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Fact checked by Andrew Lenau, ISSA CPT & Sports NutritionistFACT CHECKED
October 13, 2023
Is there anything more frustrating than unsuccessfully trying to lose weight? It's a weight loss woe many of us can relate to. You count calories and try to be more active, but the numbers on the scale won't budget.
So, is your metabolism to blame? Is it just too slow, and if so, what does that actually mean?
A slow metabolism requires fewer and fewer calories to continue to lose weight. This process continues until you've reduced your daily intake so much, that you're only eating 1,000 calories a day while not losing any weight.
And, as that doesn't sound ideal for anyone, we're going to dive into the topic of metabolism, metabolic health, and what a metabolic reset can do for your weight loss journey.
Table of Contents:
In layman's terms, metabolism is a term used to describe the overall process of our body's various systems, which consume and utilize calories. Basically, it's what controls how many calories are burned daily during your normal routine.
Not only does it control the calories burned, but it also controls how efficiently your body burns calories. There are numerous factors, which we'll go over below, that can cause your body to burn less or more calories.
The best way to illustrate this is to take two different people with the same body weight and body composition. Now let's assume they both eat 3,000 calories. Theoretically, because these two people are the same size, they should require the same amount of calories.
However, one of these people has a slower metabolism while the other has a faster metabolism. After following the same calorie count for some time, the person with the slower metabolism would result in less weight loss, or even more fat gain, while the faster metabolism would have more favorable results.
A metabolic reset diet is a strategy used to address issues that may be slowing your metabolism down. We're about to get into these metabolic reset strategies, but it's important to note that when it comes to a metabolic reset, it's not one size fits all and a metabolic reset doesn't happen overnight.
I also believe you'll be pleasantly surprised with how simple a metabolic reset is. Besides needing some patience as you try each of the things I'm listing below, these are very basic habits that are healthy for you, regardless of your metabolic rate.
While there is no switch that can be flipped to start your metabolism from scratch, you can start following these healthy lifestyle metabolic reset factors. Over time, your metabolism will start to rise.
Remember that when undergoing a metabolic reset, everyone is different. Your metabolic reset results will not be the same as someone else's.
One of the easiest reset metabolism strategies? Just sleep. This is literally the easiest thing you can do and will have the biggest impact on your metabolism and health. In fact, I cannot stress the importance of sleep enough. The good thing is that the negative effects of sleep restriction are easily overturned with just a couple of nights of full sleep.
However, everyone has a different sleep need, so if you're resetting your metabolism you need to determine yours. One of the best ways to find yours is to wait for the weekend and then let yourself wake up naturally. This doesn't mean hitting snooze 5 times, but when you wake in the morning, look what time it is and see how many hours you were sleeping.
Having a hobby that demands activity is going to increase your calorie burn, and this can support a metabolic reset through several mechanisms.
The first is that people who are active stay active. If you have ever met someone who's regularly involved in athletics, you'll probably notice they're much more active and lively.
To put it in perspective: How many people do you know train 5 days a week and then watch Netflix for their remaining free time? People who workout have higher energy levels and improved mood, which results in a more active lifestyle overall.
Second, strength training leads to more muscle mass, which can change your body composition and increase your metabolism. Pick one of these Best Workout Splits and get started today!
Smoking has absolutely zero benefits in terms of fitness and health and if you're working on resetting your metabolism, it's going to be detrimental. Sure, it may relax you and help "digestion", but it's simply killing your body. When you smoke, you destroy your lungs, which decreases energy levels resulting in less calorie expenditure.
In addition, various hormonal alterations occur, which again, tears down a healthy metabolism. If you're serious about your health, do your best to quit smoking.
In terms of alcohol, drinking too much causes various issues that build off each other. For example, you're taking in empty calories, which has zero benefit. If you drink at night, it can affect your sleep. Alcohol can also decrease muscle protein synthesis resulting in less muscle growth, or loss of muscle.
When it comes to "how to reset metabolism" strategies, this is another incredibly easy one to follow. Protein is a macronutrient that will burn extra calories. So eating more to support metabolic reset goals makes complete sense if you think about it.
Compare the food source of proteins and compare them to the food sources of carbs and fats:
Now, which one would be harder to break down in the digestive system? The protein!
Remember that every process takes energy. As protein is more challenging to break down, it burns calories to a greater degree. Look at the calories and thermic effect of food (TEF) of your 3 macronutrients:
Yes, you are reading that right. When you eat protein, 20-30% of its calories are needed to digest and absorb the nutrients. This is one of the reasons why a high-protein diet can be so effective for weight loss. It's also why vegans have a significantly lower daily energy expenditure.
We recommend eating at least 1.6g/kg for athletes. However, if you're trying to enhance your metabolism, you should bump that up to 2.0-2.4g/kg.
You can't go wrong with any of these High Protein Low Fat Foods!
Most nutritionists and weight loss experts will recommend a modest 300-500 caloric deficit with a maximum of 1000 calories max when weight is a health issue. This is to mitigate the breakdown of muscle mass and prevent a drop in your metabolic rate. Therefore, quit any extreme diet that involves eating less than you should, as this will negatively impact your metabolic reset goals.
In addition, drink plenty of water. Ice-cold water is best. By itself, water maintains a healthy body by supporting proper function. Water should always be your primary hydration source. And making it as cold as you can provides metabolism-boosting benefits. This occurs as your body must warm the water to your internal body temperature.
A study found that drinking water at 22 degrees Celsius (71.6 F) increased the metabolic rate by 30% for 40 minutes after consumption¹. This amounted to 95.6 calories.
In addition, cut down your intake of processed foods and added sugar. This wreaks havoc on your metabolism and insulin levels, which does nothing good.
To be clear, I am not anti-cardio or anti-endurance training. In fact, I think it's great for overall health and cardiovascular health. But, if you're spending 3 hours on the treadmill every day to burn extra calories, please stop, as this isn't good for resetting your metabolism.
We just talked about how you should get in a 300-500 caloric deficit for optimal change in body composition. Now, assume you only do that with your training. How long would it take to burn that much? An hour on average.
Anything more than that is decreasing your calories too much, meaning you will slow your metabolism. The only other option would be to eat more calories to account for the excessive calorie burn. While this makes sense for endurance athletes, it makes no sense for someone trying to improve their body composition and reset their metabolism.
This is why I strongly recommend resetting your metabolism by following a strength training program with progressive overload built for building muscle and strength. Even though calorie burn isn't the main focus, you'll still get a good 200-400 calories burned, on average. You can then change your diet to account for the remaining calories.
This will help preserve muscle mass, create an anabolic hormone profile, and increase your metabolism, which is exactly what we want when following a metabolic reset plan.
This is going to be one of those frustratingly vague answers in that a metabolic reset is different for everyone. Two things that are very important to note, though when resetting your metabolic system. One, as you make these changes, I guarantee you'll start to feel better right away, even if takes your metabolism a while to re-adjust.
You'll have more energy (thanks, sleep!), you'll be hydrated, and you'll be eating filling foods that don't leave you hungry. Sounds great, right?
The other thing is that you should consider these to be lifelong changes and not some sort of metabolic reset diet that you follow for a month or two. Prioritizing sleep should be something you always do, even if your goal isn't specifically metabolic resetting. Same with drinking water and being active. Consider a metabolic reset to be a lifelong goal that will consistently help you feel your best.
I firmly believe that when undergoing a metabolic reset, you should primarily focus on the lifestyle factors I already went over. If you do that, you'll slowly but surely reset your metabolic system. But, here are some other hacks that may help a little if you're looking for 100% optimization:
Learn more about cold showers and weight loss by reading our article: Do Cold Showers Burn Fat? In addition, if you're interested in taking a fat burner to support your metabolism-boosting goals, check out our articles on the 9 Best Fat Burners For Men and the 9 Best Fat Burners For Women.
If you're going to use a fat burner to help reset your metabolic system, I highly recommend PhenQ, which utilizes five key mechanisms to support weight loss. This fat burner turns body fat into energy, prevents your body from accumulating fat, supplies more energy (great for metabolism boosting!), controls appetite, and improves your mood.
Your energy expenditure refers to the total amount of calories burned daily during your normal routine. If you eat fewer calories than your energy expenditure, you will lose weight while eating more calories results in weight gain.
There are four different modes that contribute to calories burned. This is important as it gives you four different areas to adjust when performing a metabolic reset.
You have likely heard the term "metabolic rate" when discussing metabolism. This is talking about your basal metabolic rate or BMR for short.
If you aren't familiar with what your BMR is, it's likely because everyone in the fitness industry talks about the best "fat-melting" workouts or the trendiest diet, and it's a shame. That's because your BMR is easily the greatest contributor to total calories burned as it requires more calories than the other three factors combined.
Making up 60-75% (this percentage may be smaller for some endurance athletes), your BMR measures the amount of calories your body needs to survive2. We usually think of things like weight lifting or cardio for activities to burn calories. In reality, every single process and all the chemical reactions that take place in the body require energy!
Here's a list of some big contributors to your BMR that you probably don't think of:
In fact, the reason you burn more calories with exercise is that the processes in control of your BMR are heightened. If you've heard of EPOC, this refers to the energy expenditure required to get these physiological processes from a heightened state after exercise back down to homeostasis of your BMR. The point is that your BMR is the primary means by which you burn calories.
When we're talking about how to reset your metabolism, we're actually talking about how to alter your BMR. A few things that affect your BMR are:
You see some of those you can control while others you can't. Notice the ones you can control made our list of "strategies for undergoing a metabolic reset."
First, we want to distinguish physical activity as be activity that's specific to exercise or sports. This is activity that you engage in with the intent of burning calories, improving fitness, or playing sports. Basically, it's physical activity you don't have to do.
Obviously, physical activity can have a large variance in people and can make up anywhere from 10-40% of total calories burned. In fact, it can even go lower as there's an alarming amount of people who get zero exercise.
While this is the easiest to modify for a metabolic reset, there are also limitations. For example, the amount of free time a person has or access to exercise-related activity. In addition, there's such thing as doing too much exercise, which can actually result in slowing your metabolic rate.
Another form of physical activity that creates a demand for more energy is called non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT. This includes any other action apart from exercise.
When I spoke about BMR above, I should be clear that this does not include things like scratching your leg or waving hello, or any other small movement like this. Even sitting at your computer and clicking on links to get to this article required additional energy.
Do not underestimate these small small movements as they can add up, particularly when you're trying to reset your metabolism. The total calories burned from NEAT can vary as well with a range of 10-30%. In fact, the simple act of increased fidgeting has been found to decrease all-case mortality by 30%3.
If there's any truth to "free calories," it is the thermic effect of food (TEF). Accounting for 5-10% of total calories burned, your TEF refers to the calories required for your body to break down and digest food, and then to transport and utilize their nutrients.
However, not every food has the same effect. Remember he macronutrient we discussed above that requires significantly more energy than others? Protein! Follow a high protein diet to help support your metabolic reset goals.
It's important to understand why our metabolism slows down to begin with before embarking on a metabolic reset. Is it because we age? This is the common retort when people explain away their weight gain. However, research shows that the answer is no, age does not slow down our metabolism, at least until we're past 60.
One of the largest studies of its kind tracked the lives and diet of over 6,000 participants from 29 countries⁴. They monitored everything including body composition, diet and activity level along with other variables. When adjustments were made for fat-free mass and activity levels, the participants total energy expenditure was consistent from the ages 20-60.
This means that while there are changes in BMR, they are all related to lifestyle choices, not your age. In other words, you're gaining weight because you have stopped training and began eating a poor diet, not because you're getting older. On one hand, this eliminates any excuse for the extra tire around the waist. On the other, it means we have more control than we thought over our body composition.
It's important to keep in mind that the study shows age isn't responsible for a drop in metabolism. This means that your BMR might still drop, but it's because of lifestyle changes that occur as we age.
These factors all have multiple side effects, one of which is a lagging metabolism. It's important to know about them, and correct them, if you're interested in a metabolic reset.
Unless you have a really good reason, skipping out on sleep is shooting yourself in the foot on your fat loss journey. It is the number 1 worst lifestyle behavior for general health, including your metabolism.
Multiple studies have shown that sleep deprivation causes numerous physiological changes that result in less total energy expenditure and more fat gain⁵. One cause for less energy expenditure is simply being tired and moving less. Less fidgeting and simple movements, on top of a lackluster performance at the gym, cause fewer calories to be burned.
In addition, sleep restriction alters your hormonal profile⁶. This includes:
Studies have shown that this has a direct impact on body composition and can decrease metabolism by 3% in just a couple of weeks⁷. Further, it can increase caloric intake by as much as 35%!
Are bodies are machines and aren't built to sit still. When you dive into research, you find that in addition to diet and lack of sleep, living a sedentary life is the worst thing you can do for your health and metabolism.
Inactivity has numerous detrimental effects that will destroy a healthy metabolism. Some of these adaptations to our metabolism include:
If you spend most of your time sitting, your metabolism won't rise.
You probably know someone who has a daily 1,200 calorie intake while training 2+ hours a day. Or maybe you're friends with an endurance athlete who trains 4+ hours every day. While it would make sense to see these people ripped, they actually have a case of "skinny fat," experience weight loss plateaus, and complain about their weight.
So what do they do? They train more!
But, this is not going to help at all and can actually cause major issues. Sometimes people call this metabolic damage. While we understand the sentiment, it actually portrays the wrong message. In reality, your body is doing exactly what it's supposed to do - it's not broken!
When your body enters these states of extreme stress, either through exercise or diet, it will attempt to conserve energy. It does this by doing things such as decreasing your energy levels and mitigating unneeded movements or processes.
In addition, it secretes large amounts of cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol has numerous negative effects including:
All of this decreases the number of calories you burn on a daily basis, making a metabolic reset necessary.
Cortisol stimulates the breakdown of muscle mass rather than fat. This will cause you to lose muscle tissue and inevitably decrease caloric burn. If you want to count calories in a metabolism-friendly way, check out our 4-Week Weight Loss Meal Plan.
Unfortunately, many prescription medications, especially anti-depressants, will decrease your metabolism. I am not a doctor nor qualified to give an opinion on this, but I strongly recommend you speak to your healthcare provider if you take prescription medication and are trying to undergo a metabolic reset.
At the end of the day, a metabolic reset is done by living a healthy life. There are no secrets, and while there are some "hacks", they pale in comparison to our major metabolic reset influencers.
Remember, the four major strategies include following a proper strength training program, eating a high-protein diet and drinking plenty of water, getting quality sleep, and increasing your daily movement when you can.
Not only will you give your metabolism a much-needed boost, but you'll also feel incredibly good. Sounds like a win-win to us!
Ready to help kick your metabolism into super speed? A fat burner may provide you with the perfect metabolism boost! Check out our articles on the 9 Best Fat Burners For Men and the 9 Best Fat Burners For Women to find your perfect fit.
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