Many people say they want to lose weight, but few take steps to improve their metabolism. Metabolism is the process by which you convert food into energy for your body. You have probably heard people say they have a “slow metabolism” or a “fast metabolism.” Metabolic reactions may be categorized as catabolic – the breaking down of compounds (for example, of glucose to pyruvate by cellular respiration); or anabolic – the building up (synthesis) of compounds (such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids). Usually, catabolism releases energy and anabolism consumes energy.
What Is Metabolism?
Metabolism refers to all the chemical processes in your body. The faster your metabolism, the more calories your body needs.
Metabolism is the reason some people can eat a lot without gaining weight, while others seem to need less to accumulate fat.
The speed of your metabolism is commonly known as metabolic rate. It’s the number of calories you burn in a given amount of time, also known as calorie expenditure.
Metabolic rate can be divided into several categories:
Basal metabolic rate (BMR): Your metabolic rate during sleep or deep rest. It is the minimum metabolic rate needed to keep your lungs breathing, heart pumping, brain ticking, and body warm.
Resting metabolic rate (RMR): The minimum metabolic rate required to keep you alive and functioning while at rest. On average, it accounts for up to 50–75% of total calorie expenditure (1Trusted Source).
Numerous factors affect your metabolic rate, including:
Table of Contents
1. Build Muscle
Your body constantly burns calories, even when you’re doing nothing. This resting metabolic rate is much higher in people with more muscle. Every pound of muscle uses about 6 calories a day just to sustain itself, while each pound of fat burns only 2 calories daily. That small difference can add up over time. After a session of strength training, muscles are activated all over your body, raising your average daily metabolic rate.
2. Step Up Your Workout
Aerobic exercise may not build big muscles, but it can rev up your metabolism in the hours after a workout. The key is to push yourself. High-intensity exercise delivers a bigger, longer rise in resting metabolic rate than low- or moderate-intensity workouts. To get the benefits, try a more intense class at the gym or include short bursts of jogging during your regular walk.
3. Fuel Up With Water
Your body needs water to process calories. If you are even mildly dehydrated, your metabolism may slow down. In one study, adults who drank eight or more glasses of water a day burned more calories than those who drank four. To stay hydrated, drink a glass of water or other unsweetened beverage before every meal and snack. Also, snack on fresh fruits and vegetables, which naturally contain water, rather than pretzels or chips.
4. Power Up With Protein
Your body burns many more calories digesting protein than it does eating fat or carbohydrates. As part of a balanced diet, replacing some carbs with lean, protein-rich foods can boost metabolism at mealtime. Good sources of protein include lean beef, turkey, fish, white meat chicken, tofu, nuts, beans, eggs, and low-fat dairy products.
5. Drink green tea
Green tea and oolong tea have been shown to increase metabolism and fat burning.
These teas help convert some of the fat stored in your body into free fatty acids, which may increase fat burning when combined with exercise (29Trusted Source).
As they are low in calories, drinking these teas may be good for both weight loss and weight maintenance (30Trusted Source).
6. Get enough vitamins
Vitamins play an essential role in metabolism.
The resultsTrusted Source of a rodent experiment from 2018 suggested that a low intake of various B vitamins could impact the rate at which the body metabolizes lipids, including cholesterol and triglycerides.
More research may be needed to understand the relationship between vitamins, metabolism, and weight loss.
7. Spice up your meals
Some researchTrusted Source has suggested that eating spices such as chili, which contains capsaicin, can increase metabolic rate, including the rate at which the body burns fat and uses energy.
A 2014 study trusted Source from China found that people who ate spicy food every day were more likely to have a high body mass index (BMI) than those who did not. The researchers noted that more investigations are needed to find out why this happens.
8. Get enough sleep
People who have less sleep may have a lower metabolic rate, according to research trustedSource from 2016. The study took place in a sleep laboratory, and participants slept 4 hours per night for 5 nights followed by one night of 12 hours of sleep. Their metabolic rate fell after the nights with little sleep but returned to their usual levels after the night of recovery sleep.
The authors believed the body reduces metabolic rate to conserve energy when a person sleeps less. They noted this could lead to weight gain in people who do not get enough sleep.
The need for sleep varies between individuals, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that adults aged 18–60 should have at least 7 hours of trusted Source per night.
You’ve probably heard that to lose weight, you need to exercise.
There are some studies that suggest resistance training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can increase your metabolic rate and help you burn more calories.
But these studies are very small. Exercise alone is unlikely to lead to significant weight loss unless you are also eating the right foods for your body.
Exercise has lots of other health benefits, however, and the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that we all aim for 150 minutes of exercise a week.
Unpublished research by ZOE scientists also found that exercise helps control blood sugar spikes after meals.
10. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D
If there’s one supplement most Americans should be taking, it’s vitamin D. It’s essential for preserving metabolism-revving muscle tissue, but researchers estimate that a measly 20 percent of Americans take in enough via their diet. While you can nail 90 percent of your recommended daily value (400 IU) in a 3.5-ounce serving of salmon, popping a daily supplement is pretty convenient.
Good dietary sources of vitamin D for metabolism:
Tuna: 68 IUs per 3 ounces White Albacore tuna (11% DV)
Fortified low-fat milk: 120 IUs per cup (20% DV)
Eggs: 40 IUs per fried egg (7% DV)
11. Avoid Crash Diets
Crash diets — those involving eating fewer than 1,200 (if you’re a woman) or 1,800 (if you’re a man) calories a day — are bad for anyone hoping to quicken their metabolism. Although these diets may help you drop pounds, that comes at the expense of good nutrition. Plus, it backfires, since you can lose muscle, which in turn slows your metabolism. The final result is your body burns fewer calories and gains weight faster than before the diet.
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