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10 ways you can boost your metabolism

Written by John Davis

Last updated: September 17, 2022

Boosting your metabolism may sound like an arduous task, but recent research has confirmed that it’s easier than most people think. Through a series of simple habits involving food and exercise, you can raise your resting metabolic rate to increase your daily caloric expenditure.

From high-intensity training to drinking green tea, multiple practices contribute to shedding a few extra calories at the end of the day. Plus, many of these habits have other health benefits, such as reducing the impact of sedentarism and diminishing appetite. Here’s what you need to know.

Why Should I Boost My Metabolism?

When people talk about boosting their metabolism, they usually refer to increasing their resting metabolic rate (RMR). RMR describes the number of calories your body burns when at rest (1), leading many people to make a simple connection — more RMR, more weight loss

Although your own personal RMR depends on several uncontrollable factors, such as sex, age, and ethnicity, there are a few ways to boost it temporarily.

10 ways to boost your metabolism:

Drinking More Water

Recent research has shown that water can have a significant impact on boosting metabolism. Drinking excess water leads to thermogenesis — a natural process in which the body generates heat after eating. As with any other bodily function, thermogenesis requires calories, meaning that you’ll effectively increase your RMR while it’s happening (2).

Drinking about 500 milliliters of water before and after meals can significantly help you lose weight. However, the weight-losing properties of water don’t come exclusively from thermogenesis, as there are other important factors to keep in mind (3).

For example, water is known to be crucial to the process of converting fat into energy. So, when the body is dehydrated, metabolism is slowed to avoid having to burn fat. Water is also a natural appetite suppressor — making it the perfect companion for anyone seeking to lose some weight (3).

Lifting Weights

One of the most critical factors that affect RMR is your body frame and weight. More muscle mass inevitably leads to a faster metabolism, meaning that lean people will have an easier time losing weight. Yet, this concept also applies to heavier people, as more mass means more muscle (4).

Research indicates that lean body mass is almost as critical as age and sex when measuring basal metabolic rate (BMR) (5). BMR is similar to RMR, although the former is slightly more precise. 

Furthermore, lifting weight is a straightforward way to spend extra calories and ensure a healthy body while losing weight. For example, a one-hour weight-lifting routine can burn around 500 calories. This number is surprisingly higher than the caloric expenditure caused by some aerobic exercises such as jogging (6).

Drinking Green Tea

Green tea provides an unusually high amount of both caffeine and catechin — two elements that significantly boost metabolism. Like water, these two components promote thermogenesis, leading to a higher RMR and caloric expenditure (6).

Plus, green tea is known to be a low-calorie beverage, making it the ideal choice for any snack in the afternoon. A single cup of green tea only contains about 2.5 calories (7), meaning you won’t have to burn anything extra after drinking it.

Teas in general are also great for losing weight due to their astounding amount of health benefits. One of the most important is their ability to inhibit digestive enzymes, forcing the body to absorb less fat and sugar from recently-eaten food (8). 

Ensuring Good Sleeping Habits

While sleeping doesn’t raise metabolic rates on its own, it remains one of the most crucial factors in increasing caloric expenditure. For example, sleep restriction causes the body to absorb more carbohydrates from foods such as snacks (9).

However, it’s also essential to remember that good sleeping habits promote a higher calorie intake. The exact hormonal changes caused by sleep deprivation aren’t yet known, but researchers suggest that appetite doesn’t go away while sleep deprived (9).

Getting a good night’s sleep is also fundamental to leading an overall healthy life. For example, good sleeping will lead to better performance in sports and exercise — which, in turn, will cause weight loss (10).

Drinking Coffee

Research has shown that taking caffeine can positively impact your RMR. In a similar way to water, drinking some coffee increases thermogenesis, causing a boost in caloric expenditure. Yet, the conditions needed for caffeine to have a metabolism-boosting effect are unclear.

During two studies, researchers provided coffee to two groups — one of which consisted of athletes and the other of untrained people. While results initially suggested that trained people were more susceptible to this, further testing showed the contrary effect (11).

Still, caffeine remains a great companion for losing weight thanks to several other properties besides boosting your RMR. For instance, caffeine promotes fat oxidation — the body’s process of breaking down fats for energy (12).

Eating More Protein

High-protein diets have become more and more popular throughout the last few years. Partly, this is due to the weight-losing properties of protein as a macronutrient, which spans from increasing metabolism to regulating appetite (13, 14).

Eating high-protein meals significantly boosts thermogenesis compared to carbohydrates and fats. However, how substantial this boost is will depend on several factors, such as your age, sex, and usual caffeine intake (14). 

When it comes to appetite management, protein turns out to be one of the most satiating macronutrients. Research shows that a high-protein meal decreases appetite by 12%, diminishing future caloric intake levels (15).

Performing a High-Intensity Workout

Naturally, exercising is one of the first things that come to mind when thinking about losing weight. High-intensity workouts are the perfect choice for this purpose, as they have been shown to increase metabolism even after the routine is over.

Recent research points out that a high-intensity workout may increase RMR for up to 22 hours after the exercise. Plus, this type of workout promotes fat oxidation, further stimulating weight loss (16, 17). 

However, it’s essential to keep in mind that high-intensity workouts may not be suited for everyone. Intensive exercises performed in quick bursts may trigger muscular injuries and cardiovascular events. This is particularly true for people with coronary artery conditions (18).

Being More Active

For the past couple of years, experts have been warning about the risks of carrying a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting down for long periods seems particularly unhealthy, leading to a higher risk of hospitalization (19).

Standing up more often and ensuring some degree of physical activity frequently will help reduce the effect of sedentarism while also helping you lose weight. Walking around boosts metabolism and reduces the risk of metabolic conditions such as diabetes (20, 21).

If you’re having trouble setting the habit of walking around after long periods of sitting, try setting a timer. Taking a walk every once in a while will help you clear your head while also helping you undo the adverse effects of sedentarism. If you still find yourself having trouble with that, you may want to consider an alternative, such as a standing desk (22).

Eating Spicier

Surprisingly, capsaicin has been shown to increase metabolic rates, preventing obesity and metabolic dysfunction. Capsaicin is the main component found in most spicy foods, as it’s a key part of the taste of natural chili peppers. 

By positively impacting RMR, fat oxidation, and general caloric expenditure, capsaicin can help you burn an extra ten calories per meal. However, the exact number varies between people, making it an unreliable way to lose weight on its own (23).

Furthermore, ten calories a meal amounts to very little — even if you include capsaicin in your three meals. Instead, it makes for a great supplement to exercising and dieting, helping you take off those last, hard-to-get calories (24).

Avoiding Ultra-Processed Foods

One of the most important aspects of dieting is, besides limiting the amount of food, ensuring the quality of your meals. Swapping out ultra-processed foods such as fast food and cookies has been shown to positively impact obesity risk levels and promote weight loss (25). 

Apart from the number of nutrients, one of the main differences between processed and whole foods is the amount of energy required to digest each one. Whole foods need about 140 calories to be digested, while processed foods request, on average, almost half of that (26). 

This difference in caloric expenditure has a significant impact on post-meal metabolic rates. At the end of a recent study, for example, participants who were provided with processed foods gained about 1 kilogram. On the other hand, participants who were given whole foods lost the same amount (27).

About Resting Metabolic Rates

While metabolism is a common topic when talking about weight loss, not many people know what it refers to. Understanding teh basic metabolism and caloric expenditure concepts will help you better plan your diet and exercise routine. Plus, it’ll allow you to burn extra calories without much effort.

Metabolism, on its own, refers to a series of chemical processes that happen inside your body throughout the day. These functions span from digesting meals to repairing areas of your body. However, the most relevant aspect of metabolism is RMR — your resting metabolic rate (28).

What Is RMR?

RMR refers to the amount of energy your body spends to maintain all systems working correctly. Most of these functions are completely automatic, such as breathing, regulating hormone levels, and pumping blood. Although you aren’t usually aware of these processes, RMR still accounts for more than half of your body’s daily caloric use (28).

However, it’s essential to remember that there isn’t a universal RMR — instead, the exact number will depend on a series of factors. For example, age is one of the most critical factors that affect RMR, as studies show that older people have significantly lower metabolic rates. Other factors affecting RMR include sex, ethnicity, and family history (29, 30, 31).

Does Boosting Metabolism Actually Help in Weight Loss?

It’s hard to tell whether or not boosting metabolic rates makes a significant difference in weight loss. While metabolic rates inherited by genes and other factors are considered key elements regarding weight, it’s unclear if boosting it through foods and exercise has any effect (32, 33).

Instead, some experts recommend focusing more on your dietary plan and your routine exercises if you want a fireproof way of losing weight. However, adding some of these metabolism-boosting habits may be beneficial to shedding a few extra calories at the end of the day (34).

Are There Any Conditions That Affect Metabolism?

Yes, certain conditions can affect your metabolism. These are divided into two groups: hormonal disorders and genetic disorders.

Hormonal disorders refer to conditions that affect the thyroid — a gland that plays a crucial part in regulating hormones. For example, hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can interfere with the thyroid, impairing hormones that are key to a healthy metabolism.

Genetic disorders, on the other hand, refer to faulty genes that may make digesting particular foods harder. Differentiating genetic disorders is challenging — however, experts have identified conditions such as galactosemia and phenylketonuria as metabolism-affecting (28).

Related: How long does it take to lose weight?

Key Takeaways: Boosting Metabolism

While the actual difference that a boosted metabolism has on your body is unclear, it might be a good idea to try it anyways. At worst, some of these habits will help you combat sedentarism and an unhealthy lifestyle — and at best, also make it easier to lose weight.

However, if you have a medical condition that interferes with these habits, make sure to make an appointment with your doctor first. A trained professional can give precise directions according to your personal needs while preventing damage and risks. 


John Davis