Have you been feeling sluggish lately? Dealing with cravings for foods you know aren’t great for you (like carbs and sugar)? Holding onto stubborn weight that just won’t budge — no matter what you do?
Chances are, your metabolism is to blame.
“Your metabolism — more specifically, your metabolic rate — is how quickly your body is burning calories,” says Julie Lohre, a certified nutrition specialist and certified personal trainer.
When you have a slower-than-normal metabolism, it creates a cascade of negative side effects, including fatigue, mood swings, food cravings, and difficulty losing weight.
Luckily, a slow metabolism isn’t permanent, and with the right changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can rev up your metabolism — and get back to feeling better in the process.
And the best part? It doesn’t take long to make moves in the right direction. Follow this three-day fix to get your metabolism on track (and start reaping the benefits of an increased metabolic rate).
When to wake up
Get a solid 8 hours of sleep
If you had a late night on Friday, spend Saturday morning catching up on some ZZZ’s.
When you don’t get enough sleep, this can disrupt the hormone balances in the body — which in turn slows down your metabolism and increases your risk for weight gain.
“Sleep deprivation is perceived by the body as an additional stressor — so cortisol goes up and testosterone drops,” says exercise physiologist and nutritional biochemist Shawn M. Talbott, PhD.
One study from the University of Chicago found that getting only 5.5 hours of sleep each night over a two-week period reduced fat loss by 55 percent.
According to Talbott, “People who get 6 hours versus 8 hours of sleep per night typically carry 5 to 15 pounds of extra belly fat.”
Get the most metabolism-boosting benefits from your sleep
Aim for at least 8 hours per night — and make sure those 8 hours are full of high-quality shut-eye.
“[Make sure the sleep] that you get is as ‘high-quality’ as possible — meaning that you spend as much time [as possible] in REM sleep, which rejuvenates the brain, and deep sleep, which restores the body,” says Talbott.
What to eat today
Don’t skip breakfast...
You might be tempted to run out the door in the morning, but if you want to keep your metabolism revving all day, make time for breakfast (and a workout!). “Eating breakfast fast tracks metabolism and keeps energy high all day,” says Lohre.
A recent 2018 study found that eating breakfast before exercising accelerates your metabolism post-workout.
... and have a Greek yogurt
Probiotics balance gut bacteria and help increase metabolism — so make sure to have a Greek yogurt (which is more concentrated and has higher levels of probiotics) with your breakfast.
To make sure you’re getting the right gut-balancing microorganisms with your breakfast, make sure your Greek yogurt says “contains active cultures” on the packaging.
(Yogurt not your thing? No worries! You can also get your morning probiotic boost with supplements.)
Benefits of probiotics“The bacteria in our guts influence numerous aspects of our metabolism, so having the ‘wrong’’ balance of bugs can lead to junk food cravings, blood sugar swings, and weight gain — while having the ‘right’ balance of bugs can lead to less sugar cravings and higher metabolic rate,” says Talbott.
What to do today
Work in a 20-minute strength-training circuit...
By doing a strength routine, you’ll build more muscle — and the more muscle you have, the better your metabolism.
“Building muscle will help you burn more calories even when you’re not moving — and the higher your muscle mass, the stronger your metabolic rate,” says Lohre.
If you want to strength train, you can definitely go old school and lift weights — but that’s not your only option! Doing body-weight exercises (like squats and planks) or hitting a TRX class is just as effective at building muscle as exercises like bicep curls.
... or get in some cardio
Now, if you’re not used to pumping iron, strength training could leave you feeling super sore.
But no worries! If you want to get in a metabolism-boosting workout, cardio can be just as effective. In fact, a 2011 study found that 45 minutes of vigorous cardio exercise increased metabolic rate for a whopping 14 hours post-workout.
To get your cardio in, you can hit the trails for a run, check out a spin class, swim some laps — anything that gets that heart rate up!
When to go to sleep
Get to sleep before midnight
You might be tempted to stay up late and catch up with your Netflix queue, but fight the urge! If you want to keep your metabolism revved up, you need to get at least 8 hours of sleep — so make sure your head hits the pillow before midnight.
When to wake up
Wake up at 8 a.m.
If you fall asleep by midnight, say, today, aim to wake up around 8 a.m. This gives you enough time to make sure you’re getting enough shut-eye for a healthy metabolism but early enough so you won’t be angry at the world when your alarm goes off for work tomorrow.
What to drink today
Start your day with a cup of coffee…
Not like you needed another reason to get your morning cup of joe, but a little bit of caffeine is a great way to boost your metabolism.
Research shows that 100 milligrams of caffeine (about how much you’d find in an 8-ounce cup of coffee) can boost resting metabolic rate by anywhere from 3 to 11 percent.
Not a coffee person? No worries — you can get a similar boost to your metabolism with a cup of green tea. In addition to caffeine, researchers believe antioxidant catechins in tea provide the boost,” says Lohre.
… and drink plenty of H20
Coffee is great for the morning — but for the rest of the day, stick to water.
Researchers found that drinking 16.9 ounces (a little over 2 cups) of water increased metabolic rate by 30 percent for 30 to 40 minutes. For the most metabolism-boosting benefits, aim to drink that 16.9 ounces of H20 multiple times throughout the day.
What to do today
Prep meals for the week — and be sure to throw in some chili peppers
One of the best ways to set yourself up for success during the week is meal-prepping on Sundays. And if you want your prepped meals to deliver a boost to your metabolism, make sure to turn up the heat and throw a few chili peppers into your recipes.
Chili peppers contain capsaicin, which studies show can boost your metabolism and help you burn an extra 50 calories per day.
Increase your NEAT
There’s a lot you can do at the gym to increase your metabolism, but it’s what you do outside of the gym that has the most effect.
“NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) — or the energy that is expended from general daily activities — has a significant impact on the number of calories your body burns each day,” says Lohre.
“By moving more in your daily life, you’ll see huge improvements in your metabolism.”
Look for more opportunities to move throughout the day. Park your car further from the entrance to your office. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk around your house during a phone call. The more you move, the more calories you’ll burn.
When to wake up
Wake up after you’ve had 8 hours of sleep
It’s Monday, which (probably) means the start of the work week — and less flexibility in your wakeup time.
If you have to get up early, make sure you adjust your bedtime Sunday night to get the full 8 hours of sleep you need for maximum metabolism-boosting benefits. Need to get up at 6 a.m.? Be in bed by 10 p.m. Alarm set to go off at 7 a.m.? Make sure you hit the hay by 11 p.m.
What to eat today
Add some protein to every meal
If you want to use your diet to rev your metabolism, aim to add protein to every meal.
“Adding lean protein like eggs, chicken, and dairy to your diet will help jumpstart the metabolism in two ways. [First,] they help support muscle building and muscle retention... [plus] those foods themselves are more challenging for your body to digest, so it takes more energy from your body to utilize them than other foods,” says Lohre.
What to do today
Stress (and in particular, the stress hormone cortisol) slows down the metabolism. One 2015 study found that participants who experiences a stressful event burned 104 calories less over the 24 hours that followed than did their stress-free counterparts — the equivalent of nearly 11 pounds of weight gain per year.
If you want to keep stress at bay, try meditation. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to lower cortisol levels, and you can reap the rewards with as little as 10 to 15 minutes of meditation practice per day.
This three-day fix is a great start to boosting your metabolism (and feeling better in the process) — but it’s just the beginning.
“A healthy metabolism will keep you in shape and raise your energy levels,” says Lohre. “If you’re trying to lose weight, raising your metabolic rate means you’ll see results faster — longer-lasting results.”
So don’t just make it a weekend fix. Look to see where you can make long-term changes in your life so your metabolism can be consistently at its peak.
For the rest of the week (and your life!):
- Eat plenty of protein with each meal — 25 to 30 percent of your total daily calories — to boost your metabolism.
- Aim for at least 8 hours of high-quality sleep per night.
- Eat probiotic-rich foods (or take probiotic supplements).
- Meditate daily to keep stress to a minimum.
- Get in at least three metabolism-boosting workouts per week (strength training or cardio).
- Stay hydrated.
After all, if you want to see real, lasting changes to your metabolism, you’ll need to commit to real, lasting changes in your diet and lifestyle.
Deanna deBara is a freelance writer who recently made the move from sunny Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon. When she’s not obsessing over her dog, waffles, or all things Harry Potter, you can follow her journeys on Instagram.