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6 Ways You Might Be Slowing Your Metabolism

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By Franziska Spritzler

Keeping your metabolism high is crucial for losing weight and keeping it off.

Unfortunately, there are several common lifestyle mistakes that may be slowing down your metabolism.

Doing these on a regular basis could make it hard to lose weight and make you more prone to weight gain in the future.

Here are six lifestyle mistakes that can slow down your metabolism.

1. Eating Too Few Calories

Eating too few calories can cause a major decrease in metabolism.

Although a calorie deficit is needed for weight loss, it can be counterproductive for your calorie intake to drop too low.

When you dramatically lower your calorie intake, your body senses that food is scarce and lowers the rate at which it burns calories.

Controlled studies on lean and overweight people have confirmed that consuming less than 1,000 calories per day can have a significant impact on your metabolic rate (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

Most studies measure resting metabolic rate, which is the number of calories burned during rest. However, some also measure calories burned during rest and activity over 24 hours, which is referred to as total daily energy expenditure.

In one study, when obese women ate 420 calories per day for four to six months, their resting metabolic rates slowed down significantly.

What's more, even after they increased their calorie intake over the following five weeks, their resting metabolic rates remained much lower than before the diet (3).

In another study, overweight people were asked to consume 890 calories per day. After three months, the total number of calories they burned per day was found to have dropped by 633 calories, on average (4).

It appears that even when calorie restriction is more moderate, it can slow metabolism somewhat.

In a four-day study of 32 people, the resting metabolic rate of people who ate 1,114 calories per day slowed more than twice as much as of those who consumed 1,462 calories daily. However, weight loss was similar for both groups (5).

If you're going to lose weight by calorie restriction, then don't restrict your calorie intake too much or for too long.

Bottom Line: Cutting calories too much and for too long lowers metabolic rate, which can make weight loss and weight maintenance more difficult.

2. Skimping on Protein

Eating enough protein is extremely important for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

Studies have shown that, in addition to helping you feel full, a high protein intake can significantly increase the rate at which your body burns calories (6, 7, 8).

The increase in metabolism that occurs after digestion is called the thermic effect of food.

The thermic effect of protein is much higher than the thermic effects of carbs or fat. Indeed, eating protein has been observed to temporarily increase metabolism by about 20–30 percent, versus 5–10 percent for carbs and 3 percent or less for fat (9).

Although metabolic rate inevitably slows during weight loss and continues to be slower during weight maintenance, there's evidence that higher protein intake can minimize this effect.

In one study, participants followed one of three diets in an effort to maintain a 10–15 percent weight loss.

The diet highest in protein reduced participants' total daily energy expenditure by only 97 calories, versus a decrease of 297–423 calories in people who consumed less protein (10).

Another study found that people needed to eat at least 0.5 grams of protein per pound (1.2 grams/kg) of their body weight in order to prevent their metabolism from slowing during and after weight loss (11).

Bottom Line: Protein increases metabolic rate more than carbs or fat. Increased protein intake helps preserve metabolic rate during weight loss and maintenance.

3. Leading a Sedentary Lifestyle

Being sedentary may lead to a significant decrease in the number of calories you burn every day.

Unfortunately, many people have lifestyles that mainly involve sitting at work, which can have negative effects on metabolic rate and overall health (12).

Although working out or playing sports can have a major impact on the number of calories you burn, even basic physical activity such as standing up, cleaning and taking the stairs can help you burn calories.

This type of activity is referred to as non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT).

One study found that performing a high amount of NEAT regularly could burn up to 2,000 additional calories per day. However, such a dramatic increase is not realistic for most people (13).

Another study found that watching TV while you're sitting burns an average of 8 percent fewer calories than typing while you're sitting and an average of 16 percent fewer calories than standing (14).

Working at a standing desk or simply getting up to walk around several times per day can help increase your NEAT and prevent your metabolism from dropping.

Bottom Line: Being inactive reduces the number of calories you burn during the day. Try to minimize sitting and increase your general activity levels.

4. Not Getting Enough High-Quality Sleep

Sleep is extremely important for good health.

Sleeping fewer hours than you need may increase your risk of a number of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and depression (15).

Several studies have found that inadequate sleep may also lower your metabolic rate and increase your likelihood of weight gain (16, 17, 18).

One study found that healthy adults who slept four hours per night for five nights in a row experienced a 2.6 percent decrease in resting metabolic rate, on average.

Participants' resting metabolic rate returned to normal following 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep (17).

Lack of sleep is made worse by sleeping during the day instead of at night. This sleep pattern disrupts your body's circadian rhythms, the biological changes in your body that occur in response to light and darkness over a 24-hour cycle.

A five-week study found that prolonged sleep restriction combined with circadian rhythm disruption significantly decreased participants' resting metabolic rate by an average of 8 percent (18).

Bottom Line: Getting adequate, high-quality sleep and sleeping at night rather than during the day can help preserve your metabolic rate.

5. Drinking Sugary Beverages

Sugar-sweetened drinks are the absolute worst beverages for health.

A high consumption of sodas and other sugary drinks has been linked to all sorts of health problems, including insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity (19, 20).

Most of the negative effects of sugar-sweetened beverages can be attributed to fructose. Table sugar contains 50 percent fructose, while high-fructose corn syrup contains 55 percent fructose.

Results from a 2012 study suggest that frequently consuming sugar-sweetened beverages may slow down your metabolism.

In this 12-week controlled study, overweight and obese people who consumed 25 percent of their calories as fructose-sweetened beverages on a weight-maintaining diet experienced a significant drop in metabolic rate (21).

Unfortunately, there aren't many studies that have measured how metabolic rate is affected by a high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages.

However, research in animals and humans has shown that excessive fructose consumption promotes increased fat storage in the belly and liver (22, 23, 24, 25, 26).

Bottom Line: A high intake of fructose-containing beverages has been found to reduce metabolic rate and promote fat storage in the belly and liver.

6. A Lack of Resistance Training

Working out with weights is a great strategy to keep your metabolism from slowing down.

Strength training has been shown to increase metabolic rate in healthy people, as well as those who have heart disease or are overweight or obese (27, 28, 29, 30).

Resistance training increases muscle mass, which makes up much of the fat-free mass in your body. Having a higher amount of fat-free mass significantly increases the number of calories you burn at rest (31, 32, 33).

Fortunately, doing even minimal amounts of strength training appears to boost energy expenditure.

In a six-month study, people who performed resistance training for 11 minutes per day for three days a week experienced a 7.4 percent increase in resting metabolic rate and burned 125 extra calories per day, on average (34).

In contrast, not doing any strength training can cause your metabolic rate to decline, especially during weight loss and as you get older (31, 35, 36).

Bottom Line: Resistance training increases muscle mass and helps preserve metabolic rate during weight loss and aging.

Take Home Message

Engaging in lifestyle behaviors that slow down your metabolism can lead to weight gain over time. It's best to avoid or minimize them as much as possible.

Fortunately, there are also many things that can boost your metabolism to help you lose weight and keep it off.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

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Given the present circumstances, Norway does not have either the legal or the technical basis for making its annual contribution to the Amazon Fund.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reacted with sarcasm to Norway's decision, which had been widely expected. After an official event, he commented: "Isn't Norway the country that kills whales at the North Pole? Doesn't it also produce oil? It has no basis for telling us what to do. It should give the money to Angela Merkel [the German Chancellor] to reforest Germany."

According to its website, the Amazon Fund is a "REDD+ mechanism created to raise donations for non-reimbursable investments in efforts to prevent, monitor and combat deforestation, as well as to promote the preservation and sustainable use in the Brazilian Amazon." The bulk of funding comes from Norway and Germany.

The annual transfer of funds from developed world donors to the Amazon Fund depends on a report from the Fund's technical committee. This committee meets after the National Institute of Space Research, which gathers official Amazon deforestation data, publishes its annual report with the definitive figures for deforestation in the previous year.

But this year the Amazon Fund's technical committee, along with its steering committee, COFA, were abolished by the Bolsonaro government on 11 April as part of a sweeping move to dissolve some 600 bodies, most of which had NGO involvement. The Bolsonaro government views NGO work in Brazil as a conspiracy to undermine Brazil's sovereignty.

The Brazilian government then demanded far-reaching changes in the way the fund is managed, as documented in a previous article. As a result, the Amazon Fund's technical committee has been unable to meet; Norway says it therefore cannot continue making donations without a favorable report from the committee.

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Thaís Borges.

An Uncertain Future

The Amazon Fund was announced during the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, during a period when environmentalists were alarmed at the rocketing rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. It was created as a way of encouraging Brazil to continue bringing down the rate of forest conversion to pastures and croplands.

Government agencies, such as IBAMA, Brazil's environmental agency, and NGOs shared Amazon Fund donations. IBAMA used the money primarily to enforce deforestation laws, while the NGOs oversaw projects to support sustainable communities and livelihoods in the Amazon.

There has been some controversy as to whether the Fund has actually achieved its goals: in the three years before the deal, the rate of deforestation fell dramatically but, after money from the Fund started pouring into the Amazon, the rate remained fairly stationary until 2014, when it began to rise once again. But, in general, the international donors have been pleased with the Fund's performance, and until the Bolsonaro government came to office, the program was expected to continue indefinitely.

Norway has been the main donor (94 percent) to the Amazon Fund, followed by Germany (5 percent), and Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobrás (1 percent). Over the past 11 years, the Norwegians have made, by far, the biggest contribution: R$3.2 billion ($855 million) out of the total of R$3.4 billion ($903 million).

Up till now the Fund has approved 103 projects, with the dispersal of R$1.8 billion ($478 million). These projects will not be affected by Norway's funding freeze because the donors have already provided the funding and the Brazilian Development Bank is contractually obliged to disburse the money until the end of the projects. But there are another 54 projects, currently being analyzed, whose future is far less secure.

One of the projects left stranded by the dissolution of the Fund's committees is Projeto Frutificar, which should be a three-year project, with a budget of R$29 million ($7.3 million), for the production of açai and cacao by 1,000 small-scale farmers in the states of Amapá and Pará. The project was drawn up by the Brazilian NGO IPAM (Institute of Environmental research in Amazonia).

Paulo Moutinho, an IPAM researcher, told Globo newspaper: "Our program was ready to go when the [Brazilian] government asked for changes in the Fund. It's now stuck in the BNDES. Without funding from Norway, we don't know what will happen to it."

Norway is not the only European nation to be reconsidering the way it funds environmental projects in Brazil. Germany has many environmental projects in the Latin American country, apart from its small contribution to the Amazon Fund, and is deeply concerned about the way the rate of deforestation has been soaring this year.

The German environment ministry told Mongabay that its minister, Svenja Schulze, had decided to put financial support for forest and biodiversity projects in Brazil on hold, with €35 million ($39 million) for various projects now frozen.

The ministry explained why: "The Brazilian government's policy in the Amazon raises doubts whether a consistent reduction in deforestation rates is still being pursued. Only when clarity is restored, can project collaboration be continued."

Bauxite mines in Paragominas, Brazil. The Bolsonaro administration is urging new laws that would allow large-scale mining within Brazil's indigenous reserves.

Hydro / Halvor Molland / Flickr

Alternative Amazon Funding

Although there will certainly be disruption in the short-term as a result of the paralysis in the Amazon Fund, the governors of Brazil's Amazon states, which rely on international funding for their environmental projects, are already scrambling to create alternative channels.

In a press release issued yesterday Helder Barbalho, the governor of Pará, the state with the highest number of projects financed by the Fund, said that he will do all he can to maintain and increase his state partnership with Norway.

Barbalho had announced earlier that his state would be receiving €12.5 million ($11.1 million) to run deforestation monitoring centers in five regions of Pará. Barbalho said: "The state governments' monitoring systems are recording a high level of deforestation in Pará, as in the other Amazon states. The money will be made available to those who want to help [the Pará government reduce deforestation] without this being seen as international intervention."

Amazonas state has funding partnerships with Germany and is negotiating deals with France. "I am talking with countries, mainly European, that are interested in investing in projects in the Amazon," said Amazonas governor Wilson Miranda Lima. "It is important to look at Amazônia, not only from the point of view of conservation, but also — and this is even more important — from the point of view of its citizens. It's impossible to preserve Amazônia if its inhabitants are poor."

Signing of the EU-Mercusor Latin American trading agreement earlier this year. The pact still needs to be ratified.

Council of Hemispheric Affairs

Looming International Difficulties

The Bolsonaro government's perceived reluctance to take effective measures to curb deforestation may in the longer-term lead to a far more serious problem than the paralysis of the Amazon Fund.

In June, the European Union and Mercosur, the South American trade bloc, reached an agreement to create the largest trading bloc in the world. If all goes ahead as planned, the pact would account for a quarter of the world's economy, involving 780 million people, and remove import tariffs on 90 percent of the goods traded between the two blocs. The Brazilian government has predicted that the deal will lead to an increase of almost $100 billion in Brazilian exports, particularly agricultural products, by 2035.

But the huge surge this year in Amazon deforestation is leading some European countries to think twice about ratifying the deal. In an interview with Mongabay, the German environment ministry made it very clear that Germany is very worried about events in the Amazon: "We are deeply concerned given the pace of destruction in Brazil … The Amazon Forest is vital for the atmospheric circulation and considered as one of the tipping points of the climate system."

The ministry stated that, for the trade deal to go ahead, Brazil must carry out its commitment under the Paris Climate agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent below the 2005 level by 2030. The German environment ministry said: If the trade deal is to go ahead, "It is necessary that Brazil is effectively implementing its climate change objectives adopted under the [Paris] Agreement. It is precisely this commitment that is expressly confirmed in the text of the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement."

Blairo Maggi, Brazil agriculture minister under the Temer administration, and a major shareholder in Amaggi, the largest Brazilian-owned commodities trading company, has said very little in public since Bolsonaro came to power; he's been "in a voluntary retreat," as he puts it. But Maggi is so concerned about the damage Bolsonaro's off the cuff remarks and policies are doing to international relationships he decided to speak out earlier this week.

Former Brazil Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi, who has broken a self-imposed silence to criticize the Bolsonaro government, saying that its rhetoric and policies could threaten Brazil's international commodities trade.

Senado Federal / Visualhunt / CC BY

Maggi, a ruralista who strongly supports agribusiness, told the newspaper, Valor Econômico, that, even if the European Union doesn't get to the point of tearing up a deal that has taken 20 years to negotiate, there could be long delays. "These environmental confusions could create a situation in which the EU says that Brazil isn't sticking to the rules." Maggi speculated. "France doesn't want the deal and perhaps it is taking advantage of the situation to tear it up. Or the deal could take much longer to ratify — three, five years."

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