Metabolism is the process of converting the food you eat into energy for your body’s functions. It involves many chemical reactions and fuels everything from moving to breathing to thinking. The rate of metabolism can vary a lot between people; some have faster metabolisms while others have slower ones. This leads a lot of us to question whether or not it’s possible to increase metabolism.
The most common way to think about metabolism is by the number of calories someone burns. Someone with a higher metabolism burns more calories in a day and typically has an easier time of keeping weight off (or might even have trouble gaining weight). On the other hand, those with a slower metabolism might struggle to maintain a healthier weight.
So, can you increase metabolism? The answer is “yes,” but probably not at the rate most people think. That being said, small changes can make a big difference over time, so here are some actions you can take to raise that metabolic rate.
Aerobic Exercise (Especially High-Intensity)
Everyone knows that when you exercise, you burn more calories—and that “burn” can continue for a little while after your workout ends. This is especially true when you engage in high-intensity workouts that really get your heart rate up.
A lot of the reason behind weight gain as we age has to do with becoming less active. Getting regular exercise can help counteract that and support a thriving metabolism.
Build Muscle Through Resistance Training
While cardiovascular exercise is also important, strength training can really boost your resting metabolic rate after your workout ends. Muscle burns more calories than fat:
- Each pound of fat burns about two calories per day.
- Each pound of muscle burns about six calories per day.
So, increasing your muscle mass through strength and resistance training can help boost how much you’re burning each day, raising your average metabolism.
Eat Healthy, Filling Foods—and Eat Enough!
Did you know our bodies burn calories just from eating? Your body needs to use energy to digest foods after you eat. This is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF).
Several factors go into your TEF, including:
- How many carbs, fats, and proteins you eat
- The calorie content of your food
- How much exercise you get
- What your diet looks like (whole foods versus processed foods, etc.)
- Your age
Of all the macros, protein has the highest TEF, so eating higher protein meals may make a small difference in your TEF. Whole foods like fruits and vegetables are also a vital part of a metabolism-boosting diet.
It’s also important to eat enough calories and not follow very restrictive diets. Doing so can slow down your metabolism as your body tries to hold onto the small amount of energy you’re eating.
Being dehydrated—even a little bit—may slow down your metabolism. Make sure you’re drinking enough water.
Many of us are pretty sedentary for our jobs, which can decrease how many calories we burn per day. We can support our metabolisms by standing, walking, and taking the stairs more. You might even consider a standing desk.
Drink Coffee or Tea (Maybe)
Some studies have shown that coffee and tea may promote fat burning, which can help boost metabolism. This may have a small contribution to a healthy weight. However, you will want to weigh the pros and cons of tea and coffee drinks for your situation, as some people are sensitive to caffeine.
Sleep Enough Each Night
Not sleeping enough has been linked to an increased risk for various diseases, including obesity and type II diabetes. In addition, lack of sleep may affect your metabolism. If you’re currently getting less than 7-8 hours per night, consider ways to shift your schedule.
Chronic stress can take an enormous toll on the body and can affect hormone levels, causing the body to produce more cortisol (which plays a role in appetite regulation). Stress can lead to unhealthy lifestyle patterns, such as overeating, which have a negative impact on weight and metabolism.
Get the Right Nutrients
Certain vitamins and supplements may be beneficial for weight management and metabolism, too. For example, vitamin B6 and other B-vitamins are essential in metabolic function. Fat Metabolism Factors also provides nutrients for fat metabolism, energy support, and appetite support, including the amino acid that stimulates cholecystokinin (CCK) to tell the brain when the body is satiated.
The Bottom Line
It’s best to maintain various healthy habits if you’re wanting to increase metabolism. These will have the biggest effect over time while supporting other aspects of wellness in your life.