14 Healthy Habits to Optimize Your Metabolic Health

While boosting overall wellness at the same time.

By: Dominique Michelle Astorino

When it comes to boosting your metabolism, there are a lot of myths out there! From trending diets, to supplements and superfoods, to metabolism-boosting workouts and bio-hacks, it’s hard to know what’s fact and what’s fiction. But, there’s good news. While there’s no quick-fix solution to boosting your metabolism, there are many science-supported ways to optimize your metabolic health! 

However, if you want to truly make sustainable and long-lasting changes, it’s important to understand what “metabolism” and “metabolic health” really mean in the first place. Hint: there’s much more to metabolism than body weight, caloric burn, and energy expenditure. While these are certainly important factors, optimizing our metabolism is so much more than merely losing weight and counting calories. Metabolism encompasses a complex network of biochemical processes that regulate how our body converts food into usable energy, including things such as insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance.

What Is Metabolic Health?

In general, metabolic health is referring to the absence of metabolic disease, or ‘metabolic syndrome,’ which is a cluster of symptoms — hypertension, diabetes, and obesity — that together increase your risk for serious illness such as coronary heart disease and stroke. While all three are needed to confirm the diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, any standalone symptom can also put you at risk!   

So what causes us to be metabolically healthy or unhealthy? A number of factors play a role, such as weight, activity level (inactivity, specifically), age (risk increases with age), genetics, stress, lifestyle, and insulin resistance.

Here are important health markers to monitor:

  • Blood sugar levels
  • Triglyceride levels 
  • LDL cholesterol levels 
  • Blood pressure 
  • Waist circumference 

Keeping these markers within normal range is key when it comes to staying metabolically healthy. If you start to see an increase above the recommended levels, you run the risk of serious health risks in the long run. And, it’s also important to note that it can even affect those who may appear to be healthy, making prioritizing metabolic health important for everyone. 

And there’s another factor to consider: gut health. Considering good metabolic health is characterized by the body’s ability to efficiently convert food into energy, maintain stable blood sugar levels, and support overall well-being, you can imagine that gut health plays a crucial role, too. In fact, according to new research, there’s a clear link between gut dysbiosis and metabolic diseases (like obesity and diabetes), highlighting the significance of maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.

Why Metabolic Health Matters

Unfortunately, the average lifestyle is characterized by sedentary behaviors, processed food consumption, and high levels of stress — markers that have been identified as significant contributors to poor metabolic health. 

So, why should you care?  For starters, being metabolically healthy reduces the risk of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. Not only that, but research shows that metabolic health also plays a role in our immune health, mental health, and overall well-being.

So now that we understand the importance and prevalence of metabolic health (or lack thereof), let’s talk about how to optimize it!

How to Optimize Metabolic Health 

Ahead, healthy habits that may not only help improve your metabolic health but your overall health and wellness as well. 

#1 Prioritize Regular Exercise

One of the primary contributors to poor metabolic health is inactivity. Lack of movement and exercise, sometimes referred to as a sedentary lifestyle, can lead to increased blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol — three primary risk factors in metabolic dysfunction. The good news is that research shows physical activity can not only combat these risk factors, but it can also prevent them from occurring!

So, scheduling in your workouts may be more beneficial than you realize! With regular exercise, you’ll help reduce the risk of metabolic dysfunction while getting the added benefits of movement.  Think: improved mood and energy, enhanced weight loss, reduced stress, better sleep, the list goes on!

Download the FitOn app and get access to unlimited free workouts to find out what type of exercise works best for you!

#2 Incorporate HIIT & Strength Training 

While all types of movement can be beneficial, there’s research to suggest HIIT and strength training workouts can be especially effective at boosting metabolism. 

Browse the FitOn HIIT and strength categories and find the workouts that work best for you. 

RELATED: 9 Secrets to Building Muscle Strength

#3 Practice Mindful Meditation

Research shows that chronic stress can increase the risk of metabolic disease. However, despite the high prevalence of stress in America, the good news is that a mere five minutes of mindfulness meditation per day is associated with reduced stress and anxiety. So, let’s make stress management a priority, shall we? 

Try five minutes (or more) of meditation each day in order to get your stress management practice rolling. 

You can find quick meditations that fit into even the busiest schedules and the perfect yoga flow to fit into your current fitness routine right in the FitOn app.

#4 Ground Your Mind & Body With Yoga 

Another amazing tool that we highly recommend adding to your stress management toolbox is yoga! And because yoga is a mind-body practice, not only will you benefit from physical exercise, but you’ll also “exercise your brain” and support your mind and mental health. This combination — of physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation — can help regulate hormonal balance, reduce stress and inflammation, support sleep, and optimize metabolic functions, thereby supporting a healthier metabolism!

#5 Practice Intuitive Eating

While we often hear about the importance of maintaining a healthy weight for metabolic health, we also don’t want to get stuck in the vicious cycle of dieting. First of all, restricting yourself is never the answer. And aside from being unhealthy, it’s also not sustainable! A much healthier alternative? Intuitive eating. By learning to listen to what your body needs and fuel it appropriately, studies have shown that you may be able to manage your weight more sustainably (and feel better, too) while avoiding those crash-and-burn fad diets.

Need some guidance? Sign up for The Mindful Eater, our 2-week mindful eating nutrition course with Registered Dietitian, Whitney English.

RELATED: How to Build a Healthy Plate, According to an RD

#6 Stick to Wholesome Whole Foods

Wholesome eating is an anticipated top 2024 food trend, which is great news for our metabolic health. Whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, provide essential nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants that support optimal metabolic function. Choosing these nutrient-dense options over processed foods helps regulate blood sugar levels, promote satiety, and contribute to overall metabolic well-being. On top of listening to your body, be sure to stack your plate with plenty of nutrient-dense options! 

Incorporate foods such as:

  • Colorful fruits and veggies such as berries, dark leafy greens, and cruciferous veggies
  • Lean proteins like salmon, turkey, eggs, chicken
  • Clean carbs such as whole grains, legumes, and root veggies
  • Healthy fats such as avocado, nuts, and seeds

#7 Call On Healthier Swaps

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated, and thanks to healthy swaps, you certainly don’t have to deprive yourself of your favorite foods. By replacing highly processed or sugary items with nutrient-dense alternatives, you can manage calorie intake, regulate blood sugar levels, and reduce the risk of metabolic disorders!

Here are some healthy swaps that can make healthy eating easy and delicious:

  • Grilled chicken or salmon vs. a fried alternative
  • Fresh fruit vs. dried fruit
  • Dairy-free avocado or banana nice cream vs. ice cream
  • Chocolate protein smoothie vs. chocolate milkshake
  • Cold pressed juice vs. sugar-filled artificial juice
  • Mashed avocado or Greek yogurt vs. sour cream
  • Baked sweet potato or carrot fries vs. processed french fries

RELATED: 23 Easy Swaps For All of Your Favorite Foods

#8 Optimize Your Sleep

If you’re trying to reduce stress, eat better, exercise and recover, and improve your health — and you’re not sleeping — you’re ‘poking holes in your bucket,’ so to speak. Sleep is the foundation for all of your health — physical, mental, emotional — and ensuring you’re getting quality sleep needs to be at the top of your list. In fact, there’s research to suggest sleep deprivation is directly linked to poor metabolic health.

If you find it difficult to wind down before bed, consider implementing a before-bed meditation into your evening routine. 

#9 Drink Plenty of Water

Yes, something as simple as staying hydrated can help with weight management and support a healthy body function, in general. If you struggle to drink enough water throughout the day or find yourself feeling dehydrated, try these tips:

#10 Improve Gut Health

Gut-health is an emerging topic in the medical and wellness field, with more and more research linking gut health and metabolic health. Home to trillions of bacteria that play a crucial role in digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune function, our gut microbiome can significantly influence our metabolic health by impacting processes like inflammation, insulin sensitivity, and energy metabolism.

Recent research published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation suggests a gut-healthy diet for metabolic health is one that includes nutrient-dense food choices such as colorful fruits and veggies, prebiotics, and probiotics.

Here are some gut-healthy food options to consider:

  • Yogurt or fermented dairy (or non-dairy)
  • Sauerkraut 
  • Kefir
  • Tempeh
  • Miso
  • Beans and legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Berries
  • Apples

#11 Add More Protein To Your Diet

Adding more protein to your diet is essential for metabolic health as it promotes satiety, helps maintain lean muscle mass, and requires more energy for digestion (compared to fats and carbs). It’s also needed for the synthesis of enzymes and hormones involved in metabolism, not to mention, can contribute to better weight management, improved body composition, and overall metabolic efficiency. To boost your overall protein intake, try to incorporate protein with each meal!

RELATED: The Healthiest Protein-Rich Foods That Support Weight Loss

#12 Spice Things Up

Consider spicing up your plate by incorporating more herbs and spices into your meals! Herbs, spices, and superfoods — such as turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and green tea — contain bioactive compounds with potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These substances (like curcumin, gingerol, found in ginger and EGCG, found in green tea) may help regulate blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and mitigate oxidative stress, contributing to an overall healthier metabolic profile. As an added bonus, by using herbs and spices, you’re also enhancing the flavor of dishes without the added salt, sugar, and refined fats — a win-win!

#13 Tame Inflammation

When it comes to optimizing your metabolic health, taming inflammation is another must! Linked to various metabolic issues like insulin resistance and obesity, chronic inflammation is a significant contributor to metabolic dysfunction. The good news is that adopting an anti-inflammatory diet — with colorful fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds, and plenty of omega-3 fatty acids — as well as engaging in regular physical activity and stress management, can help mitigate inflammation and improve overall well-being.

RELATED: 9 Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle Habits to Practice Daily

#14 Balance Your Blood Sugar

Fluctuations in blood sugar levels, often associated with increased consumption of refined carbs and sneaky sugars, can lead to insulin resistance and metabolic imbalances. Instead, opt for a balanced diet rich in whole foods such as complex carbohydrates, fiber-rich foods, and lean proteins. Not only can this help regulate blood sugar levels, but it can also help to stabilize energy levels, promote satiety, control cravings, and ultimately, lead to a more efficient metabolism!

The Takeaway 

Supporting metabolic health is a huge part of supporting overall wellness. The good news is that there are many things that are in our control that we can change about our eating style or lifestyle habits to help support our metabolic health. 

If you are looking to uplevel your health, consider these healthy habits, and always speak with your doctor about any concerns you may have about your metabolic health.