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A lagging metabolism is a real drag. Not only can it cause unwanted weight gain, but a slew of other unpleasant side effects. And what’s interesting, or more eye-opening, is our everyday bad habits may be the root cause of metabolic issues. From inadequate sunlight to poor sleep habits, how we live on a daily basis greatly impacts the health of our metabolism, far beyond simply eating clean.
According to Dr. Rekha Kumar, head of medical affairs at weight-care platform Found, and New York City-based endocrinologist, “Some symptoms of a lagging metabolism can present as fatigue, weight gain, body aches, stiffness, poor mood, feeling cold, or dry skin.”
Here, Kumar shines a light on the common bad habits that keep your metabolism sluggish, your body aching, and how to break these bad-habit cycles.
If you’re feeling ‘off’ and suspect a lagging metabolism, Dr. Kumar recommends you reach out to your PCP. From there, your PCP will take the necessary actions to get to the bottom of your symptoms.
Keep in mind, “What we need to do to maintain healthy metabolism changes over our lifetime.” Says Dr. Kumar. Simply put, “What works at 30 might not work at 60, and what works at 60 might not work at 90,” Kumar explains. We need to modify our routines as we progress through our lives for thriving metabolic health.
Movement is crucial for overall health, and not moving enough can certainly put a damper on your metabolism. “One key way to wreck your metabolism is related to simple, everyday decisions related to your activity that determine how much energy you’re expending,” Kumar says.
Some examples include taking a car or bus when the distance is walkable. (Or a route in which you can ride your bike). “You could have done it if more time were budgeted,” says Kumar. Taking an elevator instead of the stairs, especially when there aren’t many steps is another way movement is minimized.
“These seemingly minor energy-saving ways to get from Point A to Point B not only negatively impact metabolism but put our bones, joints, muscles into disuse,” says Kumar. Hence, the “use or lose it” thought applies here, not just as we age.
She adds that, “lack of movement leads to loss of muscle mass and muscle tone which slows metabolism.” The results: feeling sluggish, impaired carbohydrate metabolism, and a setup for injuries. “If we get injured due to a lack of mobility, it starts a vicious cycle wrecking our metabolism because we can’t move and the cycle perpetuates., Kumar says.
Fasting is a constant hot topic. “Although the role of intermittent fasting is debated when it comes to weight loss, circadian pattern eating or periods of cellular rest are beneficial to metabolism,” says Dr. Kumar.
Since modern society has made staying awake, working, and fueling 24/7 have become a more common practice, “This means there are less periods of cellular rest, which means that there isn’t enough time where our cells are working on rest and repair,” Kumar explains.
Cellular rest is key for healing the entire body, inside and out. “When we don’t allow time for rest and repair and are fueling around the clock, we increase inflammation, leading to increased risk for diabetes and other inflammatory conditions,” says Kumar.
Poor sleep habits result in more than just crankiness. “Our body needs rest to function properly, have a healthy metabolism and make hormones that are used for growth and repair,” Kumar explains. “Much of this happens in our sleep, but if your sleep patterns are erratic, unpredictable, or inadequate, our natural rhythms of hormones get thrown and we might see spikes in things like cortisol and growth hormone at the wrong times of day.”
Unfortunately, this leads to increased appetite, and weight gain, all of which increase our risk of obesity.
This one may not come as a shocker, but still, empty calories are everywhere nowadays. “Low-nutrient foods that have a lot of calories with low nutritional value can wreck your metabolism,” says Dr. Kumar. Examples include sweeteners, candy, pastries, sugar-sweetened beverages, baked goods, and many salty snacks. “All of the empty calories that come with these foods leave our bodies looking for vitamins and minerals so we ultimately overeat and damage our metabolism,” explains Dr. Kumar.
While everyone’s definition of moderation varies, “any amount of alcohol will impact our metabolism because we need to use our metabolic machinery (liver enzymes) to detoxify and break down alcohol,” Kumar says. This is where negative side effects from alcohol come into play: “When our liver is busy prioritizing metabolizing alcohol, it is not doing as great of a job on metabolizing fats and breaking down hormones.” she adds.
Easy Fix: Cut out alcohol entirely, or opt to indulge on special occasions or holidays.
Vitamin D from the sun is your metabolism’s friend. “The metabolic benefit of sunlight is related to Vitamin D metabolism,” says Kumar, and is so very important for overall health. “Vitamin D is a hormone involved in gut health, bone health, kidney function, and much more; Just 15 minutes of sunlight gives us three months of vitamin D,” Kumar says.
And if you’re feeling blue, sunlight is the perfect way to boost your mood.
“The amount of direct sunlight people should get varies based on other medical conditions but a healthy balance of sunlight with SPF as well should boost Vitamin D metabolism,” recommends Dr. Kumar.