Most people look for ways to boost their metabolism, but for a minority of skinny-minnies, Olive Oyls, and other ectomorphic types, the challenge is how to slow metabolism.

For those who need to preserve every ounce of precious body fat or even pack on a few extra pounds, here are some tips to trick your body into burning fewer calories.

In general, you’ll want to:

  • Eat a diet rich in natural fats and protein
  • Eat only one or two big meals per day
  • Avoid caffeine and other stimulants
  • Avoid sugary and artificially sweetened foods and drinks
  • Cut down on lengthy durations of cardiovascular exercise
I’d like to gain a couple pounds … should I scarf down a couple Big Macs?

If you’re trying to gain weight, yes, you should consider eating foods with higher fat and protein contents. But choose a diet consisting of whole foods that are ideally not processed or minimally so. Big Macs, unfortunately, don’t fit those criteria.

Dietary fat helps to slow metabolism. One gram of natural fat (think avocados; olive and coconut oils; nuts; hormone-free and all-natural meats and cheeses) contains nine calories, compared with four calories in one gram of carbohydrates and one gram of protein.

Chances are, if you are underweight, you burn up carbohydrates too quickly. Eating a diet containing liberal amounts of natural fat will help to give you longer-burning energy and avoid that sluggish and bloated feeling you might get after eating pasta or rice and baked goods.

I thought eating several meals a day was good for your metabolism

If you’re trying to stoke your internal engine, i.e. your metabolism, yes, eating several smaller meals throughout the day is an excellent way to boost metabolism. But if you’re tying to slow your calorie-burning mechanism, you’ll want to eat less frequently in the day.

Used to eating four or five times a day? Try cutting out one or two meals at first and then gradually reduce the number of times you eat in one day.

For example, try eating a large breakfast (with two whole eggs with cheese, minimally processed bacon or sausage, some sautéed spinach and whole grain toast), followed four-and-a-half or five hours later by lunch (salmon salad with lots of olive oil) and then a similarly sensible dinner loaded with protein and natural fat.

Over time, you may even be able to cut down to one or two heavy meals per day. A word of caution: don’t sacrifice good energy for the sake of slowing your metabolism. It’s more important to have steady energy throughout the day then trying to put on a couple pounds. Make sure you’re eating enough during the day so you’re focused on your job, raising your kids or whatever demanding tasks you have.

No caffeine? Are you serious? I can’t live without my grandé hammerhead.

If you really need your caffeine fix, try and limit your intake to one 8-ounc cup of coffee per day, preferably in the morning after you’ve had some water and breakfast.

Drinking coffee first thing in the morning before eating, if you’re trying to slow your metabolism, is like pouring fuel on an already quick-burning fire.

Consider a slower-burning caffeine buzz like green tea if you really need caffeine fix.

Overweight people consume lots of sugar; won’t eating it help me gain weight?

It’s more important to add muscle mass — not fat mass — so ingesting large amounts of sugar will most likely lead to fat accumulation in areas that aren’t very attractive (saddlebags, buttocks, hips, etc.).

Individuals with hyper metabolisms who consume large amounts of sugar are, just like in the aforementioned caffeine example, pouring fuel on an already out-of-control fire, not to mention the potentially dangerous consequence of developing type 2 diabetes.

I thought cardio was good for you

Cardiovascular exercise builds healthy heart tissue and blood pumping efficacy. But if you’re trying to slow your metabolism, limit the duration of your cardio sessions. For example, if you’re used to doing 45 of 60 minutes on the elliptical or treadmill, try reducing to 20 minutes and instead, add a challenging weight-training routine that limits the amount of repetitions to 10-12 per set.

After all, muscle weighs more than fat, and if you’re trying to pack on a couple pounds, what better way to gain weight than turning your body fat into muscle?

Judd Handler is a weight-management consultant and freelance health writer living in Encinitas, CA. He can be reached at CoachJudd@gmail.com.