How to Reset Your Metabolism: Expert-Reviewed Ways to Fix It

Feeling sluggish or having a hard time losing weight? You may have a slow metabolism. Try these tips to reset it.

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
May 20, 2024
June 13, 2023
— Updated:
June 14, 2023

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Unexpected weight gain, feeling sluggish, or difficulty losing weight could be indicators that your metabolism isn’t working as well as it should. When your metabolism isn’t working correctly, it can affect your overall well-being and make it harder to achieve your health goals, particularly weight loss. 

This article will explore common symptoms that suggest your metabolism needs attention and 10 effective ways to fix it. 

What is metabolism?

Metabolism is a complex set of chemical processes that convert food into energy. It involves many biochemical reactions that break down nutrients from your food and convert them into energy to fuel your body's functions.

At its core, your metabolism is responsible for two main processes: catabolism and anabolism. 

  • Catabolism involves breaking down larger molecules, such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, into smaller components to release energy. It also occurs when the body has to break down stored energy (body fat, muscle) for fuel.
  • Anabolism is the process of building and repairing tissues, creating new cells, and supporting bodily functions.

Your metabolism is affected by many things, including age, gender, body composition, genetics, and activity level. Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body needs to perform essential functions while at rest, like breathing, circulating blood, and maintaining organ function. The BMR makes up most of the calories burned each day. Physical activity, digestion, and the thermic effect of food also contribute to overall energy expenditure.

Your metabolism can impact your nutritional needs, weight loss, and overall health. 

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What is a slow metabolism? 

Slow metabolism is when the body burns fewer calories at rest compared to normal. In this case, the body is not using energy as efficiently as possible. 

A slow metabolism can make it difficult to maintain or lose weight. Since the body is not burning as many calories, people with a slow metabolism may need to eat fewer calories to avoid unwanted weight gain.

Fast vs. Slow Metabolism

A fast metabolism means that the body burns more calories at rest, which can make losing weight easier. People with a fast metabolism may be less likely to store excess calories as body fat. 

On the other hand, a slow metabolism may make it easier to gain weight and harder to lose it. People with a slow metabolism may be more efficient at storing energy as body fat. 

Metabolism also affects nutrient absorption, hormone regulation, and the overall functioning of your body's organs and systems.

Symptoms of a Slow Metabolism

There are several signs and symptoms that may suggest that metabolism has slowed. 

  • Weight gain 

A slow metabolism may cause unwanted weight gain. When the body uses less energy than normal, but food intake stays the same, this causes an increase in stored body fat and weight gain. 

  • Fatigue all the time

If you constantly feel tired and sluggish, this may be due to a slow metabolism. Studies show that abnormal energy metabolism is associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.1,2

  • Having dry skin, brittle nails, and/or losing hair

Metabolism affects nutrient absorption and hormone regulation, which are related to skin, hair, and nail health. Decreased metabolism may cause changes in these areas and may be a result of decreased blood flow and nutrient absorption.3

  • Frequent headaches

Studies show slow metabolism may be related to migraine attacks and cluster headaches. This might be related to a lack of free magnesium in the brain.4,5

  • Craving for sugar and carbs

Intense food cravings for sugar and carbs may be associated with poor metabolic health.6

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  • Depressed mood

Slow metabolism and the conditions related to it (insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes) may be associated with depression.7 

  • Constantly feeling cold

If you constantly feel cold, you may have a slow metabolism. Burning calories generates body heat, which increases core body temperature. 

  • A slow heart rate

Most of the time, heart rate is directly correlated with metabolic rate. A higher metabolism will often cause an increased heart rate, while a lower heart rate is often seen with a slow metabolism. 

  • Constipation

A sluggish metabolism slows down the digestive process, so chronic constipation may be a sign of a slow metabolism. 

  • Weight loss becomes harder

You may have a slow metabolism if you’re having difficulty losing weight. It can be harder to lose weight with a slow metabolism because the body burns so few calories at rest. 

Factors that May Impact Your Metabolism

Several things can affect your metabolism, which might lead to a slowed metabolic rate. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Weight

Body weight and composition play a role in metabolism. Having a higher body fat percentage can lead to a slower metabolism. This is because fat tissue requires fewer calories to maintain compared to muscle tissue.

  • Age

Metabolism tends to naturally slow down with age. As you age, you may experience decreased muscle mass and hormonal changes that can contribute to a slower metabolic rate. This can make it more challenging to maintain weight or lose weight.

  • Physical activity level

Cardiovascular exercise and strength training can help increase metabolism. Exercising regularly helps build and maintain muscle mass, which increases the number of calories burned at rest. A sedentary lifestyle, on the other hand, can contribute to a slower metabolism.

  • Eating habits

Your eating habits can affect your metabolism. A balanced diet that includes a variety of whole foods, such as lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, supports a good metabolism. Irregular eating patterns, skipping meals, or severely restricting calories can signal to your body that it needs to conserve energy, potentially slowing down metabolism.

  • Pre-existing medical conditions

Certain health conditions, such as hypothyroidism or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), can affect metabolism. These conditions may lead to hormonal imbalances that can slow metabolism. 

  • Hormonal factors

Hormones play an important role in regulating metabolism. Hormone imbalances, like cortisol or thyroid hormones, may affect metabolic rate. Hormonal changes can occur due to chronic stress, inadequate sleep, or certain medical conditions.

While these things can affect your metabolism, they are not absolute determinants. Positive lifestyle choices, such as regular physical activity, eating a balanced diet, managing stress levels, and getting adequate sleep, can help support a healthy metabolism regardless of these things.

Does Metabolism Affect Weight?

Metabolism can affect weight maintenance and weight loss. Metabolism determines how many calories your body burns and how much excess energy gets stored as body fat.

When energy intake exceeds energy expenditure, the excess calories can be stored as body fat, leading to weight gain. When the amount of energy expended exceeds the number of calories taken in, the body uses stored fat for energy, resulting in weight loss. This is why having a higher metabolic rate can make maintaining or losing weight easier. 

How to Reset Your Metabolism?

No magic reset button will immediately fix your metabolism, but you can adopt several healthy habits and lifestyle changes to optimize it

  1. Hydrate regularly

Drink enough water during the day to support proper metabolic function and overall health. Aim for a minimum of 64 oz per day, but you may need more depending on your body type, activity level, and where you live.8

  1. Follow a well-balanced and nourishing diet

Consume various nutrient-dense foods, including lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, to provide the necessary nutrients for optimal metabolism.

  1. Take supplements to support metabolism

Consider incorporating supplements such as vitamins B and D, iron, or omega-3 fatty acids to support metabolic function. 

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  1. Consider fasting

Explore intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating patterns as a way to optimize metabolism and improve insulin sensitivity.9

  1. Optimize your sleep quality

Prioritize sufficient sleep duration and quality to support hormones and overall metabolic function. Aim for between seven to nine hours per night.10

  1. Drink green tea

Consider drinking a cup of green tea every day. Green tea contains compounds that may enhance metabolism and promote fat oxidation.

  1. Exercise regularly, alternating with strength training and cardio

Regular exercise supports healthy metabolism and builds lean muscle mass. Try a mix of cardiovascular exercise and resistance training.11

  1. Stick to a schedule

Establish consistent mealtimes and regular eating patterns to support a well-regulated metabolism and avoid irregular hunger and satiety cues.

  1. Incorporate spice into your diet

Add spices like cayenne pepper, turmeric, or cinnamon to your meals, as they may have a minor thermogenic effect and potentially boost metabolism.12

  1. Eat enough protein

Include an adequate amount of protein in your diet, such as lean meats, fish, legumes, or tofu, as it requires more energy to digest and can help maintain muscle mass, which contributes to a healthy metabolism.13

Tips on How to Reset Your Metabolism After 50

As we age, metabolism tends to slow down naturally. The decrease in calories burned sometimes causes unexpected weight gain. These changes in metabolism can impact your health and make weight management more difficult. However, there are ways to reset your metabolism after the age of 50.

  • Increase protein intake

Eating enough protein is important for preserving muscle and supporting a healthy metabolism. Include lean sources of protein such as poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, and dairy products in your meals and snacks.13

  • Eat more often

Try eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. This can help keep your metabolism active and prevent energy slumps. Aim for balanced meals and snacks that include a combination of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.

  • Sleeping more

Sleep is important for everyone, but it’s even more important if you’re over 50 and trying to reset your metabolism. Get at least seven hours of quality sleep per night. Sleeping in a dark, cold room can improve restorative sleep quality.10

  • Exercise more

Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week and incorporate strength training exercises at least twice weekly.11

How Long Does it Take to Reset Your Metabolism?

Resetting your metabolism is not an overnight process and takes time, patience, and consistency. Changing your habits and adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors are key to optimizing your metabolism, especially if you’re trying to manage your weight. 

Drastic changes to metabolic rate will not happen overnight, but each positive step you take adds up over time. It’s important to set realistic, achievable goals. Celebrate small victories along the way and focus on the long-term benefits of a healthier metabolism and improved well-being.

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FAQs Around How to Reset Metabolism

Can metabolic rate change over time?

Metabolic rate can change over time in response to several things. Changes in body weight, activity level, energy intake, and hormones can alter metabolism. 

What foods reset your metabolism?

There are no specific foods that reset your metabolism; however, eating at regular times during the day and including a variety of whole foods (fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, healthy fats) can help promote a healthy metabolism. 

How do I reset my metabolism to gain weight?

You need to eat more calories than your body burns to gain weight. You can achieve weight gain goals and support a healthy metabolism by eating a high-protein diet that prioritizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. Participating in strength training to support muscle building is also a good idea. 

Learn More About Healthy Nutrition with Signos’ Expert Advice

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References

  1. Armstrong, C. W., McGregor, N. R., Butt, H. L., & Gooley, P. R. (2014). Metabolism in chronic fatigue syndrome. Advances in clinical chemistry, 66, 121–172. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-801401-1.00005-0
  2. Bains W. (2008). Treating Chronic Fatigue states as a disease of the regulation of energy metabolism. Medical hypotheses, 71(4), 481–488. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2008.02.022
  3. Zhang, W., Fan, M., Wang, C., Mahawar, K., Parmar, C., Chen, W., & Yang, W. (2021). Hair loss after metabolic and Bariatric Surgery: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Obesity Surgery, 31(6), 2649–2659. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11695-021-05311-2 
  4. Lodi, R., Iotti, S., Cortelli, P., Pierangeli, G., Cevoli, S., Clementi, V., Soriani, S., Montagna, P., & Barbiroli, B. (2001). Deficient energy metabolism is associated with low free magnesium in the brains of patients with migraine and cluster headache. Brain research bulletin, 54(4), 437–441. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0361-9230(01)00440-3
  5. Grech, O., Mollan, S. P., Wakerley, B. R., Fulton, D., Lavery, G. G., & Sinclair, A. J. (2021). The Role of Metabolism in Migraine Pathophysiology and Susceptibility. Life (Basel, Switzerland), 11(5), 415. https://doi.org/10.3390/life11050415
  6. Taetzsch, A., Roberts, S. B., Gilhooly, C. H., Lichtenstein, A. H., Krauss, A. J., Bukhari, A., Martin, E., Hatch-McChesney, A., & Das, S. K. (2020). Food cravings: Associations with dietary intake and metabolic health. Appetite, 152, 104711. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2020.104711
  7. Qiu, W., Cai, X., Zheng, C., Qiu, S., Ke, H., & Huang, Y. (2021). Update on the Relationship Between Depression and Neuroendocrine Metabolism. Frontiers in neuroscience, 15, 728810. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2021.728810
  8. Boschmann, M., Steiniger, J., Hille, U., Tank, J., Adams, F., Sharma, A. M., Klaus, S., Luft, F. C., & Jordan, J. (2003). Water-induced thermogenesis. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 88(12), 6015–6019. https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2003-030780
  9. Vasim, I., Majeed, C. N., & DeBoer, M. D. (2022). Intermittent Fasting and Metabolic Health. Nutrients, 14(3), 631. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14030631
  10. Knab, A. M., Shanely, R. A., Corbin, K. D., Jin, F., Sha, W., & Nieman, D. C. (2011). A 45-minute vigorous exercise bout increases metabolic rate for 14 hours. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 43(9), 1643–1648. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182118891
  11. Sleep loss limits fat loss, study finds. University of Chicago News. (2010, October 4). https://news.uchicago.edu/story/sleep-loss-limits-fat-loss-study-finds 
  12. Whiting, S., Derbyshire, E., & Tiwari, B. K. (2012). Capsaicinoids and capsinoids. A potential role for weight management? A systematic review of the evidence. Appetite, 59(2), 341–348. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2012.05.015
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About the author

Victoria Whittington earned her Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutrition from the University of Alabama and has over 10 years of experience in the health and fitness industry.

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