Need another reason to love your body? It burns calories all by itself—as long as you don’t get in the way. See, 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 metabolism, the more calories you burn. And just like there are ways to speed it up—by working out, for instance—certain habits can hit the brakes on your natural calorie-churning engine.
Here are 10 things to avoid in order to keep your metabolism humming.
A Weird Eating Schedule
In a 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.
Pesticides in Produce
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. Opt for organic fruits and veggies as often as you can.
Skimping on Sleep
A 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.
Related: how to Get a Restful Sleep
You lose iron during your period every month, and iron helps carry oxygen to your muscles. If your iron levels run too low, your muscles don’t get enough O2, your energy plummets, and your metabolism sputters, says Tammy Lakatos Shames, R.D., author of “Fire Up Your Metabolism: 9 Proven Principles for Burning Fat and Losing Weight Forever.” Stock up on iron-fortified cereals, beans, and dark leafy greens like spinach, bok choy, and broccoli.
Not Eating Enough
When you skimp on calories, your body switches into starvation mode, slowing your metabolic rate to conserve the fuel it’s got.
Related: Relief for Sleeplessness
Being A Couch Potato
It takes only 20 minutes in any fixed position to inhibit your metabolism, according to Carrie Schmitz, an ergonomic research manager for Ergotron.
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.
Another reason to drink your milk: Calcium plays a key role in regulating your fat metabolism, which determines whether you burn calories or store them as fat. A diet that’s high in calcium could help you burn more fat, according to research conducted at the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
Not Enough of Water
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.
Related: The Benefits of Aloe
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.
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Resource: Originally published in Women’s Health – Additional reporting by Stephen Perrine, Leah Flickinger, and the editors of Women’s Health.