Natural Ways to Boost Metabolism

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It is tempting to blame a sluggish metabolism when you are struggling to meet your weight management goals or you feel like your energy is lacking. Even though your metabolic rate may have nothing to do with your progress, supporting metabolic health with natural remedies to boost metabolism cannot hurt.

"Often, people think their metabolism is broken or not working," says Erik Bustillo, RD, a strength and health coach and co-vice president and fellow of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), and resident dietitian at Train 8Nine in Miami, Florida. "But the truth of the matter is that if we are alive, our metabolism is working."

What Is Metabolism

Simply put, metabolism is how the body uses the food or calories we consume or have stored to create energy. However, there is a difference between general metabolism and our basal metabolic rate (BMR).

Erik Bustillo, RD

Metabolism is a combination of complex processes throughout our body that work to create energy in our bodies.

— Erik Bustillo, RD

"Metabolism is a combination of complex processes throughout our body that work to create energy in our bodies," says Bustillo.

BMR is also how many calories your body needs to just maintain itself. In fact, BMR accounts for the body's largest energy needs and can depending on age, sex, height, and weight.

"Our basal metabolic rate is how many calories we burn at a basic level, [with] no physical activity, or as I call it 'keeping the lights on,'" explains Bustillo.

How Energy Is Used

  • Breathing
  • Circulating blood
  • Controlling body temperature
  • Contracting muscles
  • Digesting food and nutrients
  • Eliminating waste through urine and feces
  • Functioning of the brain and nerves

Why People Want to Boost Metabolism

In addition to weight management goals, other people may be interested in boosting their metabolism to maintain abdominal and overall body leanness and to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes.

"The thought process is that if metabolism is functioning at an increased rate, they will burn more calories, and if someone is focused on fat loss, this will help with that goal of intentional fat loss," Bustillo says.

A 2018 collection of 15 studies examined the effects of resistance exercise and its impact on type 2 diabetes as it is a metabolic disease. What researchers discovered was that resistance exercise improve blood sugar control through glucose and fat metabolism.

Natural Ways to Boost Metabolism

Taking drastic measures to meet your weight management goals will not produce the same metabolism-boosting results that equate to lasting change and a healthy relationship with food. The best ways to boost your metabolism are through a balanced diet, exercise, increased movement, and even a bit of caffeine. Here are six natural ways to boost your metabolism.

Eat Enough Calories for Your BMR

Most people are surprised to find out they are not eating enough to support their BMR. Skimping on food throughout the day can lead to binging later or sluggish-feeling metabolism. Research shows that staying on a low-calorie or restricted diet for an extended period of time will have a negative effect on metabolism.

If you have established weight management goals with the help of a dietitian or a healthcare provider, many times a calorie deficit is needed to see results. However, this reduction should not result in you feeling deprived. Your healthcare team can help you determine what to eat to ensure you feel full and satisfied.

"I would encourage folks to work with a qualified health professional like a registered dietitian to ensure optimal caloric intake to support their metabolism and overall healthy/optimal body function," suggests Bustillo.

There are a number of ways to determine your BMR. For instance, you can have a medical professional calculate it, get it tested in a lab, or you can use an online calculator. While no method is completely accurate, a lab test will probably give you the best estimate.

However, lab tests can be costly. Many people use one of the other two methods to determine their BMR as well as the total number of calories they burn each day.

Equation to Calculate BMR

The Mifflin-St. Jeor Equation is often used to estimate basal metabolic rate.

  • Men: (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) - (5 × age in years) + 5
  • Women: (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) - (5 × age in years) - 161

To find your weight in kilograms, divide your body weight by 2.2; and to determine your height in centimeters, multiply your height in inches by 2.4.

Because the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation only determines BMR at rest, you need to apply your activity factor to determine your daily calorie needs. Put your height, weight, and age into our online calculator to find your BMR with the addition of your daily activity level. This calculator provides you with an estimate of the total number of calories you burn each day.

Exercise Regularly

Even a single exercise session causes changes to your metabolism. Even though a single session may not produce lasting changes, it still has an impact. For lasting results, incorporate physical activity into your week as often as possible.

The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity. They also recommend adding at least 2 days per week of moderate-to-high intensity muscle-strengthening activity like lifting weights.

"Physical activity burns calories and energy is needed to perform regular movements, especially at high intensities," says Bustillo.

When trying to plan your exercise program, keep in mind that no one exercise is better than others. Less intense workouts burn fewer calories but still provide a metabolic boost, while higher intensity workouts burn more calories and create a greater boost to the metabolism.

The key is finding a workout you enjoy doing. If you do not like what you are doing, you are less likely to be consistent with your exercise program.

Add Caffeine

Both caffeine and coffee increase the rate of fat metabolism. For example, one study carried out four trials to determine the effects of caffeine and coffee on metabolic rate and fat burning in people of normal weight and individuals with obesity. In all trials, metabolism and fat oxidation were greater in the group that drank caffeinated coffee.

If you are not a coffee drinker, drinking caffeinated green tea has similar effects on metabolism and fat burning. However, neither caffeine nor coffee is recommended for anyone under the age of 18.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition reports that the consumption of 3 to 6 milligrams of caffeine has consistently shown an improvement in exercise performance and delaying fatigue. This could give room for building muscle, ultimately increasing metabolism.

"Regarding caffeine intake, this depends on the person and if they can use caffeine," notes Bustillo. "But, I feel that using caffeine for fat loss is like looking at a barbell and not lifting it but expecting muscle gain. It doesn’t do anything without making actual lifestyle changes [like] making dietary changes OR changes to one’s daily energy output."

Consume More Protein

Your body has to work hard and use calories to burn the food you eat. Each macronutrient such as protein, carbs, and fat requires a different amount of calories to be digested. This is called the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF).

Protein has the highest TEF of all macronutrients. Protein causes about 20% to 30% of TEF versus 5% to 10% in carbohydrates and 0 to 3% in fat. That means eating more protein will have a greater impact on how many calories you burn to digest that meal. In addition, protein increases satiety to make you fuller compared to fat and carbohydrates.

Thermic Effect of Food

  • TEF of protein is 20% to 30%
  • TEF of carbohydrates is 5% to 10%
  • TEF of fat is 0 to 3%

Increasing protein consumption from 15% of calories to 30% of calories had a greater impact on maintaining muscle, promoting fat loss, and having decreased overall caloric intake for the day. Plus, protein is also the most satiating macronutrient.

When you eat protein, you feel more satisfied and are less likely to continue eating. Ultimately, if you are satisfied with your meals, you have a better ability to control your overall calorie intake throughout the day, which is directly associated with how much progress you can make toward achieving your weight management goals.

Lift Weights

While any kind of exercise will naturally boost your metabolism, lifting weights works two-fold. Not only does it increase your heart rate and burn calories, but resistance training also builds muscle. And muscle in turn boosts metabolism.

To test this hypothesis on older adults, researchers examined the activities of older adults. They determined that a heavy-resistance strength-training program increases BMR, and is believed to occur due to an increase in muscle mass. Keep in the mind, the benefits of weight lifting are only valuable if you are lifting enough weight and consuming the correct amount of calories.

Move More Frequently

The impact of non-exercise movement on your metabolism is greater than you think. In fact, all of this movement adds up into what is called non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). NEAT is the energy used to do basically anything—walk, clean the house, stand up, rake leaves, tie your shoes, and even fidget.

All of the movement you do throughout the day, even trivial movement, adds up and equates to an increase in metabolic rate. Depending upon your daily activity level and body weight, NEAT can add up to an extra 2,000 calories burned above your BMR.

Even standing instead of sitting can boost your metabolism. Consider investing in a standing desk setup at work or your home office and you could burn an extra 7.5 calories an hour. Remember, every movement you make will help you achieve your goals and boost your metabolism.

A Word From Verywell

If you are concerned about your metabolism and the rate at which it functions, it helps know what metabolism is and the factors that influence its rate. It is also beneficial to know what your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is and how you can impact it naturally.

The key to a robust metabolism is making sure you are eating a balanced diet as well as incorporating movement and exercise into your daily lifestyle. To accomplish this goal, you may find it helpful to work with a registered dietitian as well as a certified personal trainer. They can offer insight and recommendations on what you need to do to achieve your goals.

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