America's Energy Doctor
Metabolism is the process of your body converting food and drink into energy. It’s always happening, even when you’re at rest; it doesn’t only happen while you’re digesting food or physically active. Your body constantly uses energy for breathing, circulation, organ function, regulating hormone levels, growing and repairing cells, and more.
Everybody has a different resting metabolism rate, and it varies throughout the day with your activity level. You’ve probably heard people blame their excess weight on “a slow metabolism.” If you boost your metabolism (increase its rate while you’re at rest), you naturally burn more calories and fat each day. In other words, you can lose a little more weight or eat a little more without gaining weight.
But it’s important to have realistic expectations. Despite some fad diet and supplement marketing you might see, there’s really no way to “supercharge” your metabolism to become some sort of magic fat-burning machine, able to eat whatever you want and not needing to exercise.
Boosting your metabolism can help you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. But it’s no miracle substitute for sensible eating and regular exercise. Realistically, it may help you lose 5, 10, maybe 15 more pounds over the course of a year, but it alone isn’t going to drop you 10 pounds in a month or anything like that.
Tips to Boost Your Metabolism
- Eat at least 1,800 calories every day. If you don’t eat enough to provide your body the fuel it needs, your metabolism slows to conserve energy.
- Always eat breakfast. It jump starts your metabolism, which drops to its slowest rate overnight while you sleep.
- Have three nutritious daily snacks between your meals to keep your metabolism humming along with frequent supplies of energy, to keep hunger at bay, and to maintain steady blood sugar levels.
- Get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids from sources like fatty fish, walnuts, seeds, and dietary supplements. It has various effects on your body that are tied to regulation of your metabolism and efficient fat burning.
- Don’t eat foods that contain trans fat. This unhealthy compound binds to fat and liver cells, contributes to insulin resistance, and triggers inflammation in the body, all of which reduces your metabolism rate.
- Eat organic. The toxic substances in chemical pesticides can have adverse effects on your thyroid, and this in turn inhibits your metabolism.
- Consume lots of protein every day. Your body digests it slowly, which makes your metabolism work a little harder for a little longer.
- Get a lot of fiber too, from whole grains, vegetables, and fruit. A high-fiber diet is associated with increased fat burn.
- Drink water all day. Having 6 cups of cold water daily has been shown to up your resting metabolism enough to burn an additional 50 calories every day.
- Exercise more often and more strenuously (under your doctor’s supervision). Your metabolism rate doesn’t just rise during a workout, it also continues at an elevated rate for up to several hours after a rigorous workout. This is known as excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), or “afterburn,” more succinctly.
- Use interval training during aerobic workouts. This refers to varying your pace and incorporating short bursts of exercise at a significantly faster pace (for example, sprinting for about 10 to 15 seconds every few minutes while jogging).
- Build muscle with strength training and resistance training. Increasing muscle mass boosts your resting metabolism rate so your body burns more calories all day long.
Some Calorie Math
To lose 1 pound, you need to burn about 3,500 calories more than you take in. The faster your metabolism—that is, the faster your body converts calories into energy—the easier it is to burn more calories than you consume.
To give you a frame of reference, let’s look back at tip number 9 about drinking water to increase your metabolism enough to burn an additional 50 calories per day. That works out to burning an extra 18,250 calories in one year. Divide that by the number of calories per pound (3,500), and you get 5.2. So, tip number 9 could potentially result in losing an extra 5 pounds over the course of a year.