boost your health and reach your fitness goals. It’s also one of the easiest habits you can incorporate to increase your metabolism.
A killer workout can’t make up for a sedentary lifestyle. If you spend the rest of your day on your backside, your weight loss progress will be slow. 5,000 steps a day is the absolute bare minimum, but the more the better!
Sleep loss and sleep disorders significantly impact metabolism. Sleep affects both your metabolisms and the hormones responsible for regulating your metabolism. A lack of quality sleep will make you metabolically groggy and diminish your body’s ability to convert food into energy.
Plus, your body becomes stingy in giving up its fat when it’s sleep-deprived. If you’re dieting and exercising but not getting sufficient sleep, 70% of all the weight that you lose will come from lean body mass (muscle and not fat). That means you end up looking less toned and retain more fat in exchange.
Your body may be dehydrated right now. In fact, it’s likely. 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated.
Dehydration can compromise the efficiency of most body functions, including your metabolism. While dehydrated, your digestive system and your metabolism slow down. On the flip side, drinking about 2 cups of water before a meal may increase your metabolic rate by up to 30%.
If you feel like you are doing all the right things yet you’re still not seeing results, it might be time to take a break from weight loss and focus on building your metabolism. Here are a few tips to focus on.
Recovering from a low-calorie diet is possible. Just like your body adjusted to dropping calories, your body will adjust to adding calories back. This strategic method of increasing the calories you can eat without gaining weight is called Reverse Dieting, and I teach you how to do it here!
Aim to add about 400 extra calories to your daily intake over the next 2 to 4 months. Ideally, you do this while maintaining your current weight. But don’t be scared off if you see your weight increase by a few pounds. In the long run, healing your metabolism and more easily losing weight in the future is worth a few extra temporary pounds.
Hop off the bike and treadmill and start picking up those weights to really make an impact on your health and on your metabolism. The more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn at rest. And who doesn’t want to burn an extra 50 calories tonight while watching TV?
Weight training becomes even more important as we age. As the years go on, we lose muscle mass. It’s this loss of muscle mass that reduces our metabolism the most! Weight training helps rebuild that calorie-burning muscle. Plus, strong bodies are less prone to injury, helping you stick with your health goals for the long run.
Just one 30-minute session of walking per day burns up to 200 calories but also increases your resting calorie burn for a few hours after your workout is complete. This low-impact form of exercise is very unlikely to cause injury, so you can enjoy it for years to come.
Step counters can be a really motivating tool to help you walk more. If you’re not ready to invest in a more expensive pedometer, like the Fitbit, the 3D FitBud’s Simple Step Counter is an easy-to-use, budget-friendly option.
Track how many steps you’re taking on a typical day and see if you can increase that number by a few thousand. 10,000 steps a day, which has been recommended recently, is approximately 5 miles. If you’d rather not use a pedometer, feel free to find a 1-3 mile loop around your neighborhood that you can walk daily to get closer to that 10,000 steps goal.
We need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night. Heal your metabolism and increase your health by prioritizing sleep. Keep your sleep schedule consistent, invest in blackout curtains, turn the temperature down, and stop eating about two hours before bed. These habits will help you sleep better, enjoy optimal health, and burn more calories daily.
Optimal hydration keeps your metabolism running at its highest. Drinking enough water is also linked to many long-term benefits. Scientists are discovering how drinking enough water can lower the chance of stroke, help manage diabetes, and even potentially reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.
You may have heard of the 8×8 rule: “Drink eight 8-oz glasses of water a day.” While this is a good minimum, this rule around water has more recently been fine-tuned. Now, we understand that the amount of water we need to drink depends on our weight and our environment.
In mild temperatures and environments, your body needs about 0.5 to 1 oz of water per pound of body weight. During hot summer months or if you’re exercising for several hours, you should add about a liter to what you normally drink a day.
Hit your hydration goals this week. Carry your water bottle everywhere with you. Stir in a healthy flavor booster that’s full of electrolytes.
Want to troubleshoot your metabolism with a pro? Join LEAN, a 7-week weight loss program with Registered Dietitian Amanda Nighbert.