If you're looking for natural ways to raise your metabolism, you'll be happy to know that your metabolic rate can be altered without using medications or other unnatural means.
Your basal metabolic rate is the number of calories your body burns to stay alive, including breathing and maintaining optimal body temperature. However, your overall metabolism includes not only your basal metabolic rate but also calories expended in your daily activities.
Most people think that your weight is just calories in minus calories out. But that’s not true! Certain things can increase or decrease how many calories your body needs in a day — primarily exercise, but sometimes the food you eat. On most low-carb diets, such as keto diets or Atkins, you consume more calories and more fat but still lose weight. Read on to learn other ways you can boost your metabolism.
The 15 Best Ways to Boost Your Metabolism
- Use chili peppers in your food
- Eat berries
- Consume more protein and fewer carbs
- Drink cold water
- Drink tea
- Build muscle
- Do interval training
- Stand and move more
- Keep your thyroid healthy
- Try a body cleanse
- Sleep restfully
- Take anthocyanin supplements
- Try capsaicin
- Take omega-3 fatty acid supplements
- Get enough vitamin D
The Benefits of Boosting Your Metabolism
Boosting your metabolism can help you lose weight and burn fat. While the best way to lose weight is to exercise and follow a nutritious, plant-based diet, sometimes you need a boost if your metabolism is lagging. When you start to lose weight, your metabolism slows down, especially when weight loss is rapid. Metabolism also slows with age, particularly in women.
Incorporating these ideas into your life can counteract these natural lags in your metabolic rate, keeping your weight loss steady or helping you maintain a healthy weight.
How to Boost Your Metabolism
Lucky for you, there are some great options to provide a small boost in your metabolic rate. They include foods, herbs, supplements, and changes to your lifestyle, like getting more sleep or implementing certain exercise techniques.
Best Metabolism-Boosting Foods
Some foods alter your normal metabolic rate. This so-called “thermic effect of food” or “dietary-induced thermogenesis” is the amount of energy above your basal metabolism it takes to digest food. Some foods take more energy to process, while others, like sugar, do not require much.
The foods listed below increase thermogenesis, a process where your body produces heat and burns extra energy. You can also check out our article, 11 Foods That Speed up Your Metabolism, to learn more.
Chili peppers contain a chemical called capsaicin that reduces your overall food intake (particularly fatty, salty, and sweet foods) and increases both your metabolism and feeling of fullness after a meal. You need to eat at least one gram of capsaicin to get these effects, but that makes your food pretty spicy.
People who are used to spicy food won't see a metabolism boost from extra capsaicin as their body has likely become desensitized. Another study found that the metabolism of obese individuals did not increase when hot pepper was added to their diet. The reason why? Obesity reduces the sympathetic nervous system’s responsiveness to physiological changes, so hot pepper did not produce the metabolic effect it does with leaner individuals. Last but not least, studies suggest that the taste and scent of pepper are responsible for part of its metabolism-boosting effect.
Many types of berries have high levels of antioxidants, which boost your health as well as your metabolism. In one study, people on a high-fat diet who also ate lingonberries, blackcurrants, raspberries, or bilberries gained less weight and had lower insulin levels than people who ate a high-fat diet without berries. Because insulin promotes fat storage, lowering its levels can help people lose weight. Lingonberries did all these things, and they boosted metabolic rate (as did blackcurrants and bilberries but to a lower degree). All these berries make great additions to your metabolism-boosting diet. Goji berries were found to reduce belly fat in people with metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes).
Most berries are low-glycemic, so even though they are sweet and delicious, they have minimal effect on blood sugar, which is connected to weight gain. Eating berries helps cultivate gut microbiota that reduce oxidative stress. Shifting the gut microbiota can also boost metabolism since probiotic bacteria play an essential role in digestion and metabolism.
Many foods can provide a boost to your metabolism, including iron-rich foods like spinach, beans, and dark chocolate, and calcium-rich foods like collard greens, non-GMO soybeans, kale, and other vegetables. While you can get dairy from milk and iron from meat, I recommend a plant-based lifestyle for optimal health.
Dietary Changes to Boost Metabolism
In addition to eating specific foods, other dietary factors can affect your metabolism. How much water you drink and what temperature it is, the ratio of protein to carbs to fat in your diet, and whether you consume tea are all measures that have a variety of metabolism-boosting mechanisms.
Eat Low-Carb, High-Protein
There’s no doubt that low-carb diets work, helping you lose weight. The best diet for boosting metabolism is a high-protein, low-carb diet. Protein has a high thermic effect, which boosts metabolism by 15 to 30 percent. Carbs only do so by five to 10 percent; fats have an effect of zero to three percent. Not only does protein increase your metabolic rate, but it also increases your satiety, which is the feeling of fullness.
One study found people who made protein 30 percent of their dietary calories ate 441 fewer calories per day compared to people whose diet included only 15 percent protein. Protein likely has this effect by increasing the body’s sensitivity to leptin, which is the master hormone that regulates body fat storage and influences how full you feel. When you are more sensitive to leptin, you feel full quicker.
Consume More Water, Especially Cold Water
Drinking water throughout the day gives your metabolism a lift. If you drink two eight-ounce glasses of water (500ml), it stimulates thermogenesis, which builds heat in your body and increases metabolism. If you drink two full glasses of water first thing in the morning, you kick it out of its fasting state and get your metabolism revved up in preparation for your breakfast of berries!
Better yet, drink cold water. One study found that when overweight children drank cold water, it increased their resting energy expenditure. Resting energy expenditure is just a little bit different than basal metabolic rate; it also includes calories burned from eating and small amounts of activity. But the point is that drinking water — especially cold water — can kick-start your metabolism.
Several types of tea can increase your metabolism. Black, green, and oolong tea all come from the Camellia sinensis leaf. Green tea comes from young tea leaves that are not fermented but dried and heated. To make black tea, leaves are fermented for several hours before exposing them to air, which oxidizes them, turns them a dark brown, and enriches the flavor. Oolong tea is partially oxidized in between black and green tea. All have great metabolism-boosting benefits!
Tea contains caffeine, which increases metabolism and catechin levels, which are a type of antioxidant. The catechin EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) is the most potent found in tea. Both black and green tea contain enough of these nutrients to boost metabolism by four to five percent and fat breakdown by 10 to 17 percent. Drinking tea to boost your metabolism is extremely helpful when you’re trying to lose weight because losing weight causes your metabolism to slow down. For even more of these helpful compounds, drink matcha tea. One study found that it had 137 times more EGCG than China Green Tips and three times more than most other types of green tea. If, despite all that, tea just isn’t your thing, coffee can also stimulate your metabolism due to the caffeine.
Exercise Tips to Boost Your Metabolism
We all know that exercise helps you lose weight or stay fit, but there are ways to exercise that can give you the best outcome for your effort.
Exercise burns calories, of course, which is essential both to losing weight and staying fit and healthy. But building muscle has an added benefit: it requires more calories to maintain a pound of muscle than a pound of fat. A pound of muscle needs six calories every day to sustain itself, while a pound of fat only needs two calories a day.
Eating protein, as suggested above, helps build and maintain muscle, but you still have to exercise to get this benefit. While strength training and weight lifting at the gym is an excellent way to add muscle to your frame, you can also build muscle through low-impact exercise like yoga, pilates, and resistance training. In a fascinating study, women who lost weight using a calorie-restricted diet with no exercise did not regain fat if they did resistance training after the diet. In contrast, those who did aerobic activity or no exercise gained the fat back.
Do Interval Training
Studies suggest that when you do cardio exercise, which is the kind that gets your heart pumping, there’s a way to get the most benefit from your workout. You get the biggest metabolic bang for your buck from high-intensity interval training where you do short bursts of cardio-heavy activity interspersed with stretches, walking, or even weight lifting.
One study found that high-intensity interval training led to a higher resting energy expenditure than either aerobic activity or high-intensity interval running. This type of exercise also boosted fat loss. Although the way it does that is still unclear, it does lower insulin resistance. This is good since insulin resistance is when cells don’t respond to insulin, which tells cells to absorb glucose and break down fat.
Stand & Move More
Just moving around more during the day can make a big difference in your metabolic rate. A study in the journal Science found that mildly obese women sat two hours more than lean women. They found that if overweight women started using the non-exercise activity that lean people use (standing more, moving around more, taking the stairs), they might use 350 more calories per day.
Standing at work is particularly helpful. When workers stood for 185 minutes after eating lunch, they not only burned 174 more calories, they had lower blood sugar. Treadmill desks were even better at boosting energy expenditure.
Lifestyle Changes to Boost Metabolism
On top of the dietary changes and exercise tips, lifestyle changes can improve your metabolic rate, leading to more energy and a healthier life.
Keep Your Thyroid Healthy
Keeping your thyroid gland healthy is critical to a healthy metabolism since the thyroid is the master gland regulating that function in the body. When your thyroid goes out of balance, it can affect your metabolism. Having an overactive thyroid can lead to weight loss, while an underactive thyroid can lead to weight gain.
Getting enough iodine is crucial for thyroid health. Many people are iodine-deficient, and these numbers are increasing. A healthy diet is the best way to get any vitamin or mineral, which, in this case, means eating iodine-rich foods. But if you are unable to consume enough of them regularly, supplements can help. I recommend nascent iodine.
Cleanse Your Body of Toxins
We are bathed in a soup of chemicals in the air, water, and on our food. Studies show that some of these affect our metabolism, particularly endocrine-disrupting chemicals, like many pesticides. It's an issue that has become so well known that these chemicals have been given a name — obesogens. Obesogens are chemicals that make us fat by altering our metabolism. Science has also shown that eliminating these from the human body has a series of health benefits.[20, 21, 23] Sweating is an excellent way to remove toxins, and so is cleansing.
Cleansing can involve removing allergy-inducing foods from the diet, including meat and non-organic produce that introduces more of these chemicals and hormones. Cleansing is often combined with supplements that can help your body process and eliminate toxic substances. You can perform a cleanse to target a specific organ, like a liver cleanse or colon cleanse, or cleanse your whole body.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Numerous studies show that people who do not get enough sleep have increased blood sugar levels and higher risk of obesity and weight gain. Lack of sleep causes women in particular to eat more food, leading to weight gain. And that’s just from not getting quite enough sleep. Actual sleep deprivation can completely throw your metabolism out of balance.
In contrast, studies show that when people get enough sleep or shift from not getting enough sleep to getting adequate sleep, it decreases energy intake, especially of fats and carbohydrates. Scientists have found that sleep affects levels of the “fullness hormone” leptin and the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin.
Natural Supplements & Vitamins
Although you should try to get most nutrients from a healthy diet that includes many fruits, vegetables, and plant-based foods, some people are unable to get everything they need from food. In those cases, supplements can help. Here are the best metabolism-boosting supplements.
Most berries have high levels of anthocyanins, which are red, purple, and blue pigments that give them their bright colors. Anthocyanins are also found in black rice and black beans. And it turns out these pigments are not only strong antioxidants, but they also have anti-obesity effects, helping to keep fat cells working properly and preventing metabolic syndrome. But if you can’t tolerate these foods, or you want an added metabolic boost, anthocyanins are sold in supplements.
Since hot peppers have a powerful effect on metabolism, it makes sense that capsaicin itself will also help. One study found that taking capsaicin capsules increased fullness and reduced fat and calorie intake, but not as much as a meal that included hot chili peppers. But if you are not able to stomach them, a capsaicin supplement may provide a metabolic boost.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are powerhouse nutrients. People take them for immune, heart, and skin health, but did you know they also have metabolism-boosting properties? Specifically, they influence leptin, the hormone that regulates fat storage and affects satiety (the feeling of fullness). In overweight individuals, omega-3 fatty acids can increase leptin, which may help keep weight off during and after dieting. Note that studies have found inconclusive findings on how it affects leptin in leaner individuals. The best serving size is 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams per day.[27, 28] Although the most prevalent omega-3 supplement sold is fish oil, vegetarians can try either flaxseed oil or algae oil.
Not only does vitamin D play an essential role in maintaining your body’s muscle tissue, but it also helps you absorb calcium for strong bones. Studies have found that vitamin D deficiency is on the rise in the U.S., likely linked to changes in milk consumption and the use of sun protection.[30, 31] The Food & Nutrition Board recommends people between the ages of one and 70 get 600 IU of vitamin D daily, while people over 70 should get 800 IU. Global Healing's Suntrex® D3 provides a certified organic, vegan-friendly source of the most highly-absorbable version of vitamin D — D3.
Points to Remember
You can take actions to modify and increase your metabolic rate. These include eating certain foods like berries, hot chili peppers, and green tea, and changing your dietary, exercise, and lifestyle habits. For example, build muscle, do interval training, or follow a high-protein, low-carb diet (which can be done with vegan protein). Getting a good night's sleep, cleansing your body of obesogenic chemicals, and ensuring you keep your thyroid gland healthy are also excellent ways to boost your metabolism, especially as you get older.
Top Health Questions: How to Boost Your Metabolism
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†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.