We’ve heard the claims before: hacks to “boost your metabolism” by simply drinking a certain tea or ingesting an herb that’s promised to shed pounds fast. The problem with many of these fad diets is that the majority of these tips (like eating low-calorie meals with lemon juice and cayenne pepper for example) are not evidence-based, healthy, or sustainable! But if you are trying to figure out how to boost your metabolism, there are actually effective and safe ways to do it.
For most of us, it eventually becomes obvious that our metabolism begins to slow down as we age. Factors that can affect your metabolism include age, height, muscle mass, hormones, resting metabolic rate, exercise, and more. And while there are some factors that are completely out of our control, there are concrete ways to help give your metabolism a boost.
Don’t burn your booty for no reason. Whether you’re currently working on some self-improvement in the weight loss department or are just curious about how to keep your metabolism active, check out the following five ideas for scientifically proven methods that actually work–and will keep your system cruising.
Increase your protein consumption
You know that your body receives energy from food but did you know that your body also uses energy to digest? The process of digestion itself is actually a metabolism-boosting action. Your body must burn calories to ingest calories (whoa!) This is called the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF).
We know that your body actually has the highest rate of TEF when digesting protein specifically. By increasing protein in your diet and decreasing empty carbs and sugars you can keep your body in the healthy burning zone. (Empty carbs and sugars are simple to digest, require very little TEF, are non-nutritious, and tend to cause weight gain.) Protein on, my friends.
Drink plenty of green tea
Take a tip from Chinese medicine and add green tea to your daily routine. Regular consumption of green and oolong tea has been proven to increase your metabolism by four to five percent.
Interestingly, green tea actually converts some of the fat stores in your body to free fatty acids which can cause up to a 17% increase in fat burning.
Try adding four to five cups of green tea per day. Sound like too much work? I hear you, busy people. You could also just brew a big pitcher every week to keep in your refrigerator, then every morning fill a large water bottle to sip on as you go. Do note that some of the effectiveness of the metabolic boost associated with green tea is relative to the caffeine content, so if you’re already a big caffeine drinker, this effect may be decreased. Unfortunately, research also shows green tea doesn’t work like a charm for everyone but it’s so easy, delicious, and healthy, that there is absolutely no harm in seeing if you’re one of the lucky ones. Burn baby, burn.
Drink more water
Another even simpler beverage to imbibe for metabolic boosting effects is ice cold h20! A research team in Germany found that drinking cold water can help set off a calorie-burning effect in your body, but there’s a catch. A later study discovered that the thermogenic effect of drinking cold water is only about 4 to 7 calories per glass, or “equivalent to one plain M&M” but not all is lost. Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Nutrition Starring You told Self that “proper water intake is key in making sure your metabolism is functioning at its highest ability.” Not to mention that by drinking more water you will also incidentally replace consumption of any sugary drinks or empty calories from things like soda, sports drinks, or juices. Drinking more water has a myriad of health benefits so go ahead and up the H20 both room temperature, cold, or however you like to consume it.
Over 25% of American adults sit for more than eight hours every day dubbing “sitting as the new smoking.” What’s more alarming than that stat is that 44% of those people get little to no exercise. So why is it so bad? Well, sitting for prolonged periods slows blood flow down allowing fatty acids to build up in the blood vessels which can lead to heart disease. It’s also linked to type 2 diabetes, obesity, and blood clots.
If your boss hasn’t gotten behind the standing desk option at work (or a standing desk converter) it might be a good time to send them a little research and ask for one! When you stand, you burn anywhere from 100 to 200 calories an hour. Why? standing keeps all parts of your body (vascular, cardiac, and gastrointestinal system to name a few) working just a little bit harder—which boosts your metabolism overall. It’s a super easy fix. Don’t have a spendy boss who’s willing to buy in? No worries, there are super affordable standing desk options (I have one and love it!) available online, like this.
Get Intense & Get Lifting
Heard of HIIT? Research shows that High-Intensity Interval Training actually kicks your metabolism into gear and allows you to keep burning calories and fat even after your workout is done. In fact, you can burn 25–30% more calories doing HIIT compared to other forms of exercise—the burn that keeps on burning baby. If you’re looking for a new way to exercise or your form of exercise isn’t giving you the results you desire, give HIIT a try.
Secondly, don’t be afraid of pumping a little iron. (Insert Arnold voice here.) Muscle mass is more metabolically active than fat, and unfortunately when people start losing weight, they often also lose muscle. Research shows that when exercisers build muscle during dieting and exercising they retain weight loss better than those who don’t. If you have a toddler or a small dog then you’re already ahead of the lifting game. If you don’t, check out these weights.
Self-care in the form of SLEEP!
If you haven’t heard about this yet, then it’s time to get on the bandwagon. Getting your fair share of shut-eye is so important for both short-term and long-term health. Lack of sleep is strongly and directly correlated to many chronic health conditions, and obesity and diabetes are two of them. This could very well be related to the negative side effects that not sleeping has on your metabolism.
When you don’t get enough sleep (chronically less than about 8 hours per night), your body sustains increased blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and causes you to feel more hungry and less full—even when you should feel full—that’s not cool! A well-rested body is satiated and balanced so you won’t crave as much junk. Easy peasy fix. Oh excuse me, it’s 8 pm, I need to go brush my teeth and apply a face mask, goodnight!
This post was originally published on July 13, 2020, and has since been updated.
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