If you feel like your metabolism is slowing down, there are a few likely root causes. Hormonally, your thyroid , adrenals, and estrogen and testosterone levels could play a role, while stress is also often a cause. For indicators of stress, Parsley Health doctors look for patterns of weight gain, stress-eating habits, poor sleep patterns, and elevated cortisol levels. Inflammation can also be a leading cause, so we try to pinpoint the source of inflammation by looking at a person’s diet and determining if they have a gut dysbiosis .
Regardless of the source, once your doctor gets to the root cause and begins addressing it, there are a few additional steps you can take to keep your metabolism humming.
Eating an early breakfast every day that includes protein and fat can reduce food cravings and prevent overeating. Stop eating for the day ideally three to four hours before going to bed, so you end up waiting 12 hours between dinner and breakfast the next day.
You can also try intermittent fasting , which further increases the window of food consumption to around 8 hours. That means you end up waiting 16 hours between dinner and breakfast the next day. Intermittent fasting improves blood sugar control by reducing blood sugar and insulin levels which then leads to the release of adrenaline to mobilize glucose from liver and fat cells (1, 2).
High intensity interval training (HIIT), or alternating short bursts of all-out effort with periods of rest, just a couple times a week can help you boost your metabolism long after your workout ends. That’s because HIIT is extremely effective at activating what is called exercise post-oxygen consumption (EPOC). EPOC is the amount of energy needed to return the body to it’s normal resting level of metabolic function. During EPOC, your body may continue to burn calories up to 48 hours after exercise is over while it replaces its energy stores. HIIT can also shift your metabolism to using more fat for energy instead of carbs (3).
Chronic stress can leave you with consistently elevated cortisol levels, which can increase insulin levels and make you carve fatty foods. Stress reduction techniques such as meditation and breathwork can help to lower stress levels, keeping your cortisol levels in check. If you’re new to meditation , try the Headspace App or 4-7-8 breathing exercise.
A diet high in sugar and processed foods decreases insulin and leptin sensitivity, signaling insulin to store fat and decreasing satiety, but eating a plant-based Paleo diet counters this (4). Make sure you’re getting proteins, greens, and healthy fat at every meal and cut out sugar, excess alcohol, and as many processed foods as possible.
An ideal breakfast might be something like our protein-packed smoothie recipe , lunch could be lentil and avocado salad over arugula, and dinner might be roasted wild salmon with sautéed greens and sweet potato with ghee.
Studies show that less than seven hours of sleep a night can lower leptin and increase ghrelin levels which can lead to increased hunger and appetite. To get good quality sleep, go to bed before 11 p.m., when your body has a natural cortisol spike to provide energy if you’re still awake.
Taking magnesium glycinate before bed can also help you to fall asleep faster, because it relaxes muscles and eases muscle tension. If you tend to wake up in the middle of the night, you can try eating one tablespoon of almond butter before bed to balance your blood sugar.
Dr. Robin Berzin is the founder and CEO of Parsley Health. A Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Robin completed medical school at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and trained in Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.