Boosting metabolism is the elusive holy grail chased by weight watchers everywhere, but how fast your body burns calories depends on several factors. Some folks are lucky enough to inherit a fast metabolism. Because of their greater muscle mass, men tend to burn more calories than women, even while resting. Aging also slows down your metabolic rate. Your metabolic rate slows about 2 % per decade after the age of 20 and by the time you hit 40, metabolic decline accelerates to 5% per decade. All of these factors can make it particularly challenging to shed those extra pounds. Although you can't control your age, gender, or genetics, there are other ways to get a boost. Read on for 10 ways to rev up your metabolism.
What Exactly Is Metabolism?
Metabolism is the process by which the body breaks down food to produce energy. The rate of your metabolism depends on the number of calories you consume in a day minus the number of calories burned while exercising and doing everyday activities (basal metabolic rate).
- Build Muscle
Our bodies constantly burn calories, even when we’re doing nothing. This resting metabolic rate is much higher in people with more muscle. That’s why men have faster metabolisms and often drop weight easier than women. Every pound of muscle in your body uses about 6 calories a day just to sustain itself, while each pound of fat burns only 2 calories daily. That small difference can really add up. In addition, after resistance training, your muscles are activated and using additional calorie, which in turn, increases your average metabolic rate even further.
- Exercise in Short Bursts
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 at shorter intervals delivers a bigger, longer increase 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.
- Tank Up with Water
The body needs water to process calories. If you are even mildly dehydrated, your metabolism may slow down. A University of Utah study showed that you can bump up your metabolism 2% just by staying hydrated. To stay hydrated, drink at least 8-12 eight ounce servings of water daily. Increase your water intake even further when exercise, aiming for 8 ounces every 15-20 minutes.
- Eat Often, Eat Healthy
Eating more really can help you lose weight -- eating less calories, more often, that is. When you eat large meals with many hours in between, body thinks your starving so it goes into fat storage mode. It slows your metabolism down to match your energy expenditure and stores unburned calories as fat. Having a small meal or snack every 3 to 4 hours keeps your metabolism calorie burning mode. Several studies have also shown that people who snack regularly eat less at meal time. To keep your metabolism burning, try to adhere to this schedule:
- 6-8 a.m.: Breakfast
- 10 a.m.: Snack
- 12-2 p.m.: Lunch
- 3-5 p.m.: Snack
- 5-7 p.m.: Dinner
- Avoid eating after 8 p.m.
Also try eating your heaviest meal at breakfast or lunch and a lighter meal at dinner. And above all, make sure NOT to skip breakfast.
- Turn Up the Heat
Spicy foods contain chemical compounds such as capsaicin that can help kick your metabolism into high gear. Cooking foods with a tablespoon of chopped red or green chili pepper can boost your metabolic rate. The effect is likely temporary, but if you eat spicy foods often, the benefits may add up. For a quick boost, try spicing up pasta dishes, chili, and stews with red-pepper flakes. Word to the wise- if you suffer from heartburn / reflux or stomach ulcers, skip the pepper, it could worsen your stomach issues.
- Pump Up with Protein
Due to manner in which the body breaks down protein, you burn many more calories digesting protein than fat or carbohydrates. Although you want to eat a balanced diet, replacing some carbohydrates (especially unhealthy ones) with lean, protein-rich foods can boost metabolism at mealtime. Healthy sources of protein include lean beef, turkey, fish, white meat chicken, tofu, nuts, beans, eggs, and low-fat dairy including cheese and plain Greek yogurt.
- Recharge with Green Tea
Drinking green tea or oolong tea offers the combined benefits of caffeine and catechins, substances shown to rev up the metabolism for a couple hours. Research suggests that drinking two to four cups of either tea may push the body to burn 17% more calories during moderately intense exercise for a short period of time.
- Hit the sack.
Skipping out on sleep can slow your metabolism. Lack of sleep can decrease the number of calories your body burns just resting and rejuvenating. The rate of calories your body burns at rest represents about 60% to 75% of your total daily calorie burning, which can make slowing it through lack of sleep a serious roadblock to weight loss.
- Get Your Omega-3’s
Omega-3s balance blood sugar and reduce inflammation, helping to regulate metabolism. They may also reduce resistance to the hormone leptin, which researchers have linked to how fast fat is burned. A study in Obesity Research found rats that ingested large doses of fish oil while exercising lost weight. Take omega-3 fatty acid supplements 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams per day. But don’t be duped, not all fish oil is Omega-3 (Omega-6 and Omega-9 are also present in fish oil). Make sure to check the back of the label, the EPA (Eicosapentaeanoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) should add up to 1,000mg per serving.
- Avoid Slashing The Calories (Too Low)
Cutting your calories back too far creates a double whammy especially if you’re not exercising consistently. While you may lose weight initially, but your body will eventually slow its metabolism to match your calorie intake. This will cause your weight loss to stall. Even worse when you increase your calories to a more normal intake you will gain more weight due to the slower metabolism. Make sure to eat enough calories to at least match your resting metabolic rate (what you'd burn doing your daily activities without any structured exercise).
You can get a ballpark estimate of your metabolic rate by wearing a Fitbit, get a metabolic scale reading from your physician or using this formula:
For men, the equation for calculating BMR is: BMR = 66 + (13.8 x weight in kg.) + (5 x height in cm) - (6.8 x age in years)
For women, the BMR equation is: BMR = 655 + (9.6 x weight in kg.) + (1.8 x height in cm) - (4.7 x age in years).