5 Steps to Optimize Your Metabolism

True or false: your metabolism only relates to how much you can eat and what you weigh.

If you answered true, you’re not alone. There’s a lot of confusion out there about the metabolism.

The word metabolism has become synonymous with how much someone can eat and how easily they gain or lose weight. You can be lean and have an unhealthy metabolism. I see this a lot in women — especially those who are doing a lot of cardio, counting calories and macros, and also feeling tired, anxious, bloated, and moody.

The truth is, your metabolic function goes way beyond the ability to maintain your weight.

If you’ve been looking for the reason behind why you don’t feel like yourself, can’t seem to change your body composition, and feel tired and bloated the majority of time, looking at the health of your metabolism could be the solution.

In this article, I’m going to share why supporting your metabolism is important if you want optimal health, what influences your metabolism, and how to improve it with the right nutrition and lifestyle strategies.

Before we talk about how optimizing your metabolism can improve your health, it’s important to understand some metabolism fundamentals.

Your digestion, immune system, menstrual cycle, thyroid, stress hormones, energy, sex drive, hair skin nails health… are all influenced by your metabolism. It describes how efficiently you burn energy and it’s responsible for every function of your body.

Your metabolism isn’t something that is “stuck” or just inevitably gets slower as you age. It can change and adapt in response to stressors put on the body. And, the eat more + exercise less equation can down regulate your metabolism because the body senses it as a stressor and causes the compensatory changes that, over time, cause weight gain, hormone, issues, digestive issues, and chronic fatigue.

Bottom line: your metabolism impacts your energy, body temperature, digestion, hormones, weight, mood, and sleep. It’s your greatest tool for assessing your overall health and deciding exactly how to eat and exercise.

Signs of a Poor Metabolism

These are some of the major signs — and ones I see most commonly — that your metabolism isn’t working optimally:

  1. Can’t lose weight no matter what. You’re doing the workouts 6 days a week. Eating clean. Fasting, whole30, paleo, keto… but not getting results.
  2. Brain fog. You can’t focus, don’t feel as sharp as you used to, and have trouble remembering things.
  3. Low energy. It’s hard to get out of bed, you hit a wall at 3pm, you’re exhausted at the end of the day.
  4. Digestive issues. You deal with constipation and bloating daily. Everything feels slow. You react to even healthy foods like salads and fruit.
  5. Trouble regulating temperature. You get cold easily and have a low body temperature (below 98.6F), especially your hands and feet. You’re always the one wearing a sweater when everyone else feels fine.
  6. Hair loss, brittle nails, dry skin. No matter what shampoo you use or how many topical lotions you wear, these still don’t improve.
  7. Hormonal symptoms. You deal with PMS, heavy periods, or irregular cycles. You’ve also might have had difficulty getting pregnant or have a history of miscarriages.
  8. Trouble staying asleep. You wake up between 2 and 4am like clockwork.
  9. Underactive thyroid, hypothyroidism, Hashimotos. You’ve been diagnosed with one of these based on lab results from your doctor. Maybe you have a family history of thyroid issues as well.

I have a full checklist for what to look for in a healthy metabolism in my Well Nourished Woman Guide that you can download here.

The good news is that because your metabolism has the ability to adapt, you can improve it with the right nutrition and lifestyle strategies. When you eat and move in a way that supports your metabolism you’ll have more energy, better digestion, better libido, normal periods, less PMS, maintain your weight, and improve your mood.

What influences your metabolism?

  • Low calorie diet
  • Chronic cardio
  • Unmanaged stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Imbalanced blood sugar
  • Lack of protein
  • Less muscle mass

Unfortunately, a lot of these happen when we’re following the recommendations from the diet and health industry like eat less, exercise more, power through the day (even after 5 hours of sleep), take no days off, eat meat substitutes instead of real meats, and choose bootcamp and HIIT classes over weight training.

What happens when your body is dealing with one of these, or most likely a combination of these, is that it does not feel safe.

This makes it easier to hold onto fat, harder to lose weight, and puts the body in a chronically stressed state. And a stressed state impacts all other hormones that lead to bloating, digestive issues, more cravings, and feeling tired all the time.

Why Dieting & Cutting Calories Doesn’t Work

The conventional weight loss “eat less, exercise more” model is oversimplified because it doesn’t consider metabolic adaptations.

In other words, when you drastically restrict calories or lose weight quickly, your body senses the energy gap and adapts to reduce energy burned.

Your body conserves energy by burning less calories at rest, which lowers your BMR (basal metabolic rate) and leaves less energy for “nonessential” functions like digestion, reproduction, thyroid production, hair growth, and liver function.

It’s not that your metabolism is slow or broken — your body has simply adapted. You can think of it like a stress barometer. More stress on the body — whether it’s something we “feel” like stress at work or something we do unintentionally like don’t eat enough — will cause the compensatory mechanisms that make it harder to lose weight.

It’s important to interrupt this pattern by doing things differently. This can be hard if you’ve been stuck in the mentality and if you’re just trying to do the same things “harder” or “better” — exercise harder, cut more calories, restrict more carbs. When really, the answer is quite the opposite and your metabolism is adapting to those exact things.

When you eat and move in a way that supports your metabolism you’ll have more energy, better digestion, better libido, normal periods, less PMS, maintain your weight, and improve your mood.

You have to prioritize nourishing and healing your body over short term goals and quick fixes.

Instead, we want to optimize our metabolism. This looks like: regular digestion, maintaining your weight without dieting, steady energy, healthy skin, hair, nails, clear and focused thinking, regulating your body temperature, and so much more.

Whether you’re working on healing your hormones, fixing your gut, improving your skin, increase your energy, you have to focus time and attention on optimizing the metabolism.

How to Support & Optimize Your Metabolism

1. Make sure you’re eating enough. 

The amount of calories your body needs to function well is very individual depending on your stress, age, muscle mass, and activity levels. Some women are under eating without realizing it, either because they’re busy and just running from one task to another, or because they don’t understand that a bar and coffee don’t count as a meal. Others are more intentional and have purposely dieted on 1500 calories a day for years. If you’ve been restricting for a long period of time or are a yo yo dieter, it’s important to slowly work your way back up slowly to what your body actually requires. Most women are surprised when they learn they should be eating 2000+ calories a day for a healthy metabolism.

I see a lot of women start a diet, jumping straight to 1200 and 1500 calorie diets, only to lose weight in the beginning then plateau. Some (most) even gain the weight back and try to go back to the same type of restriction again and again.

Chronic dieting sends a signal to your brain that your body isn’t safe. When we don’t get adequate calories, functions that are no longer a priority shut down like reproduction, digestion, hair growth, and hormone production. Instead, we store fat, energy slows down, and our body conserves fat. This is why eating enough calories consistently should be the first goal of any effective, long term nutrition plan.

Instead of going to extremes with calorie restriction and putting the mental and physical stress on your body, you can figure out what it truly needs to feel nourished and safe. This will support all the other hormones that can go haywire — like thyroid hormones, cortisol, sex hormones, hunger hormones — so that if you want to lose weight it feels easy and enjoyable.

We go through how to find your unique calorie needs in Metabolism Renewal.

What you eat is also important. This is why I teach quality first in the form of nutrient dense, real food. From there, you can customize your calorie needs based on your current metabolic status, past dieting history, age, weight, height, and activity levels. If you’re wondering “am I eating enough?” I recommend checking out this article.

2. Balance your blood sugar

Riding the blood sugar rollercoaster is a huge stressor on the body and an easy one to reduce if you’re intentional about it. Meal composition and meal timing can make or break your blood sugar stability. Finding the right balance of protein, fat, and carbs is the first step. From there, try to eat every 3-4 hours with nutrient-dense foods. This means not snacking on carrot sticks or just running out the door with a granola bar.

I recommend really focusing on prioritizing protein (80-100 grams/day) because it helps to increase your metabolic rate due to it’s thermic effect (using energy to break it down) and will keep you satiated. Eggs, grass fed beef, fish, poultry, grass fed dairy, and organ meats are all great sources.

3. Walk throughout the day and swap cardio for strength.

This is a really effective way to stimulate the metabolism without increasing stress in the body. By moving more — especially out in nature — you’re lowering cortisol and moving in a way your body is designed to move. Scale back on structured and intense cardio and bump up natural, relaxing movement. Movement throughout the day is better for your metabolism than working out hard for an hour then sitting all day.

If you’re currently only doing cardio, it’s really important to add in strength training. Your body might be responsive to the cardio sessions at first, but overtime it gets more efficient during that hour long spin class or 5K run so that you’re not only burning less calories, you’re also breaking down muscle. The goal is to build muscle and workout smarter, not harder. While we might enjoy those hard classes for the endorphins, we don’t want to put our body under additional stress that will make us feel worse in the long term. Squats, push ups, and planks will benefit you more than an hour long spin class or bootcamp. And, the more muscle you have, the better your body can utilize energy and which means more calories burned at rest.

Between walking and strength training, you’ll have a workout routine that will optimize your metabolism, hormones, and decrease stress in the body so that it feels safe.

4. Evaluate stressors and manage cortisol. 

Cortisol is a stress hormone that should be highest in the morning and low at night. When it’s too high too often, other functions (digestion, energy, metabolism) slow down. Ways to decrease stress includes sleeping more, getting out in nature, going on walks, doing yoga, stretching, journaling and gratitude, reducing inflammatory foods, reducing stressful thoughts, and getting out of the chronic fight-or-flight mode.

Stress can be real, perceived, or anticipated. It’s important to figure out where it’s coming from (physical, environmental, emotional), then decide what you can eliminate. For the things you can’t eliminate, you can build in stress resilience practices and support your adrenals.

Another quick win for lowering stress in the body is to support circadian rhythms. This will also help with cortisol regulation and therefore with falling asleep and staying asleep. To support your circadian rhythm, get sunlight first thing in the morning and as much as you can throughout the day.

5. Support your gut and digestion. 

To heal your metabolism, you need to make sure you’re eating to support good digestion and gut health. This is the foundation for a healthy metabolism because it’s where nutrients are absorbed and used to build healthy hormones and cells. It’s also responsible for the conversion of vitamins that support the production of thyroid hormones, which are the regulators of our metabolism.

If you struggle with digestive issues regularly, react to certain foods, and have a long list of food intolerances, it’s important to really spend some time and attention on healing your gut.

Optimizing Your Metabolism Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

If you feel like you’re eating healthy and exercising regularly and now you’re still struggling with low energy, weight gain, bloating and digestive issues, PMS, irregular periods, PCOS, hypothyroidism, and JUST want to feel better in your body, supporting your metabolism is essential.

Remember that it’s not about doing the things we “think” we should be doing like:

❌ Eating “clean” or restricting more foods
❌ Obsessing over calories and macronutrients
❌ Forcing yourself to workout everyday
❌ Never eating sugar or carbs again
❌ Eating 6 small meals a day

But it is about listening to your body and:

✅ Eating enough nutrient-dense foods
✅ Balancing blood sugar with proper meal timing and protein, fat, carb combos
✅ Getting enough protein from bioavailable sources
✅ Getting minerals daily
✅ Going for walks in nature
✅ Strength training
✅ Getting sunlight

And doing these things consistently.

Doing this doesn’t have to be complicated or require doing a complete diet overhaul with a bunch of supplements, meal prep, and shopping lists. Pick just one and start there.

If you want some help with where exactly to start and some guidance on walking through things step by step, check out my Metabolism Renewal Course here.

If you’re ready to improve your metabolism and support your body to give it what it needs, you can book a free Nutrition Strategy Session here. We’ll get clear on what you’ve tried in the past, where you’re at now, and what a customized plan looks like for you based on your goals.

Ready to figure out how to fuel your body so you can support your energy, hormones, metabolism, & weight?

Download my well Nourished Woman Guide and learn the 6 steps that will help you increase your energy and lose weight while supporting your metabolism & hormones… without restricting calories or stressing about diet rules.