Every cell in your body plays a role in energy metabolism -- the process of turning the food you eat into energy that keeps your heart beating, lungs pumping, and muscles moving. The faster your basal metabolic rate, the more calories you burn. And just like there are ways to speed it up -- by increasing muscle mass and exercising -- certain habits can hit the brakes on your natural calorie-churning engine. Here are 13 things sure to slow you down.
1. Eating Inconsistently At Odd Times From Day To Day
In a 2012 Hebrew University study, mice fed high fat foods sporadically gained more weight than mice that ate a similar diet on a regular schedule. Researchers suspect that eating at the same times every day trains the body to burn more calories between meals. Eat frequent, consistently sized meals to avoid binges and feel happier. Research from Liverpool John Moores University found that women who fluctuated between low- and high-calorie meals were less happy with their bodies than those whose plates packed a similar number of calories from meal to meal.
Organochlorines (chemicals in pesticides) can interfere with your body's energy-burning process and make it harder to lose weight, according to a Canadian study. Researchers found that dieters who ate the most toxins experienced a greater-than-normal dip in metabolism and had a harder time losing weight. Problems with the thyroid gland are more common among women than men, Dr. Whitney S. Goldner of the University of Nebraska Medical Center said. There is growing evidence for a link between exposure to pesticides and thyroid problems he noted. Opt for organic fruits and veggies as often as you can.
3. Dietary Toxins in Processed Foods
MSG, harmful fatty acids and toxic preservatives and emulsifers weaken the thyroid reducing metabolism up to 70% in the long-term. Mice with sustained exposure to the chemical preservatives develop significant abdominal weight gain, early insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. Reducing exposure to dietary toxins, sugars, refined carbohydrates and processed foods will keep your metabolism sharp.
4. Drinking Water Containing Fluoride and Chlorine
Both chemicals in treated water supplies also interfere with normal thyroid function. If your thyroid is sluggish, your metabolism slows down and even becomes dysfunctional. Drinking fluoridated and chlorinated water supplies will guarantee at least some dysfunction in metabolic processes. Drink filtered water whenever possible.
5. Not Getting Your Zzzz's
A 2012 study found that people who sleep less move less the next day, which means they burn fewer calories. But it gets worse: Sleep deprivation actually reduces the amount of energy your body uses at rest, according to the German and Swedish researchers. Stay away from alcohol, fatty foods, coffee and chocolate at least 2 hours before bedtime.
The most popular medications in the world including antacids and drugs for diabetes, cholesterols and high blood pressure, all interfere with critical metabolic processes which dramatically reduce energy expenditure.
7. Eating Too Little
When you skimp on calories, your body switches into starvation mode, slowing your metabolic rate to conserve the fuel it's got. You will never increase your metabolism by dramatically curbing your calorie intake. Always eat often and sensibly to match your energy requirements.
8. Lacking Protein
Make sure protein is a component in every meal. It assists your body in maintaining lean muscle. Add a serving, like 3 ounces of fish, 2 tablespoons of nuts daily. Research shows protein can up post-meal calorie burn by as much as 35%.
9. You're Missing this Crucial Vitamin
Vitamin D is essential for preserving metabolism-revving muscle tissue. Unfortunately, researchers estimate that 96% of Americans over age 50 don't take in enough through their diet. You can get 90% of your recommended daily value (400 IU) in a 3.5-ounce serving of salmon. Better yet, exposing your full torso to the sun for at least 30 minutes is equivalent to approximately 10,000 IU.
10. Sitting Too Long
It takes only 20 minutes in any fixed position to inhibit your metabolism, according to Carrie Schmitz, an ergonomic research manager for Ergotron. A new study led by the University of Leicester, in association with colleagues at Loughborough University, has discovered that sitting for long periods increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease and death regardless of physical activity.
11. Disrupting Circadian Rhythms
Your internal clock directly controls the part of your cells that keeps your metabolism chugging along. But when you disrupt your so-called circadian rhythm -- by crossing time zones, for instance -- your cells don't function the way they should and your metabolism suffers, according to researchers at the Center for Epigenetics and Metabolism at University of California - Irvine. Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies,showed that two cellular switches found on the nucleus of mouse cell are essential for maintaining normal sleeping and eating cycles and for metabolism of nutrients from food.
All of your body's cellular processes, including metabolism, depend on water. If you're dehydrated, you could burn up to 2 percent fewer calories, according to researchers at the University of Utah.
13. Skipping Breakfast
When you miss breakfast, you don't just set yourself up to overeat at lunch. You actually tell your body to conserve energy -- which means it burns calories more slowly. That's one reason a study from the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people who skip a morning meal were 4.5 times more likely to be obese.
April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.