If you know someone who can seemingly eat anything and stay slim, chances are they have a high metabolism. While it is true that metabolism is largely determined by genetics, age and gender, there are specific things you do to give it a boost.
Try these tips to rev up your internal engine, jump-start a weight loss plan or maintain a healthy weight.
Physical activity is the most effective way to increase the amount of calories (energy) your body uses every day. Running or walking three extra miles a day, for example, adds about 300 calories to your total energy expenditure (TEE), or your metabolic rate, for a 24-hour period.
Plus, exercise helps you burn fat and develop lean muscle, which burns about 70 times more calories than fat, says Cynthia Geyer, M.D., Medical Director at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Mass. Cardiovascular exercise will get your heart pumping and can elevate your metabolic rate, both during your workout and for hours afterward. Lifting weights has a post-workout calorie benefit, too: The tiny muscle tears you create during strength training are repaired by your body after you finish your session—and that takes energy.
Eat Less, But Don’t Starve Yourself
Fad and deprivation diets may create a calorie deficit in the short term, but they can have long-term repercussions. “What happens if 1400 calories is your resting metabolic rate and you go on a 1200-calorie-a-day diet: Are you going to lose weight?” asks Dr. Geyer. “Absolutely,” she continues, “but then what’s going to happen? Your body says, ‘Oh, wait a minute—I’m not even meeting my basic needs for survival, so I’m going to slow down my metabolic rate to match that.’”
Rethink “Three Squares”
Eat small meals regularly throughout the day; the more times your digestive system goes to work throughout the day, the more calories you burn. Pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness signals, and learn to see food as fuel for your body, not as entertainment or a solution to stress or boredom.
Fill Up on Metabolism-Boosting Foods
Ensure that you’re filling your body with the fuel it needs for best results. Plant-based proteins such as beans and nuts, and lean animal protein such as fish and chicken help you build muscle; whole grains contain fiber needed to fill you up and stabilize blood sugar; and fruits and vegetables have antioxidants to reduce inflammation—all of which can keep your metabolism humming at top speed.
A regular stress-relief method—whether it’s meditation, exercise, social activities or a hobby—can help you stay focused on your eating and exercise goals. It will also reduce stress hormones that can negatively affect the way your metabolism functions and the way your body stores fat.
Avoid These “Metabolism Boosters”
Weight Loss Supplements Many weight loss supplements claim to increase metabolic rate. Unfortunately, they usually accomplish this by using ephedra, ma huang or other ingredients found to be unsafe, or stimulants like caffeine, guarana and bitter orange, which are not widely recommended for this purpose.
Other Supplements Some studies have suggested that other, safer supplements—including calcium, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and hydroxcitric acid (HCA)—may also increase metabolic rate. While your doctor may recommend them for other reasons, further research is needed before these can be widely recommended for this use.
Coffee You may have heard that caffeinated beverages, like tea and coffee, trigger a small spike in metabolism. While that is true, the potential negatives that some people experience from consuming caffeine—such as increased blood pressure, higher anxiety levels and the elevated risk of heart arrhythmias—outweigh any small metabolism boost. Play it safe and drink caffeine sparingly.