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How to Change a Slow Metabolism

By Jill Corleone, RDN, LD ; Updated July 18, 2017

If you've noticed that you're starting to pack on the pounds even though you're eating the same, or even less, you may be experiencing a slowdown in your metabolism. Building muscle and exercising gets your metabolism pumping. While some reports suggest certain foods also increase your metabolism, the effect may not be enough to make a big difference. Consult your doctor if you're concerned about your metabolism to rule out medical causes and design a game plan that fits your specific needs.

Your Metabolism

Your metabolic rate is the amount of energy, or calories, your body needs to maintain your weight. Your size, age, gender and genetics all factor in to determine your body's calorie-burning capacity. The elements that contribute to your body's metabolism include basal metabolic rate, thermic effect of foods and physical activity. The basal metabolic rate, which makes up the largest portion of your metabolism, is the number of calories necessary for maintaining automatic body functions such as breathing and the beating of your heart. BMR also includes calories necessary to support muscle mass.

The thermic effect of food is the number of calories needed for digestion. You burn about 10 calories for every 100 calories you eat, according to the University of Illinois. Physical activity includes the calories burned getting up and out of bed as well as in your favorite spin class.

Add Muscle to Change Your Slow Metabolism

Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue. Change your BMR and increase your slow metabolism with exercises that add muscle such as lifting free weights, using weight machines or resistance bands, or doing body-resistance exercises such as sit-ups, pull-ups and push-ups. Engage in these type of exercises at least twice a week, working out all your big muscle groups, including arms, legs, abs, chest and shoulders during each workout. To gain the most benefits, muscle-building exercises should be done to the point where it is nearly impossible for you to do one more repetition. Aim for eight to 12 repetitions per set, completing each set two to three times, recommends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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More Physical Activity to Speed Up Metabolism

Finding ways to be more active can speed up the activity portion of your metabolic rate. Plan for regular exercise, whether it's a brisk 30-minute walk or a game of pick-up basketball. Calories burned vary depending on the activity you choose to include. A 185-pound person burns 222 calories walking at a pace of 4 miles per hour for 30 minutes and 355 calories in a 30-minute game of basketball.

You can also give your metabolism a little boost by burning calories doing your usual routines, for example, standing while you type your emails or pacing back and forth while you talk on the phone. You can also take the stairs instead of the elevator, choose the long way when walking to an entrance or get up and change the TV channel instead of using the remote.

Diet, Food and Your Slow Metabolism

You may not be able to change the number of calories you burn through digestion, but diet does affect your metabolic rate. Not eating enough calories can slow your metabolism down by as much as 30 percent, according to the University of Illinois' McKinley Health Center. To prevent a further slowing of your metabolism, women should not eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day and men, 1,800 calories.

Green tea, coffee and hot peppers are often touted as metabolism boosters. However, while these foods may help speed up your metabolism a bit, the amount is not enough to make much of an impact, according to NHS Choices. Green tea may help prevent further weight gain, however, according to a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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