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How To Increase Your "Slow" Metabolism (4 Easy Fixes!)

by Jeremy Ethier - November 29, 2021

Apparently, all you need is a calorie deficit to lose weight. But what if your "slow" metabolism is preventing you from losing weight? Find out how you can naturally increase your metabolism here.

Eat less and move more. It's that simple when it comes to losing weight ... right? Well, yes, but knowing the theory is different from actually applying it in real life. I'll be the first to admit it. Staying in control of that balance is MUCH easier said than done. Especially when you suspect that you've been "cursed" with a "slow" metabolism. But not to worry - because I'm about to show you how you can naturally increase your metabolism in this article.

Here's what you can expect to learn:

  • Why you might be having a hard time losing weight
  • What your metabolism has to do with your weight loss difficulties
  • The 4 tips that'll get you right back on track to losing weight

By the end, you'll know exactly how to increase your metabolism (i.e., the number of calories you burn every single day) to speed up weight loss.

Before that: if you're looking for a training program that'll help you set up every single one of your workouts (and meals) for optimal weight loss, I've got just the thing for you. Every BWS program is designed to be an all-in-one, science-based process that'll get you to your dream physique FAST. And best of all? It's all rooted in science. For more information:

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Do You Really Have A "Slow" Metabolism?

When it comes to weight loss, metabolism is a hot topic. You may even be convinced that your "slow" metabolism makes it impossible for you to lose weight. But is this really the case? To find out, we need to first break down what, exactly, makes up your metabolism.

Components Of Your Metabolism

Another way you could refer to your metabolism is something called the "Total Daily Energy Expenditure". Or TDEE for short. That's because TDEE refers to the TOTAL number of calories that you burn over the course of a day (i.e., 24 hours). And your TDEE, in turn, is made up of the following components:

Resting metabolic rate (RMR)

Also known as your resting metabolism. This is the energy that your body uses each day just to keep your organs working. On average, RMR accounts for around 60% of the calories you expend over the course of a day. Meaning? If you simply sat on a couch the entire day, you would still burn 60% of the calories you typically burn in a day.

Non-resting expenditure

This makes up the remaining 40% of your TDEE. And there are 3 parts to your non-resting expenditure:

  1. Non-exercise energy expenditure (NEAT): This refers to the calories you burn during activities such as walking, fidgeting, and brushing your teeth. It makes up around 20% of your TDEE.
  2. Thermic effect of food (TEF): Refers to the energy it takes to digets the food you eat. Makes up around 10% of your TDEE.
  3. Exercise energy expenditure (EAT): Refers to the number of calories you burn working out. In most cases, this only makes up around 10% of your TDEE.
Breakdown of TDEE

Of course, it's worth noting that these percentages are only averages. Someone who exercises for hours per day will have a higher EAT percentage than someone who does not.

Ultimately, you can think of TDEE as your maintenance calories. If you eat more than this, you will gain weight. And if you eat less, then you will lose weight.

Your TDEE Is A "Moving Target"

With this in mind, though, it is crucial to realize that your TDEE is a moving target.

But why? And what does it mean, exactly? Well, imagine what happens when you lose weight. It'll mean that you carry less weight on your body that requires energy. As such, your resting metabolism is bound to decrease. To further add to this, when you weigh less, the following things also happen:

  • You use less energy to move AND
  • Your non-exercise and exercise energy expenditure (NEAT & EAT) decrease
  • Because you eat less, your body will have less food to digest, which translates into reduced thermic effect of food (TEF)

Here's an example that'll help you see how this plays out in real life. Let's assume that your starting maintenance calories were at 2,700 per day. And then you lose 20 pounds. So, now, your new maintenance would be predicted to be closer to 2,500 calories per day instead.

With that said, though, your TDEE can - and likely will - decrease to an extent that is GREATER than what would be expected based on weight loss alone.

Metabolic Adaptations Are Normal

This phenomenon is known as "metabolic adaptation", and it is your body's NATURAL way to try and prevent you from losing more weight. Just how much of a decrease can you expect, though?

Well, it varies. But, in most cases, TDEE is around 10-15% LOWER than what you would expect after losing a significant amount of weight.

Going back to the previous example ... this means that although you would expect TDEE to decrease by around 200 calories after losing 20 pounds, it would likely decrease by around 400 instead.

So, what does all this mean for you? Simply put, eating fewer calories than you burn will result in weight loss. BUT because of the weight loss, you will burn even fewer calories! In short: what used to put you in a calorie deficit now has you at maintenance. Thus, explaining the stall in your weight loss efforts.

There you have the answer. You don't have a "slow" metabolism. All these metabolic adaptations are normal - and to be expected. Nonetheless. Just because it's expected, doesn't mean that you can't do anything about it. That's why I'm going to share with you 4 actionable tips on how you can increase your metabolism naturally.

#1: Reverse Diet

Wait ... how does reverse dieting (i.e., eating more) increase your metabolism? Although it may seem counterintuitive, taking a break from dieting may actually be your best bet to eventually lose fat (and fast)!

First, a little background. Reverse dieting is a process that involves slowly and strategically increasing your calories to try and boost your metabolism.

To understand the rationale behind this, let's first recap how your weight loss plateau comes about in the first place:

  1. As you diet, your body adapts - causing you to burn fewer and fewer calories.
  2. As such, to continue losing weight, you will have to keep taking more food away and/or adding in more activity.

This is what ultimately causes many people to get stuck in a never-ending cycle, where they:

  • Plateau
  • Then, eventually regain the lost weight
  • And start the process all over again

So, how can you avoid getting stuck in this vicious yo-yo cycle yourself? Easy.

Metabolic Adaptation Works Both Ways

You need to STOP DIETING ALL THE TIME and allow your metabolism to recover. Luckily for you, the process of metabolic adaptation works both ways. That means, if you gradually increase calories over time, your body will adapt by INCREASING your energy expenditure.

An important disclaimer: this must be done slowly and in a controlled manner. When done correctly, reverse dieting should result in a SMALL increase in body weight.

The goal is to slowly add in calories to allow your metabolism to catch up. Only then can you add in more calories. If you add calories back too quickly, your body will not have time to adapt. And you will just gain excess fat.

Take this 2008 study, for example. Researchers had participants eat at a 20%, 40%, and 60% calorie surplus for 3 weeks.

Their findings? The researchers found that participants SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASED their TDEE during each caloric surplus. As to how, well, it was found that it was due to an increase in the participants' RMR and NEAT.

Most important of all ... there was no significant change in fat mass during the 20% surplus!

Increase Your Calories In A Slow And Controlled Manner

Here's a disclaimer. This process is HIGHLY INDIVIDUAL.

In another study, researchers had participants eat an extra 1,000 calories per day for 8 weeks.

Based on the assumption that 3,500 extra calories will cause you to gain 1 pound, you would expect the participants to gain an average of 16 pounds over the course of the study.

But the study highlighted great interindividual variability in the amount of weight gain within the group of participants:

  • 3 pounds: The participant who gained the least weight only added 3 pounds to their frame (wouldn't you love to be that person!)
  • 16 pounds: Participants who gained the most weight gained the full 16 pounds

Thus, highlighting the importance of reverse dieting in a slow and steady, plus controlled manner. Because you don't want to end up like the participants who gained the most weight.

How To Reverse Diet

So, how should you go about reverse dieting to increase your metabolism?

As a general rule of thumb, you should begin by eating at maintenance for AT LEAST 2-3 weeks. Your average weekly bodyweight should fluctuate up or down by less than 0.5% when you're doing this correctly.

Step 1: Determine Your Maintenance Calories

Let's see how this will play out in real life. So, let's say that:

  • Your current body weight is 170 pounds AND
  • You have been eating 2,600 calories each day for the last 2 weeks

If your average weekly weight has changed by less than a pound during this time, then this is likely your maintenance calories.

Step 2: Increase Calorie Intake By 3-5%

Then, once you have been eating at maintenance for a few weeks, a conservative first increase is to bump your total calories up by 3-5%. Of course, this depends on how conservative (or aggressive) you want to be.

But where should the extra calories come from? Assuming that you're already eating at least 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, there's no need to further increase protein. In this case, your increase should come from carbohydrates and/or fats (depending on your preferences).

In our example, let's say that this person has been dieting for the last several months. And wants to get things back on track as quickly as possible. In this case, it would be a good idea to increase calories by 5%.

This means that they would bump up from 2,600 to 2,730 calories per day. Doesn't sound like a lot? That's because it shouldn't be. Remember: you want to go slow and steady.

Step 3: Increase Calorie Intake Further If Adapting Well

Thereafter, what you will do is continue to monitor your weekly average weight. Ensure that you are keeping your weight increase to less than 0.5% compared to the previous week.

You can then add another 5% if:

  • You adapt to this well AND
  • Your weekly average weight does not increase more than 0.5%

As you continue this process, it is likely that you will need to get more and more conservative with your additions. That's normal. Because, ultimately, the goal is for you to find the MAXIMUM number of calories you can eat WITHOUT gaining a significant amount of fat.

Once you have found this, you will be in a prime place to start a fat loss phase. If you so choose.

And if you're interested in starting a fat loss phase, then you're going to want to check out this past article I wrote on the best weight loss meal plan you can be on.

At this point, I think you can agree that knowing how to reverse diet to increase your metabolism is a tricky affair. If you're despairing about the work that needs to be done ... just know that help is available. Every BWS program comes with a "plug and play" nutrition software that allows you to easily calibrate your meal intake according to your target calorie intake. If you're interested to see how that'll work for you: 

Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you:

#2: Training

When it comes to how you can increase your metabolism ... in addition to getting your diet on track and letting your metabolism recover, you also have to take note of a few things with regards to your training.

And that largely has to do with the fact that your fat-free mass is the most important variable when it comes to predicting your RMR.

In fact, differences in fat-free mass can explain more than 70% of the variation in RMR between individuals.

With that in mind, how much can you (realistically) expect training to increase your metabolic rate?

Exercising Increases Your RMR

The answer can be found in a recent 2020 meta-analysis. The researchers found resistance training to increase RMR by around 100 calories per day - whereas cardio increased RMR by around 80 calories per day.

This difference (~20 calories) was attributed to the greater muscle-building effects of resistance training compared to cardio. Just so you know: 1 pound of muscle burns around 6 calories per day at rest.

This might not seem like much. But, over the course of a training career, this can make a significant difference!

Getting Stronger Helps You Burn More Calories In The Gym

It's not just about the calorie burn, either. The truth is that the more muscle you have, the stronger you will be. Which then translates to you being able to use heavier weights when working out.

And, obviously, when it comes to how you can increase your metabolism, that's key - because research shows that the number of calories you burn during a workout is directly related to how much weight you use.

By the way: lifting heavier weights isn't the only way to increase the number of calories you burn in the gym. There are a ton of other "tricks" you could use for that purpose. Check out this article to find out more.

In short: getting stronger can help you burn more calories in the gym.

Exercising Leads To Short-Term Increases In RMR Too

Thought I was done explaining the benefits exercising could bring for your metabolism? Nope. In addition to the long-term increases in RMR, exercise also leads to a SHORT TERM increase in your metabolism as your body repairs itself and you recover.

Let's take this 2004 study, for instance. The researchers had participants perform cardio or lift weights for an hour and measured their metabolic rate for the next 3 days. At the end of the study, the researchers found that both modes of exercise led to an elevation in RMR of around 50-100 calories that lasted up to 48 hours. That's 2 days!

Ultimately, what this means for you is that when it comes to how you can increase your metabolism ... the key is for you to stay consistent with your workouts. That's how you will reap the benefits - and burn significantly more calories than usual.

#3: Go Slow

If you want to increase your metabolism, you will need to learn how to fight off metabolic adaptation. But there's a problem. How would you be able to do that ... when you don't even know where it is (and isn't) coming from? Don't worry, because I'm about to tell you.

Despite its name, "metabolic adaptation", not much of it actually has to do with your RMR.

In fact, some research has even found that the decline in RMR when dieting doesn't even have an effect on how successful people are at losing weight!

Why? Well, that likely has to do with the fact that, on average, only about 20% of metabolic adaptation is due to a decline in resting metabolic rate!

Now, it's worth noting that this varies. Some people are indeed genetically inclined to reduce RMR more than others.

Regardless. The important takeaway here is for you to know that the biggest thing you can do to take control of this is to LOSE WEIGHT SLOWLY. Ideally, no more than 1% of your body weight per week.

Research suggests that this rate of losing weight can significantly reduce declines in metabolic rate.

Now remember, this decline in RMR only makes up a small part of the adaptation that is taking place. This means that there is still a lot of room for you to take control.

#4: Subconscious Movement

Remember how I told you that "metabolic adaptation" had little to do with a decline in RMR? Well, that's because the MAJORITY of metabolic adaptation is due to a drop in physical activity energy expenditure.

Increasing your NEAT level is key when it comes to how to increase your metabolism

Meaning? You simply move around less over the course of a day. And, worse still, you're unlikely to realize it.

A 2009 study perfectly illustrates this. The researchers had a group of participants reduce calories by 25% for 6 months.

When the participants started the study, their average maintenance calories were around 2,800 per day. After losing an average of 20 pounds, the new predicted maintenance calories were around 2,700 calories per day. That's a drop of 100 calories.

But in reality? The participants' ACTUAL, measured maintenance calories at the 6-month mark was 2,500 calories. That's 200 calories - per day - lower than expected!

So, what's up with this difference?

Surprisingly, the researchers found that the participants' RMR was actually not significantly different than predicted.

It's All Because Of A Reduction In NEAT Levels

Instead, the 200 calorie difference was ENTIRELY accounted for by a reduction in the amount of physical activity that the participants were performing!

Here's the truth. As you diet, it's very likely that you will start to move around less during the day. This holds true - regardless of whether you realize it or not.

Even if you continue with your workouts in the gym, it is highly likely that you will start to move around less OUTSIDE of the gym. For example:

  • You park closer to the store
  • The elevator becomes more appealing than the stairs
  • You call that co-worker instead of walking down the hall

So, where can you intervene to stop this? It may sound simple, but this is exactly why tracking steps while dieting is such a helpful practice. You can avoid this decrease in activity by tracking your steps for 1-2 weeks before you start dieting. At a minimum, you want to make sure that you are maintaining this step count every day.

This provides you with an objective way of taking charge and overriding your body's natural way to try and prevent you from losing weight.

And for those looking for a complete step-by-step program that uses science to show you how to properly train AND eat week aftr week to transofrm your body in the most efficient way possible, then:

Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you:

How To Increase Your "Slow" Metabolism (4 Easy Fixes!)