6 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism

By Carolyn Williams, R.D. | February 22, 2019 | Rally Health


Metabolism gets a lot of blame when it comes to weight since an individual’s metabolic rate helps determine how many calories are burned in a day (and therefore how many one can eat). But the term “metabolism” refers to something much bigger than just calorie burning. A person’s metabolic rate is the sum of all the chemical reactions going on that allow the body to live, breathe, move and function — something that’s largely determined by genetics, but also influenced by lifestyle choices and health habits.

Here are six factors that affect metabolism and that you can influence through daily habits. While several are small lifestyle changes, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before changing your diet or starting an exercise program, particularly if you have a chronic condition or haven’t been physically active for a while.

1.) Protein at Meals

Slightly increasing the amount of protein you eat increases metabolic rate thanks to something referred to as the thermic effect of food. These are calories required by the body to digest and use the nutrients in foods eaten. Carbohydrate, protein, and fat each require different amounts, but protein requires the most and burns the highest proportion of calories. In fact, studies suggest that increasing protein intake slightly (while staying within dietary guidelines) can boost metabolism. Another perk? Higher protein diets provide more satiety than lower protein diets, which helps keep hunger at bay.

Try This: Look for ways to replace refined carbs with plant and lean animal proteins such as low-fat dairy, nuts and nut butters, beans and peas, eggs, fish, and chicken and other lean poultry and meats. For snacks, nuts and nut butters, Greek yogurt, a piece of cheese, or hummus are all quick protein options to pair with fruits, vegetables, or whole grain crackers.

2.) Adequate Sleep

Sure, not getting enough sleep puts a damper on energy, but a lack of sleep may also trigger hormonal changes that can decrease your metabolic rate, as well as increase appetite and insulin resistance. “Sleep is one of the most underrated lifestyle habits,” says Atlanta-based Registered Dietitian Marisa Moore, a contributing editor for Food and Nutrition Magazine and U.S. News and World Report. “Getting adequate sleep restores the mind and body and can significantly impact health, from stress reduction to weight management.”

Try This: The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of quality sleep for most adults each night, and Moore encourages people to set up a healthy sleep environment that is dark, cool, and technology-free. “Taking a bath, sipping herbal tea, reading a book, or incorporating foods like tart cherry juice may also help with sleep,” says Moore.

3.) Muscle Maintenance

Adding muscle is one of the few ways to increase metabolic rate long-term, but maintaining muscle mass can also help prevent a decline in metabolism. “As we age, we lose lean muscle mass, and this is why weight loss can be so much harder the older we get,” says Amanda Nighbert RD, who specializes in weight management and bariatrics. A Tufts University study supports this, suggesting that total energy expenditure slows by about 150 calories per decade because of decreased activity and gradual muscle loss.

The good news is that it’s usually never too late to add strength training. In fact, an article in the journal American College of Sports Medicine suggests that metabolic rate increases up to 7 percent after just 10 weeks of beginning a resistance training program.

Try This: “Incorporating strength training into your weekly routine — even body weight exercises without weights, like push-ups or squats — will increase lean muscle mass and in return increase metabolism,” says Nighbert. Strength or resistance-based exercises that include all major muscle groups are typically recommended at least twice a week, but training specifics will vary based on your ability and fitness level. While using a personal trainer or exercise physiologist isn’t financially feasible for many on an ongoing basis, hiring one to create a personalized plan and to walk though proper moves and form to get you started on the right foot may be a worthwhile investment. You can also check out these tips from Harvard Medical School for designing an effective program.

4.) Stress Relief

Stress doesn’t just affect mental health; it also affects metabolism. A 2014 study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry found that women who reported one or more stressful events in a 24-hour period burned approximately 100 fewer calories after eating a high fat meal compared with those women who reported no stressful events. Researchers note that the greater numbers of stressors were associated with lower resting energy expenditure after meals.

Try This: Many people enjoy yoga, meditation, or tai chi classes, but you don’t have to commit to a class to reap the benefits of stress reduction. Incorporating a few short five-to-10-minute relaxation exercises or breaks during the day may also help to reduce stress by focusing on relaxation and mindfulness. Ideas include journaling, stretching, going for a quick walk, doing a puzzle like a crossword or sudoku, or meditating.

5.) Intense (but Shorter) Workouts

Burning calories doesn’t have to mean hours of exercise. According to Nighbert, long hours at the gym might not be as efficient for burning calories. Research suggests that increasing the intensity of workouts versus duration may be more effective in terms of calorie-burning. She suggests the shorter, more intense workouts known as HITT, or high-intensity interval training, for optimal calorie burning. Research suggests that HIIT workouts increase energy expenditure in the hours following a workout more than other workouts.

Try This: HIIT workouts are a repetitive process where you go all out though a quick, intense exercise and then follow that with a short active recovery. This means most activities can be adapted by stepping up intensity in quick bursts, and may allow you to get more out of every minute of exercise. For HIIT workout ideas and adaptations for all fitness levels, check out videos and resources on the American Council on Exercise website. Remember, however, that guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. So while HIIT may increase the bang for your buck, it’s a good idea to combine HIIT workouts with some other physical activities, like walking to work.

6.) Focus on Whole Grain and Less-Refined Plant Foods. They appear to burn more calories than their refined counterparts. A 2017 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that individuals who consumed whole grains regularly over refined increased their calorie burn rate by 92 calories. These findings support a similar 2010 study where individuals who ate a cheese sandwich made with whole-grain bread burned 50 percent more calories immediately following the meal compared with those who ate a cheese sandwich of equivalent calories made with refined bread.

Try This: Opt for whole or minimally processed foods over processed and refined products to boost your metabolism on a daily basis. Similar to protein, these foods require more work to digest so they burn more calories.

Copyright © 2019 Rally Health, Inc. All rights reserved.


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