Your metabolism is one of the most important functions in your body because it turns food into energy, contributes to cellular processes, helps manufacture important proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, and carbohydrates, and eliminates waste from your body. If your metabolism dysfunctions or slows down, your health will suffer.
Fortunately, it’s in your hands to help optimize your metabolism in order to improve your health.
Is It Possible To Affect Metabolism?
You might be wondering if speeding up your metabolism is actually possible. The answer is yes, it is possible, but the change is not very significant and you can’t achieve it with products that promise significant changes. What is more important is maintaining an efficient metabolic rate, as this is where many people struggle in the first place.
The most effective method that affects the way your body burns calories is exercise, and specifically building lean muscle. (7)
First, it’s important to understand what metabolism is and how it works. Metabolism is your body’s way of spending energy and metabolic rate is the speed at which it burns that energy. Age, height, weight, and health history can affect your metabolic rate during exercise and when you’re not active, which is called resting metabolism and is taken up by your internal organs, including your muscles.
You burn more calories to maintain your muscles whereas fat slows your metabolism down. However, losing weight also slows down your metabolism because your body needs to burn less energy, so loss of body fat should be replaced with more muscle mass. (7)
How To Optimize Your Metabolism
Although exercise is an important component that boosts your metabolism, you shouldn’t ignore the benefits of diet and good habits such as getting enough sleep. For example, eating foods and drinking beverages that are nutrient dense, and properly preparing for bed will help keep your hormones in balance, which in turn will maintain the health of your metabolism.
Below is a list of the top ways to ensure the health of your metabolism, backed by science.
Drink More Water
A study showed that drinking water can boost your metabolism. (2) The researchers studied the effect that drinking water had on fat by giving 500 ml of water, almost 3 cups, to the participants. The metabolic rate of all participants increased by 30% in just 10 minutes and the effect lasted for more than an hour. Interestingly, the metabolic rate in men was increased by lipids, whereas in women it was increased by carbohydrates.
It’d be a good idea to ditch energy and soft drinks and replace them with water. You can also make fruit-infused water for some extra flavor and be sure to eat a lot of fruit because they have a high-water content.
Your body burns calories even when you’re doing nothing, which is known as resting metabolism. People who have larger muscles tend to burn more calories because their resting metabolism rates are higher. (1)
In one study, men and women between the ages of 20-30 and 65-75 did strength training for 24 weeks. There were no differences in age, as the resting metabolic rate of both young and older participants increased by 7%. Gender, however, was significant, as men had an additional 2% increase in resting metabolic rate compared to women. (6)
You can try strength training at the comfort of your home with no or minimal equipment. You can complete a full muscle-building workout using just your body, or you can lift weights and exercise with resistance bands or even a chair.
Get More And Better Sleep
Research shows that lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep decreases insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance and metabolism, and can lead to type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, especially in people who sleep less than 6-7 hours per night. Restricted sleep can also cause weight gain, because it reduces the production of leptin, the hormone that signals satiety and warns us to stop eating. (9)
To get a good night’s rest, you must spend at least an hour away from electronic devices before bed to help your brain relax. If you need help falling asleep, read a book or magazine until you feel tired enough to go to sleep. Placing essential oils and herbs such as lavender and valerian root next to your pillow can also aid your relaxation.
Have A Snack Between Meals If You Are Prone To Overeating
This tip isn’t for everyone, as some people thrive on intermittent fasting or eating their regular three meals. However, if you are prone to overeating, this can help. Overall, while the actual act of snacking will not actually boost your metabolism, it can help you eat less at mealtimes because you won’t be as hungry. (1) In fact, one study showed that the diet quality of adults who snacked and ate meals frequently was better than those who ate less often. However, frequent meals were associated with better health than frequent snacking, so remember to be smart about your snacking choices. (8)
Resist the urge to snack on processed and junk food because it might suppress your appetite for a while, but the unhealthy side effects are not worth the convenience. Instead, snack on fruit, make a smoothie, or cut up some avocado and spread it on toast. Another easy snack idea is cutting up vegetables like celery, carrots, and other veggies you like and dipping them in hummus, baba ganoush, or other healthy dips.
Manage Your Stress Levels
When you’re stressed your digestive system may slow down because in times of crisis your body gives minimal priority to digestion. (11) At the same time, levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, can rise, which raises your insulin levels and causes a drop in blood sugar levels, making you hungry. Instead of reaching for fruit, you crave fatty and sugary foods because they are comforting and that’s exactly what you need when you’re stressed. Constant stress might make you develop poor eating habits that will make it challenging to lose weight. (3)
Managing your stress is easier said than done, but it’s possible when you find activities or other things you enjoy that make you relax instead of seeking comfort in food. Spend time with your family, create or find a quiet, peaceful place where you can relax, do activities that take your mind off things such as reading or painting, or go for a nature walk if that’s something you enjoy.
Eat Nutrient Dense Foods
Your appetite is regulated by your gut hormones. When you eat, your gut releases hormones that influence your appetite by sending signals to your brain. (5) Foods that have a high-fat and high-calorie content can negatively affect the gut hormones that control satiety. When these hormones don’t function properly, they might not signal that you’re full and, as a result, you will keep eating. (4)
Appetite is also influenced by external factors such as the smell and appearance of food, which make it easy to ignore the signals of your hormones so, similarly to snacking, be mindful of your food choices. Avoid processed and junk food that’s full of empty calories and include whole foods in your diet. Low-calorie foods can make you feel fuller because you can eat a lot without worrying about extra calories and they are high in fiber and water. (5)
Spice Up Your Food
Capsaicin, the active compound in spicy food, has the ability to regulate your metabolism by activating a protein called TRPV1, which is responsible for the regulation of temperature in your body. When capsaicin activates this protein in the gastrointestinal tract, it stimulates brown-fat cells, which produce heat by burning calories. This process increases your metabolic rate. (8) It’s good to keep in mind that although capsaicin has real health benefits, it can have only a small impact on metabolism.
At first, it might be hard to tolerate spicy food, especially if you don’t eat it regularly, so the trick is to add a bit at first and then increase the amount over time. You can add red chili peppers to your salad, wrap, or sandwich. Red pepper flakes are also an easy way to add some spiciness to your food. Just add a few to your chili, your pasta dishes or your homemade or store-bought pasta sauce.
Improve the function of your metabolism today and enjoy the health benefits of a healthy and fast metabolism.
(1) Blahd, W. (2015). Slideshow: 10 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism.
(2) Boschmann, M., Steiniger, J., Hille, U., Tank, J., Adams, F., Sharma, A. M., … & Jordan, J. (2003). Water-Induced Thermogenesis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 88(12), 6015-6019.
(3) Breeze, J. (2016, February 3). Can Stress Cause Weight Gain?
(4) Feinle-Bisset, C. (2014). Modulation of hunger and satiety: hormones and diet. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 17(5):458-64
(5) Howe, S. M., Hand, T. M., & Manore, M. M. (2014). Exercise-Trained Men and Women: Role of Exercise and Diet on Appetite and Energy Intake. Nutrients, 6(11), 4935–4960.
(6) Lemmer, J. T., Ivey, F. M., Ryan, A. S., Martel, G. F., Hurlbut, D. E., Metter, J. E., … & Hurley, B. F. (2001). Effect of strength training on resting metabolic rate and physical activity: age and gender comparisons. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33(4), 532-541.
(7) MacMillan, A. (2015, March 17). Can I Really Speed Up My Metabolism?
(8) McCart, M. F., DiNicolantonio, J. J., & O’Keefe, J. H. (2015). Capsaicin may have important potential for promoting vascular and metabolic health. Open Heart, 2(1), e000262.
(9) Murakami, K. & Livingstone, M. B. (2016). Associations between Meal and Snack Frequency and Diet Quality in US Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2012. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(7), 1101-1113.
(10) Nedeltcheva, A. V. & Scheer, Frank A. J. L. (2014). Metabolic effects of sleep disruption, links to obesity and diabetes. Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity, 21(4), 293–298.
(11) Simon, H. & Zieve, D. (2013, January 30). Stress.