14 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism That Aren't Just Diet and Exercise
What to know about boosting your metabolism
Boosting your metabolism has been considered the Holy Grail of weight loss since practically forever. After all, finding a way to crank up your body’s fat-burning power on the reg sounds kind of awesome.
It's no wonder metabolism is such a big thing: It’s a process that turns the food you eat into fuel, and powers everything that you do. "Even when you're sleeping, your body requires energy for things like breathing and repairing cell damage," Donald Hensrud, MD, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program, tells Health.
But your metabolism is responsible for more than just burning fat—it helps with breathing, circulating blood, controlling body temperature, and digesting food, among other things, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The number of calories you need to perform those basic functions is called your resting metabolic rate (RMR), and it can impact everything from your waist circumference to how much energy you have on a daily basis.
Something important to remember, though: Your metabolism is not 100% under your control. There are a bunch of different things that go into making your metabolism what it is, like your body type, gender, and age, and you have zero sway over those. Still, you can rev up your metabolism each day with some healthy habits. Here’s what you can do to give your metabolism a kick in the pants.
Do interval training
When you run, swim, or bike, increase the intensity of your pace for 30-second intervals, before returning to your normal speed after. This will help you take in more oxygen and make your mitochondria, your cell powerhouses, work harder to burn energy, Mark Hyman, MD, an integrative and functional medicine specialist in private practice in Lenox, Massachusetts, and author of Ultrametabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss, tells Health. A nice perk of this move: You can exercise for less time than usual and still see great results.
Keep up your calorie intake
Weird but true: If you slash how many calories you take in, your metabolism thinks food is scarce and slows down to try to conserve your energy, and puts the breaks on fat-burning to conserve energy, Hyman explains. To keep your metabolism revved up while trying to lose weight you’ll want to make sure you have enough calories to at least match your resting metabolic rate. That's about 1,330 calories for a 5-feet-4-inch, 150-pound, 40-year-old woman.
Work out more (or harder)
There’s a cool phenomenon known as excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), where your body can take hours to recover from an intense workout and return to its previous resting metabolic rate. During this time, your body burns more calories than it normally would, even after you stop exercising. Here’s the thing: The better shape you’re in, the less benefit you’ll get because your body learns to become more efficient with time. You can try to get around that by working out more or harder (again, intervals), Walt Thompson, PhD, professor of kinesiology and health and nutrition at Georgia State University, tells Health.
Eat smaller meals through the day
Having more, smaller meals during the day can help you feel full, but it also might help keep your metabolism throttling. Why? Having smaller meals throughout the day can help keep your blood sugar levels in a good range, and prevent insulin spikes that can lead to weight gain. Try for six small meals that are around 300 calories each.
Lower your trans fat intake
Trans fats aren’t just bad for your heart—they also slow down your body's ability to burn fat. Eating trans fat can cause insulin resistance, when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don't respond well to insulin and can't easily take up glucose from your blood, and inflammation, and both of those can mess with your metabolism, Hyman says.
RELATED: What Are Trans Fats, Anyway?
Try to eat organic
Your thyroid creates thyroid hormone, which controls a lot of different things in your body, including how fast you burn calories and how fast your heart beats, the Office on Women’s Health (OWS) explains. Having pesticide-free fruits, vegetables, and grains keep your metabolism going strong because they don’t expose your thyroid to toxins, Hyman says. But produce that isn’t organic “blocks your metabolism mainly by interfering with your thyroid, which is your body’s thermostat and determines how fast it runs,” he says.
Fill up on protein
Your body takes more time to break down protein than fat or carbs, so you end up feeling fuller, longer. But protein may also give your metabolism a boost thanks to a process called thermogenesis, where your body uses about 10% of its calorie intake for digestion. Because it takes longer to burn protein than carbs or fat, your body uses more energy absorbing the nutrients in a high-protein diet. A quick way to get in more protein: Add whey to a smoothie. "Whey protein increases calorie burn and fat utilization, helps the body maintain muscle, and triggers the brain to feel full," Paul Arciero, a professor in the Health and Exercise Sciences department at Skidmore College who has studied whey's effects on the body, tells Health. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that fat oxidation, the process of breaking down fatty acids, and the thermic effect, the extra energy your body needs during digestion, was greater with whey than with soy or casein.
Drink some coffee
Caffeine speeds up your central nervous system, and that can boost your metabolism. "Provided your cup is not laden with cream and syrup, coffee can be a great way to give you energy as well as some antioxidants,” Amy Goodson, RD, a dietitian for Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine, tells Health. Coffee has also been shown to improve energy levels during exercise, helping you to work harder, longer, burning more calories in the process.
Add more seafood to your diet
Seafood is usually packed with protein and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which can help boost your metabolism. In a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, supplementing diets with fish oil for six weeks increased lean muscle and decreased fat, and it’s not the only research that’s found this. Scientists speculate this may be due to fish oil's ability to lower levels of fat-storage enzymes in the body.
Take regular screen breaks
It’s good to step away from your screen on a regular basis anyway, but research from Northwestern University found that exposure to the type of blue light given off by smartphones, computers, and tablets immediately before and after dinner made people feel hungry and impacted their glucose metabolism. The study authors weren’t sure why.
Try to de-stress more
Easier said than done, of course. Research suggests that when you're stressed out, your metabolism stalls. There are a few possible reasons for this, but one is that chronic stress stimulates the production of betatrophin, a protein that inhibits an enzyme needed to break down fat, per a University of Florida study. Other research from The Ohio State University found that women who went through a stressful event the day before having a high-fat meal burned 104 less calories in the seven hours afterward than their less stressed counterparts.
Consider intermittent fasting
It’s not for everyone, but research shows that alternate day fasting, where you eat without restriction one day, and have just 500 calories the next, can trigger weight loss without messing with your metabolism. Women who followed this plan for eight weeks lost an average of 13 pounds, according to a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago. "When we compared the change in their resting metabolic rate to that of subjects who lost weight by consuming 25 percent fewer calories overall, we didn't see any differences between the two groups," study author Krista Varady, PhD, tells Health.
Get more sleep
Research has found that sleep is important for regulating your metabolism. One study published in the Journal of Lipid Research, found that, after a few days of sleep deprivation, study participants felt less full after eating and metabolized the fat in their food differently. While it’s not always easy, the National Sleep Foundation recommends trying to get at least seven hours of sleep a night.
Sip green tea
Green tea has plenty of health benefits, but it also contains a plant compound called EGCG, which encourages your body to burn fat, research suggests. One study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that drinking green tea (along with doing three hours of moderate exercise a week) reduced abdominal fat in subjects over a three-month period. "Unsweetened, brewed green tea was shown to increase calorie burn by about 100 calories per day," Michelle Dudash, RD, author of Clean Eating for Busy Families, tells Health.
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