Can You “Reset” Your Metabolism…and Are There Benefits Besides Weight Loss?
Struggling to lose weight? Research says a metabolism reset may help—and earn you full-body health benefits along the way.
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There’s a lot of hype over metabolism-boosting diets or supplements that aim to speed up your metabolism to lose weight. While a well-oiled metabolism is important for weight loss and management, “one of the misconceptions with metabolism and calories in general is that it’s all about weight and fat,” explains Dan LeMoine, a nutrition consultant board certified by American Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA). “At the end of the day, a healthy versus slow metabolism is about how well your body is using [caloric] energy to fuel its functions and processes.”
First, it helps to understand what metabolism really is (because it’s not just the body’s weight loss process, as many of us tend to think of it).
Then, what’s a metabolism reset? A metabolism reset is a program designed to restore your metabolism to its most efficient working order. A metabolism reset does result in weight loss for many people, it can have profound health benefits from head to toe.
What is a metabolism reset?
Eating well—both in terms of quantity and quality—is crucial for a healthy metabolism. But “a lot of today’s weight loss plans tout themselves as a metabolic reset,” LeMoine says.
Often, they’re so calorie-restrictive and rigidly structured that they’re not sustainable for your lifestyle—or your metabolism. “So the body says, Well fine, if I’m only ever going to get 1,000 calories a day, I’m going to turn the thermostat down, I’m not going to burn as much.” This phenomenon is known as “metabolic adaptation” or “metabolic damage,” and it’s why many people struggle to keep weight off long-term.
That’s why if you’re dealing with signs of a slow metabolism, like difficulty losing weight and low energy, continuing to cut back on calories could make matters even worse. Instead, a metabolism reset aims to restore your metabolic rate to its natural, efficient state. A metabolism reset occurs through a series of lifestyle changes:
- stress management
- physical activity
- healthy eating patterns.
The Healthy @Reader’s Digest’s Medical Review Board co-chair Latoya Julce adds that incorporating intentional rest in your workout routine is a key lifestyle change to make when doing a metabolism reset. “The body repairs itself during the recovery days,” she explains. “Five days of physical activity and two days of chill.”
“Over time, these changes compound and allow your body—and its metabolism—to do what it’s naturally designed to do,” LeMoine says.
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The health benefits of a metabolism reset
Easier weight management
Making these metabolic reset lifestyle changes is about removing barriers keeping your metabolism from running at full speed. Part of what your metabolism is meant to do is use calories and fat efficiently, so you will lose weight in by restoring a sluggish metabolism—plus, plenty of research has found that losing excess weight supports a faster metabolism, too. But this positive impact depends on a key factor: How you lose the weight.
Research in 2017 by the University of Michigan’s Marschall S. Runge, MD, PhD, suggested 90% of people who lose weight eventually gain it back. LeMoine says this is because calorie restriction alone does not help your metabolism—and if you’re not eating enough calories and nutrients to fuel your body, it slows your metabolism down even more. Sustainable weight loss and management do involve attention to your diet, but it’s important to build healthy habits around all the other factors that influence your metabolism to keep pounds off in the long term.
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Improved immune system
The lifestyle changes involved in a metabolism reset can give your immune system a boost, says Felix Spiegel, MD, a bariatric surgeon with Memorial Hermann in Houston, TX. Research shows that the activation, differentiation, and function of immune cells are highly dependent on the energy supply a healthy metabolism supplies—and a slower metabolism can interfere with our body’s ability to protect itself from infection, viruses, and pathogens.
In general, a healthy metabolism keeps your energy levels higher, Dr. Spiegel says. Studies show that there’s a direct relationship between your metabolic rate and fatigue—suggesting a more efficient metabolism impacts greater cognitive, physical, emotional, motivational, social, and sexual energy.
Your hormones and metabolism are closely intertwined, LeMoine explains. Metabolic functions are controlled by hormones—so if anything is out of whack, your metabolism can slow down. On the flip side, hormones like neurotransmitters (think: Happiness chemicals like dopamine and serotonin) are regulated by how well our body is breaking things down and utilizing nutrients at the cellular level.
Because of this deep connection, metabolic reset lifestyle changes like eating well-balanced meals regularly, getting enough physical activity and sleep, and dealing with stress levels each help to keep your metabolism and hormone levels steady.
Better skin, hair and nails
Low hydration is one of the most common features among people with a slower metabolism, LeMoine says. He’s referring to low hydration at the cellular level—so even if you’re drinking enough water, if that water is purified, your body may not be getting enough electrolytes and trace minerals to hydrate its cells (which interrupts nutrient absorption, too).
That’s why dry skin and brittle nails can be signs of slow metabolism—and revving yours back up can boost skin and nail health. Similarly, a slow metabolism can affect your hair’s quality and ability to grow.
Lower risk of chronic disease
Metabolic inefficiencies and disruptions are connected to almost all chronic diseases, according to research published in Mitochondrion. Your metabolism powers everything from your heart rate to blood flow, blood sugar regulation, liver function, breathing, and digestion. So if it operates less efficiently than it’s meant to, these systems can’t operate at full strength—increasing the risk of subsequent health problems.
In fact, one in three Americans has what’s called metabolic syndrome: A group of conditions related to metabolic issues that raise your risk for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Beyond that, the lifestyle changes involved in a metabolic reset—like getting better sleep, eating well, de-stressing, exercising—are all associated with longevity and lower disease risk.
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Dan Lemoine, a dual board-certified nutritionist and clinical director at Revitalize Weight Loss & Wellness in Arizona
Felix Spiegel, MD, a bariatric surgeon with Memorial Hermann in Houston, Texas
Michigan Medicine: "Weighing the Facts: The Tough Truth About Weight Loss"
National Library of Medicine: "Metabolic Consequences Of Weight Reduction"
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "What Is Metabolic Syndrome?"
Molecular Biology Reports: "Immune cell metabolism and metabolic reprogramming"
Frontiers in Psychology: "The Link Between Energy-Related Sensations and Metabolism: Implications for Treating Fatigue"
Mitochondrion: "Metabolic features and regulation of the healing cycle—A new model for chronic disease pathogenesis and treatment"