People are constantly trying to find new ways to improve their health. Whether that’s eating certain foods to boost your metabolism or trying high-intensity workouts to trick your body into burning more calories, there’s always a new trick on the horizon. But why is metabolism so important?
Metabolism refers to the chemical reaction in the body’s cells that change food into energy. This is important because our bodies need energy to do pretty much anything, from breathing to thinking to moving. During this process, the calories in food and drinks are combined with oxygen to release the energy our bodies need to function. So, changing your metabolism effectively means changing how your body processes energy.
Here are ten ways you can boost your metabolism.
Drink more water
Eat high-protein food
Do a high-intensity workout
Stand up more
Drink green or oolong tea
Eat spicy food
Get a full night’s rest
Increase your fiber intake
The bottom line
Simply by replacing sugary drinks with a cold, refreshing glass of water can help boost your metabolism. This is because drinking water increases the amount of calories you burn, which is known as resting energy expenditure. In fact, the calorie-burning effect is even slightly greater if you drink cold water as opposed to room-temperature, since your body uses energy to heat it up to body temperature.
According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, adult men should drink 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids per day and adult women should drink 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids per day. Additionally, studies have found that people who drink more water tend to burn more calories.
Drinking water is one of the easiest ways to help your metabolism. Not only will it increase your metabolism by up to 25% for nearly an hour after drinking it (especially for children), but if you drink a few cups every hour, you will keep your metabolism at peak performance all day.¹
Eating foods with a lot of protein is great for your body, but what exactly does that mean and how does it work? After consuming food, your metabolic rate (the rate at which your body burns calories) increases, which is also known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). Protein causes the largest rise in TEF, increasing your metabolic rate by 15 - 30%, compared to 0 - 3% for fatty foods and 5 - 10% for carbohydrates.²
In addition to stabilizing blood sugar (preventing insulin spikes), protein helps build and support the maintenance of muscle in our bodies. The more muscle our bodies host, more baseline calories we burn at rest (our testing metabolic rate). Protein helps you burn more calories around the clock, even when you are sleeping, due to its high thermic effect, which results in a higher metabolism.
However, it is important to consider the possible caveats when consuming a high-protein diet. It can pose a significant acid load to the kidneys, and when energy demand is low, excess protein can be converted to glucose which is undesirable if you are trying to lose weight. On average, you should eat 0.5 - 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, which is about 30% of your total energy intake.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is an intense workout protocol that involves quick, explosive bursts of exercise with brief recovery periods. As you can probably guess from the name, this type of training is meant to be challenging and pushes you out of your comfort zone.
Many people use HIIT workouts because it saves time while also losing weight, building muscle, and boosting your metabolism. Additionally, your body will continue to burn calories for about two hours post-workout due to the high intensity and nature of the exercises. Some studies have even found that HIIT could shift the body’s metabolism to use fat for energy rather than carbs.³
Sitting for long periods of time without moving or standing up is very detrimental to your health. This lack of movement can add up to weight gain and slower metabolism.
Sitting for too long is a problem commonly found by those with office desk jobs. It is recommended to take breaks, walk around, stretch, and generally try to move your body in between working. Especially with many jobs becoming remote nowadays, investing in a standing desk would be a great way to counteract sitting down in a chair all day.
Researchers at the Journal of Physical Activity and Health conducted a study with 74 healthy subjects to compare how many calories were burned while sitting down doing computer work, watching TV, standing, and walking.⁴ Their findings showed that standing burned slightly more calories than sitting, at about 88 calories/hour versus 80 calories/hour. However, walking burned 210 calories/hour; so even just walking for a half hour during your lunch break or using a combination of walking and standing throughout the day can largely help you burn more calories and boost metabolism.
Tea contains a high concentration of flavonoids (phenolic compounds) that can boost metabolism and help break down fats quickly. According to some studies, both green and oolong tea have been shown to increase metabolism.
One small study gave adult men either water or tea for a three-day period while measuring their metabolic rates. Oolong tea was found to increase energy expenditure by 2.9%, which is the equivalent of burning an additional ~281 calories per day. Fat oxidation was also significantly higher (by roughly 12%) when subjects drank the tea compared to water.⁵
Additionally, the caffeine found in teas increases your energy use, which ultimately causes your body to burn more calories. The combination of flavonoids and caffeine in tea aids your body through any type of weight loss.
Calling all spice lovers! You will be pleasantly surprised to know that foods with high spice levels provide a slight uptick in metabolism. This is thanks to a substance called capsaicin, an active component found in chili peppers that provides that spicy kick.
Generally, studies have shown that spicy dishes can temporarily increase metabolism by roughly 8% over a person’s normal rate, which is fairly negligible but still worth noting. Capsaicin is thermogenic, causing the body’s temperature to increase and burn more calories immediately after eating a spicy meal. Additionally, capsaicin can help suppress your appetite and help you feel more full to reduce overall calorie intake.
Of course, as with all foods, it is important to consider the caveats. Eating an excess amount of spicy food may raise the risk of damaging your inner stomach lining and worsen symptoms of ulcers and heartburns. Consume in moderation!
Getting a full 7-8 hours of sleep every night (more or less depending on your age) is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health.
Lack of good sleep is linked to a major increase in the risk of obesity, likely due to the negative effects sleep deprivation has on metabolism. Some studies have shown that sleep deprivation can alter the glucose metabolism and hormones that are involved in regulating metabolism (decreased leptin and ghrelin levels). Additionally, many large epidemiological studies have suggested that chronic partial sleep deprivation is associated with an increased risk of obesity and diabetes.⁶
Much like with tea, coffee can promote fat burning and boost metabolism due to its caffeine properties.
In one study, researchers investigated the effects of caffeine and coffee on the metabolic rate in both average weight and obese individuals.⁷ It was concluded that after administering four separate trials, the metabolic rate increased significantly in both groups. In the fourth trial, subjects drank coffee with a meal, to which the thermic effect of the meal and fat oxidation were significantly greater after coffee consumption.
This study showed how coffee and caffeine stimulates the metabolic rate in both average weight and obese subjects, with an additional increase in fat oxidation in the average weight individuals.
Lifting weights not only helps increase your metabolism during your workout, but it also continues to affect your post-workout and resting metabolism. This is because muscle is always in an active state of burning energy, even when you are going about your daily activities or simply just resting.
The best way to maximize your metabolism boost is to vary your weight lifting methods. Using different dumbbells, weighted bars, kettlebells and machines helps keep your body from adapting to your workout too quickly. Many fitness trainers recommend starting slowly and gradually increasing the amount of weight you lift, ensuring you keep building muscle mass to boost your resting metabolism.
Consuming fibrous foods really helps to kick your metabolism into high gear due to the fact that some fiber is indigestible. Since the body has a difficult time breaking down fiber, it takes more work, therefore burning more calories.
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. In trying to digest insoluble fiber, the body expends more calories than it would with other foods, which is why you burn more calories digesting high-fiber foods in comparison to refined carbohydrates. Foods that are high in insoluble fiber include cauliflower, apples, wheat bran, beans, and green beans.
Fiber is great for your body overall; it lowers inflammation, reduces the risk of heart disease, promotes healthy gut microbes and, of course, boosts metabolism.⁸
Learning about your own metabolism and how your body burns calories to produce energy can help you make more health-conscious decisions regarding food and daily activities. Everyone is different, and each person’s metabolism helps determine the number of daily calories you should be consuming to maintain a healthy weight. It’s also important to keep in mind that metabolism will increase or decrease based on certain factors such as age, body size, activity level, gender, and overall health. Your metabolism isn’t what makes you healthy, but it can help you become more fit and stay that way.