Boost Your Metabolism

By Katherine Brooking, MS, RD

You can’t walk by a magazine stand without seeing at least a dozen covers on how to boost your metabolism. And if you google the word “metabolism,” you’ll find over 85 million hits, mostly on how to “speed-up,” “ignite,” or “boost” your metabolism to blast fat and build muscle. Is all this just hype or can you really do something to help your body burn calories faster?

Understanding metabolism
Metabolism involves a complex network of hormones and enzymes that not only convert food into fuel but also affect how efficiently you burn that fuel. The metabolic process establishes the rate at which you burn calories and, to some extent, how quickly you gain weight, or how easily you can lose it. Metabolism is influenced by age – metabolism naturally slows down about 5 percent per decade after the age of 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 check one off in the “life-isn’t-always-fair” category because heredity makes a difference, too. So some of us inherently have faster metabolic rates than others.

But if you are struggling with weight, don’t blame all your woes on a slowing metabolism. While some people do suffer from metabolic disorders that make weight gain rather easy (and weight loss quite difficult), these metabolic conditions are not responsible for most of the weight problems and obesity we see today.

For most women of average height and build, basal metabolic rate is 0.9 calories per kilogram body weight per hour, or about 1,300 calories a day for a 130-pound woman. Men’s basal metabolic rate is about 1 calorie/kg body weight per hour because they have a higher percentage of lean muscle mass naturally compared to women, and have a higher basal metabolic rate.

Boosting metabolism – fantasy or fact?
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. Appetite for Health Co-Founder, Julie Upton, has written frequently about the #1 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. For specific exercise regimens that have been proven to help boost metabolism, check out Julie’s articles, “Burn, Baby Burn: Intensity is Best for Boosting Metabolism” and “CrossFit: Get Fit Fast.”

Besides exercise, there are a few other strategies that have been shown in scientific studies to help speed up metabolism. They are:

Eat more often
I hope you read that carefully – it’s not “eat more,” just “eat more often.” Small, but 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 of a difference on occasion, it can become more difficult to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight if you frequently skip meals.

Drink plenty of water
Dehydration has been found to decrease your metabolic rate by 2 percent. So staying well hydrated is an easy way to help boost overall metabolic rate. Strive to get at least half of your body weight in fluid ounces of water every day.

Eat protein
The amount of energy the body requires to digest and metabolize protein and carbohydrates makes up about 10 percent of your total metabolic rate. However, there are big differences in how much energy is required to digest each of the macronutrients. Fat, for example, has a thermic effect of 0 to 3 percent for fat, carbohydrate is 5 to 10 percent, and protein is 20 to 30 percent. The thermic effect means that if you eat 100 calories of protein, 70 to 80 calories will be usable, but the same 100 calories of olive oil will provide the body with 97 to 100 calories to use as energy or add to your love handles. Research shows that doubling your protein from about 15 percent of calories to 30 percent of total calories helps cut 150 to 200 calories a day.

Grab some joe
I’m talking about coffee, tea, or other caffeinated (but low or no calorie) beverages. Caffeine will boost your metabolic rate for up to three hours after consumption. Research has found that when women consumed 1,300 mg of caffeine (roughly equivalent to six, 8-ounce cups of brewed coffee) over 24 hours, they burned an additional 136 calories a day.

For more on boosting metabolism and weight loss, don’t forget to pick up our book, “The Real Skinny: Appetite for Health’s 101 Fat Habits & Slim Solutions.

Katherine Brooking, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian, writer and expert contributor to numerous television programs. She has appeared on The TODAY Show, Live with Regis & Kelly, The Early Show on CBS, Good Morning America Health, and many others. She covers health and wellness topics in SELF Magazine, The Washington Post, The New York Times and New York Daily News. For more information go to

The articles written by guest contributors are the sole responsibility of the individual writers in terms of factual accuracy and opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher of this blog.

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