Ever feel sluggish or low energy? Ever question why your friend can seemingly eat whatever she wants without gaining weight?
Ever wonder if there is a way to burn more calories even while relaxing?
The answer to these questions may lie in your metabolism.
Table of Contents
- What Is Metabolism?
- 12 Tips to Boost Metabolism
- The Final Word
What Is Metabolism?
At its most basic, metabolism is the sum of the physical and chemical reactions in the body that sustain life and maintain vital activities.
Even at rest, your body is performing metabolic functions to remain alive. The faster your body is performing these activities, the more calories you burn per day. This is also sometimes referred to as your basal metabolic rate.
A higher metabolism means you have more energy and may help you lose weight and keep it off.
Multiple factors determine metabolism, including age, gender, and genetics. However, there are ways that you can accelerate your metabolism and keep it elevated.
Here are 12 tips to boost your metabolism.
12 Tips to Boost Metabolism
1. Drink Plenty of Water
Research suggests that drinking water can provide a temporary boost to your metabolism.
Studies have shown that drinking 500 ml (about two cups) of water can increase metabolism by up to 30% and that this increase lasts for about 1 hour (1, 2). Researchers estimated that increasing consumption of water by 1.5 liters more than you normally drink may burn about 50 calories per day (1, 2).
Drinking plenty of water may also increase feelings of satiety, meaning that you will feel fuller for longer. One study found that subjects who consumed two glasses of water half an hour before mealtime consumed fewer calories during the meal (3).
2. Eat More Protein
While this may sound counterintuitive, eating increases your metabolism for a few hours after meals. This increase in energy burn that occurs while eating is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). The TEF is the energy or calories needed to digest, absorb, and metabolize nutrients. For most individuals, the TEF is responsible for burning about 10% of daily calories (4).
However, not all foods contribute to the TEF equally. Protein increases metabolism by 15 to 30%. This is compared to 5 to 10% for carbs and 0 to 3% for fats (4).
Protein may also reduce appetite and help you feel full after eating. One study found that participants who consumed a diet consisting of 30% protein experienced greater satiety and consumed 441 fewer calories per day, on average, compared to a diet consisting of 15% protein (5).
3. Try a HIIT Workout
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a form of exercise that involves alternating between intense bursts of activity followed by less intense periods of recovery.
Studies have shown that HIIT increases metabolism for a few hours after exercise (6,7). This means that doing a HIIT workout can help you burn many calories even after you are done exercising.
One study consisting of 20 active women found that HIIT increased the participant’s post-exercise metabolism more than jogging and weight training (6).
Additionally, research has shown that HIIT can also help you lose weight. One study found that participants who engaged in a 20-minute HIIT workout three times per week had an average weight loss of 4.4 pounds of body fat in 12 weeks. This was without making any dietary changes (8).
4. Do More Strength Training
Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, meaning that more calories are needed to maintain muscle mass.
Therefore, strength training can increase metabolism by building muscle. One small study looking at the impact of strength training on metabolism found that the participant’s resting metabolic rate increased by 7% after 24 weeks of strength training (9).
Additional research has shown that strength training may elevate the resting metabolic rate by 5 to 9% for up to 3 days following a strength workout (10).
Strength training also stimulates the turnover of protein and amino acids in the muscles. After a strength training workout, the body uses energy to help repair and rebuild muscle and other body tissues. Studies have shown that this increase in energy expenditure needed for muscle remodeling may persist for 72 hours after a strength workout (10).
5. Increase Your NEAT
As previously discussed, there are multiple ways to increase your metabolism through exercise. However, you can give your metabolism a boost through non-exercise activities as well.
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is defined as the energy or calories that you burn by doing normal daily activities. Examples of NEAT include the movement involved in grocery shopping, cleaning the house, doing yard work, and taking the stairs.
Studies have shown that increased energy expenditure from NEAT is associated with higher resting metabolic rates which may help with weight loss (11).
Higher levels of NEAT are also associated with a lower risk of certain diseases including heart disease and type 2 diabetes (11, 12).
Unfortunately, Americans are spending more time engaged in sedentary activities compared to previous generations (12).
This means fewer calories burned through NEAT. Examples of ways to increase your NEAT include taking the stairs, standing more throughout the day, taking short movement breaks at work, and running errands.
6. Get More Sleep
Sleep deprivation can result in a slow metabolism. Unfortunately, many people struggle to get the restorative shut-eye that they need.
According to the CDC, one-third of adults in the US report that they usually get less sleep than recommended. Current medical advice is 7 or more hours of sleep a night for adults 18 to 60 years old (13).
Research has found that a lack of sleep may lower your resting metabolic rate. One study found that men and women who slept 4 hours per night for 5 nights had a 2.6% decrease in their resting metabolism, which returned to baseline after recovery sleep (14).
Lack of sleep has also been linked to increased appetite and weight gain. This is likely due to the impact of sleep on two hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is a hormone released by the stomach and signals hunger to the brain.
On the other hand, leptin is a hormone released by fat cells in the body which signals satiety or fullness and may help with weight loss.
One large study of 1,024 participants found that those who normally slept for 5 hours a night had 14.9% higher ghrelin levels and 15.5% lower leptin levels compared to those who slept 8 hours (15). Participants who slept less also had higher BMIs and body weight (15).
7. Give Yourself Time to Relax
Prolonged periods of stress and anxiety can negatively impact weight and metabolism. This is due, in part, to the continued production of cortisol.
Cortisol is a stress hormone produced as part of the fight or flight response. However, when cortisol levels remain high for too long, it can slow metabolism and result in weight gain (16).
A study found that participants who experienced a stressful event burned 104 fewer calories in one day compared to those who did not experience a stress-inducing event (17).
Elevated levels of cortisol have also been linked to weight gain. This occurs primarily because of cortisol-induced shifts in body metabolism that encourage the storage of fatty acids (16). In particular, elevated cortisol levels have been linked to increased visceral or abdominal fat (18).
8. Have a Spicy Meal
Capsaicin is a compound found in peppers which gives them their signature spiciness. A systematic review from 2012 found that consumption of capsaicin may increase energy expenditure by up to 50 calories per day (19).
Studies also indicate that spicy foods may help decrease appetite and increase fat burn, potentially helping with weight loss (19, 20). However, one caveat is that many people may not be able to tolerate capsaicin at the levels needed for significant benefits (20).
One study examining the effect of capsaicin on metabolic activity found that capsaicin at a tolerable level of spiciness burns around an additional 10 calories per meal (21). This alone may only have a modest impact on energy expenditure.
However, incorporating spicy food into the diet may help lead to overall improvements in weight when combined with other strategies on this list.
9. Drink Coffee
That morning cup of Joe may help you burn more calories. Studies have shown that the caffeine in coffee can increase your resting metabolic rate by 3 to 11% (22, 23). The caffeine in coffee can also promote weight loss by stimulating the nervous system which signals fat cells to breakdown fat (24).
Caffeine has also been shown to reduce fatigue and increase exercise performance. Studies have shown that caffeine consumption can improve average exercise performance by 11 to 12% (25).
This increase in performance can equate to more calories burned and may help you maintain a healthy weight.
10. Sip on Green Tea
Green tea contains beneficial compounds, including catechins and caffeine, which may boost metabolism and help with weight loss. Furthermore, unsweetened green tea is a healthy alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages which can add many calories to the diet.
Similar to coffee, green tea contains caffeine which has been found to help burn fat and increase exercise performance (24, 25).
Green tea also contains the antioxidant known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is thought to increase metabolism. Studies have shown that taking green tea extract or EGCG may increase your resting metabolism by about 3 to 4% (26, 27).
However, it is important to note that not all studies are in agreement on the benefits of green tea extract (28). Further research is still needed to determine the full impact of green tea extract on weight loss.
11. Avoid Crash Diets
Crash diets can negatively impact metabolism and weight (29). A crash diet is any type of diet that involves eating too few calories during the day to meet energy needs. This is usually defined as fewer than 1,200 calories for women and 1,800 calories for men (30).
When you consume too little energy your body responds by entering a type of “starvation mode.”
This is an adaptive response that helped our species survive during times of famine. Starvation mode causes the body to slow metabolism to help conserve energy. Therefore, consuming too few calories to lose weight can quickly backfire and may even cause you to gain weight.
Crash diets can also result in loss of muscle mass as the body turns to protein as a source of calories (31). This can decrease metabolism even more.
12. Don’t Be Afraid to Snack
Having a small meal or snack every 3 to 4 hours may help you lose weight and burn more calories. This is due to the thermic effect of food (TEF), as previously discussed in the “eat more protein” section. The TEF is the amount of energy needed to perform the chemical reactions involved in digesting, absorbing, and utilizing the nutrients in food.
Several studies have shown that snacking may help reduce hunger and appetite (33). This may be due to a reduction in hunger hormones which accumulate when you go many hours between meals.
The Final Word
Small diet and lifestyle changes can speed up your metabolism and help keep it elevated. From incorporating strength training and HIIT into your exercise routine to managing stress, there are several ways to boost your metabolism.
Consider adding one or more of these twelve tips into your daily routine. Remember, even small changes can create lasting results.
- Boschmann, Michael, et al. “Water-Induced Thermogenesis.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, vol. 88, no. 12, Jan. 2003, pp. 6015–6019., doi:10.1210/jc.2003-030780.
- Boschmann, Michael, et al. “Water Drinking Induces Thermogenesis through Osmosensitive Mechanisms.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, vol. 92, no. 8, 2007, pp. 3334–3337., doi:10.1210/jc.2006-1438.
- Davy, Brenda M., et al. “Water Consumption Reduces Energy Intake at a Breakfast Meal in Obese Older Adults.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association, vol. 108, no. 7, 2008, pp. 1236–1239., doi:10.1016/j.jada.2008.04.013
- Westerterp, Klaas R. “Diet induced thermogenesis.” Nutrition & metabolism vol. 1,1 5. 18 Aug. 2004, doi:10.1186/1743-7075-1-5
- Weigle, David S et al. “A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 82,1 (2005): 41-8. doi:10.1093/ajcn.82.1.41
- Wingfield, Hailee L et al. “The acute effect of exercise modality and nutrition manipulations on post-exercise resting energy expenditure and respiratory exchange ratio in women: a randomized trial.” Sports medicine – open vol. 2 (2015): 11. doi:10.1186/s40798-015-0010-3
- Chan, Huan Hao, and Stephen Francis Burns. “Oxygen consumption, substrate oxidation, and blood pressure following sprint interval exercise.” Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism vol. 38,2 (2013): 182-7. doi:10.1139/apnm-2012-0136
- Heydari, M et al. “The effect of high-intensity intermittent exercise on body composition of overweight young males.” Journal of obesity vol. 2012 (2012): 480467. doi:10.1155/2012/480467
- Lemmer, J T et al. “Effect of strength training on resting metabolic rate and physical activity: age and gender comparisons.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise vol. 33,4 (2001): 532-41. doi:10.1097/00005768-200104000-00005
- Westcott, Wayne L. “Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health.” Current sports medicine reports vol. 11,4 (2012): 209-16. doi:10.1249/JSR.0b013e31825dabb8
- Chung, Nana et al. “Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT): a component of total daily energy expenditure.” Journal of exercise nutrition & biochemistry vol. 22,2 (2018): 23-30. doi:10.20463/jenb.2018.0013
- Villablanca, Pedro A., et al. “Nonexercise Activity Thermogenesis in Obesity Management.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings, vol. 90, no. 4, 2015, pp. 509–519., doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2015.02.001.
- “CDC – Basics About Sleep – Sleep and Sleep Disorders.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 May 2017, www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/index.html.
- Spaeth, Andrea M et al. “Resting metabolic rate varies by race and by sleep duration.” Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.) vol. 23,12 (2015): 2349-56. doi:10.1002/oby.21198
- Taheri, Shahrad et al. “Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index.” PLoS medicine vol. 1,3 (2004): e62. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.001006
- Spencer, Sarah J, and Alan Tilbrook. “The glucocorticoid contribution to obesity.” Stress (Amsterdam, Netherlands) vol. 14,3 (2011): 233-46. doi:10.3109/10253890.2010.534831
- Kiecolt-Glaser, Janice K., et al. “Daily Stressors, Past Depression, and Metabolic Responses to High-Fat Meals: A Novel Path to Obesity.” Biological Psychiatry, vol. 77, no. 7, 2015, pp. 653–660., doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.05.018.
- Epel, E S et al. “Stress and body shape: stress-induced cortisol secretion is consistently greater among women with central fat.” Psychosomatic medicine vol. 62,5 (2000): 623-32. doi:10.1097/00006842-200009000-00005
- Whiting, Stephen et al. “Capsaicinoids and capsinoids. A potential role for weight management? A systematic review of the evidence.” Appetite vol. 59,2 (2012): 341-8. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2012.05.015
- Diepvens, Kristel et al. “Obesity and thermogenesis related to the consumption of caffeine, ephedrine, capsaicin, and green tea.” American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology vol. 292,1 (2007): R77-85. doi:10.1152/ajpregu.00832.2005
- Ludy, Mary-Jon, and Richard D Mattes. “The effects of hedonically acceptable red pepper doses on thermogenesis and appetite.” Physiology & behavior vol. 102,3-4 (2011): 251-8. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2010.11.018
- Koot, P, and P Deurenberg. “Comparison of changes in energy expenditure and body temperatures after caffeine consumption.” Annals of nutrition & metabolism vol. 39,3 (1995): 135-42. doi:10.1159/000177854
- Dulloo, A G et al. “Normal caffeine consumption: influence on thermogenesis and daily energy expenditure in lean and postobese human volunteers.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 49,1 (1989): 44-50. doi:10.1093/ajcn/49.1.44
- Acheson, Kevin J et al. “Metabolic effects of caffeine in humans: lipid oxidation or futile cycling?.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 79,1 (2004): 40-6. doi:10.1093/ajcn/79.1.40
- Doherty, Mike, and Paul M Smith. “Effects of caffeine ingestion on exercise testing: a meta-analysis.” International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism vol. 14,6 (2004): 626-46. doi:10.1123/ijsnem.14.6.626
- Dulloo, A G et al. “Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 70,6 (1999): 1040-5. doi:10.1093/ajcn/70.6.1040
- Bérubé-Parent, Sonia et al. “Effects of encapsulated green tea and Guarana extracts containing a mixture of epigallocatechin-3-gallate and caffeine on 24 h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in men.” The British journal of nutrition vol. 94,3 (2005): 432-6. doi:10.1079/bjn20051502
- Jurgens, Tannis M et al. “Green tea for weight loss and weight maintenance in overweight or obese adults.” The Cochrane database of systematic reviews vol. 12 CD008650. 12 Dec. 2012, doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008650.pub2
- Fothergill, Erin et al. “Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after “The Biggest Loser” competition.” Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.) vol. 24,8 (2016): 1612-9. doi:10.1002/oby.21538
- “Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level.” Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level – 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/appendix-2/.
- Biolo, Gianni et al. “Calorie restriction accelerates the catabolism of lean body mass during 2 wk of bed rest.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 86,2 (2007): 366-72. doi:10.1093/ajcn/86.2.366
- Leidy, Heather J et al. “Consuming High-Protein Soy Snacks Affects Appetite Control, Satiety, and Diet Quality in Young People and Influences Select Aspects of Mood and Cognition.” The Journal of nutrition vol. 145,7 (2015): 1614-22. doi:10.3945/jn.115.212092
- Astbury, Nerys M et al. “Snacks containing whey protein and polydextrose induce a sustained reduction in daily energy intake over 2 wk under free-living conditions.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 99,5 (2014): 1131-40. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.075978