Can you really increase your metabolism?

April 13, 2020 in Leslie's Featured Content

Can you really increase your metabolism?

The claims are enticing. Metabolism-boosting foods that speed up weight loss. 10 easy ways to rev up your metabolism. And on it goes.

Unfortunately, eating a certain food or taking a supplement is not a magic bullet for weight loss. Turns out, there is no “easy” way to ramp up your metabolism.

There are a few important things you can do, though, to support a healthy metabolism while losing weight.

Metabolism versus metabolic rate

When it comes to losing weight, the term metabolism is often misunderstood. Here’s what you need to know about how your metabolism works – and what can and can’t influence it.

Metabolism refers to all of the biochemical processes that convert food into energy the body needs to stay alive.

It includes the series of chemical reactions that build new tissues, store energy and maintain body tissues.  For instance, your body uses amino acids from protein in foods to build muscle, enzymes and hormones.

Metabolism also includes processes that break down body tissues into usable energy. When you go for a long run or bike ride, for example, your muscles break down their stored glycogen (carbohydrate) into glucose that’s then used to fuel muscle cells.

Resting metabolic rate is a measure of how many calories your body burns while doing nothing. It’s the number of calories needed to maintain internal functions such as circulating blood, breathing and repairing cells.

Your resting metabolism accounts for the majority of calories your body expends each day (60 to 80 per cent). The remainder of your total daily energy expenditure comes from physical activity (10 to 30 per cent) and digesting food (10 per cent).

Age, genetics, body size and body composition cause variation in resting metabolic rate between individuals. The amount of muscle you have is the biggest contributor to your resting metabolism.

Can foods, supplements speed metabolism?

There’s plenty of hype around metabolism-boosting foods and supplements. While some may do so a little, the magnitude of the effect is slight and lasts only as long as you take the product.

Studies have found that capsaicin, the ingredient in chili peppers that gives them heat, influences metabolic rate. But you’d have to wait awhile to see results.

A 2012 review of studies concluded that capsaicin increased calorie-burning by 50 calories per day, an amount that would take one to two years to result in noticeable weight loss. Plus, most studies have used research grade capsaicin, not natural food sources.

Green tea contains an antioxidant called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which lab studies suggest increases calorie- and fat-burning. Yet evidence that drinking green tea or taking green tea extract promotes weight loss is conflicting.

Studies that did show benefit used products containing a specific concentration of EGCG combined with caffeine. Even then, average weight loss after 12 weeks was only one to two pounds greater than the control group.

CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is another supplement promoted for burning fat. While research suggests that CLA may have a modest effect on reducing body fat in overweight people, there’s inconsistent evidence whether it causes weight loss.

Bottom line

There are a few important things you can do, though, to support a healthy metabolism while losing weight.

Avoid very low-calorie diets

Drastically cutting calories to 1000 or fewer per day can cause your resting metabolic rate to slow down.

When your body thinks there’s a shortage of food, it responds by conserving energy. Plus, you’ll lose muscle which also slows your resting metabolism. 

In general, a safe daily calorie intake for weight loss is 1400 to 1600 calories for women and 1900 to 2100 for men. Factors such as age, current weight, activity level and health considerations will influence how many calories are right for you.

Add resistance training

Include strength training in your weight loss program (e.g., free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, whole body exercises). Many studies have demonstrated the ability of resistance exercise to prevent the muscle loss that typically occurs with dieting.

Eat enough protein

Consuming adequate protein can enhance the muscle-sparing effects of resistance training.  To maintain muscle, consume at least 1.2 g protein per kg body weight each day from foods such as lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, yogurt, milk, soy or pea beverages, tofu, beans, lentils and nuts.

Get enough sleep

Get seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Research suggests that chronic sleep loss can upset hormones that regulate calorie-burning in the body.


All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.