A lot of diets claim to help ‘boost’ metabolism – but can you really do anything to help your body burn calories faster?
To answer this question, it helps to understand a little about how your metabolism works. The metabolic process involves a complex network of hormones and enzymes that not only convert food into fuel, but also affect how efficiently you burn that fuel. How fast you burn calories is influenced by your age (metabolism naturally slows about 5% per decade after age 40); your gender (men generally burn more calories at rest than women); and proportion of lean body mass (the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate tends to be). And in the “life-isn’t-always-fair” category: heredity makes a difference, so some of us inherently have faster metabolic rates than others.
The good news is even if you weren’t born with “skinny genes,” there are things you can do to increase your body’s ability to burn calories faster. The number one thing you can do to rev up your metabolic rate: exercise. Working out builds muscle. Muscle speeds metabolism. As the body works more efficiently, it processes food faster. Specific exercise regimens, such as High Intensity Intermittent Exercise (HIIE), have been shown to be particularly effective.
While there’s no magic metabolism bullet, there are a few strategies besides exercise that have been shown in scientific studies to help boost your metabolic rate.
Add Spice: Research has found that capsaicin, the bioactive compound that makes red peppers hot, can rev up your metabolism, while also helping you feel full. Studies have found that eating 10 grams of red pepper (equal to 30 mg of capsaicin) resulted in a 25% boost in metabolism immediately after eating it. Hot sauce, hot peppers, ginger, cloves, cayenne, coriander, bay leaves, and dry mustard share this capacity to boost metabolism.
Caffeinate: Coffee, tea, or other caffeinated (but low or no-calorie) beverages may also help burn calories faster. In fact, caffeine may boost your metabolic rate for up to three hours after consumption. But don’t overdo caffeine if it gives you the jitters or keeps you up at night. For most people, 3-4 cups per day is tolerable.
Stay Hydrated: Even mild dehydration has been found to decrease your metabolic rate by 2%, so staying well hydrated is an easy way to help boost overall metabolic rate. Researchers at the University of Utah, who monitored the metabolic rates of adults as they drank varying amounts of water per day, found that those who drank either eight or twelve 8-ounce glasses of water a day had higher metabolic rates than those who had four. Strive to get at least half of your body weight in fluid ounces of water every day.
Eat More Often: The strategy here is not “eat more,” just more often. Small, frequent meals help keep your metabolism in high gear, and that means you’ll burn more calories overall. When you put too many hours between meals, your metabolism actually slows down to compensate. If you then eat a huge meal — at the same time your metabolism is functioning as if you’re starving — your body wants to hold on to every calorie. While this won’t make much difference on an occasional basis, it can become more difficult to lose weight or maintain weight a healthy weight if you frequently skip meals.