8 Bad Habits That Kill Your Metabolism

Kevin Gray
by Kevin Gray
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8 Bad Habits That Kill Your Metabolism

You may already suspect your metabolism slows as you age. According to research published in the Public Health Nutrition journal, you’re right. In a review of data on energy expenditure, researchers found simply getting older is associated with progressive declines in basal metabolic rate. On top of that, there are many daily habits that can drain your metabolism even further.

But you don’t have to go down without a fight. Cut out the below habits and watch your metabolism and energy levels improve.

Eating a nutritious breakfast is always a good way to start your morning. Because your metabolism slows down during sleep, eating can fire it up and help you burn more calories throughout the day. According to Rush University Medical Center, “When you eat breakfast, you’re telling your body that there are plenty of calories to be had for the day. When you skip breakfast, the message your body gets is that it needs to conserve rather than burn any incoming calories.”

OK, so it’s about more than just eating something in the morning. If you grab a sugary donut or eat a muffin in the car, you’re setting yourself up to crash later. Instead, choose something with filling protein and fiber like eggs, yogurt and berries or whole-wheat toast topped with peanut butter.

Going from your office chair to your car to your couch can lead to a very sedentary routine. And sitting for extended periods puts your body into energy-conservation mode, which means your metabolism can suffer. According to the UK’s National Health Service, “Sitting for long periods is thought to slow metabolism, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat.”

Cardio is great, and it can quickly burn calories, but once you’re done running or cycling, your calorie burn quickly returns to normal. When you do HIIT and resistance-based workouts, however, your calorie burn stays elevated for longer as your muscles repair themselves. Per the American Council on Exercise (ACE): “Strength training is a key component of metabolism because it is directly linked to muscle mass. The more active muscle tissue you have, the higher your metabolic rate.” And, according to ACE, a pound of muscle burns an additional 4–6 calories each day compared to a pound of fat.

Protein feeds your muscles, promotes satiety and is an important component to sustaining a healthy weight. Eat too little, and you may have trouble building or maintaining muscle mass — and per the above, we know muscle’s importance to metabolism. Also, protein requires more energy to break down than carbs or fat, so you’ll actually burn more calories during digestion.

One bad night’s sleep is enough to leave you feeling sluggish and impair your cognitive processing. String together several nights in a row — or a lifetime of inadequate sleep — and science shows decreased metabolism and hormonal imbalances may follow.

In a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers found drinking 500 milliliters of water (about 2 cups) increases metabolic rate by 30%, and that spike lasts for more than an hour. So, drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated, and you’ll get the added benefit of a boosted metabolism.

When stress levels increase, your body produces a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol leads to increased appetite, makes us crave comfort foods, decreases our desire to exercise and reduces sleep quality — all things that negatively impact metabolism. So, while you can’t always control your stress levels, managing stress can go a long way toward protecting your body’s internal fire.

About the Author

Kevin Gray
Kevin Gray

Kevin is a Dallas-based writer who spends the majority of his weekends on a bike. His less healthy pursuits can be found at Bevvy and Cocktail Enthusiast.


13 responses to “8 Bad Habits That Kill Your Metabolism”

  1. Major Bummer says:

    These seem like good points, all. I’m going to take minute and write down the headlines to remind myself going forward.

  2. usa anon says:

    Read the article while sitting at desk in front of puter and now I am worried. I can’t sleep. I need a muffin, then I will watch a movie on TV.

  3. Lady in chains says:

    Am I missing something? My article isn’t showing Bad Habits #1, 2 or 3.

  4. Fitness Newbie says:

    Good article, although somewhat discouraging to older folks. Could you do an article that would address supplements that also support increased metabolism to mitigate the effects of growing older, assuming you have decent diet and exercise regimes?

    • Beth Stone says:

      Embrace growing older. No supplement will change that fact. But, how you deal with it can make it a joyful experience. 🙂

  5. eclectic_reader says:

    It’s a bad article and you should feel bad for writing it. Let’s take the water thing. Drinking 500 ml of water did not raise metabolic rates for the whole day as you imply. I raised them for a half hour, resulting in about 20 extra calories. Was the study result replicated? No? Let’s move on. EPOC from HIIT is vastly overstated, and nobody can do proper HIIT for more than a half hour including warmup and cooldown. Most beginners can’t hit those zones in the first place. Cardio is king for total calories burned, and research shows that consistent aerobic training has a significant positive effect on basal metabolic rate too. Metabolic rates slow with aging only for the inactive. Most of the metabolic slowdown is due to lost lean mass from decades of sedentary living. The paper you quote shows exactly that – not a decline in BMR, but a decline in activity throughout life as shown by the reduction in PAL and TEE from sitting on their butts doing nothing.

    It would help if MyFitnessPal would stop allowing unqualified hacks to represent them.

    • Jason Langdon says:

      MyFitnessPal allows unqualified hacks to represent them because it generates hits, and shares on their website which in turn generates revenue. As long as people are responding in the comments and sharing, this crap will continue.

  6. Mathew Andresen says:

    Number 1 is BS. Far better to do intermittent fasting and skip breakfast.

    • Matt Surch says:

      That was my reaction too. I’ve been doing intermittent fasting for about a year, while training and competing at an elite level in cycling, and it has been a fantastic tool for regulating insulin sensitivity and thus, my metabolism. The ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ thing is a myth.

  7. Fatoog says:

    Truly, myfatnesspile should stick to counting calories rather than enable random members of the public spout ill-informed lifestyle advice under their aegis.

  8. Intermittent Faster says:

    No, no, no, no, no. Stop with this breakfast is the most important meal of the day nonsense. Do some research.

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