How to Increase Your Metabolism: 10 Science-Backed Ways

Weight loss is a game of inches, literally and figuratively, it’s a measured process of small incremental changes.

Key to this process is your ability to create and maintain a calorie deficit.

This means know your knowing how many calories you burn a day and then eating less than that amount. The bulk of these calories are burnt through the functioning of your body, these processes are referred to as your metabolism.

By boosting your metabolism, you can burn more calories, which will allow you to eat more whilst staying in a calorie deficit, making the whole weight loss process easier and more enjoyable.

None of the methods in this article are huge game changers, in and of themselves they won’t make a big difference, instead it’s the combination of several healthy habits that create small incremental changes.

It’s then these incremental changes that will bring about a substantial change over time.

Remember fitness is a marathon, not a sprint, and this is how you win the race one healthy habit at a time.


What is Metabolism?

Metabolism is an internal process in your body.

It’s all of the chemical reactions that occur to keep you alive and kicking. It also refers to how the food we eat is broken down, transported and used by your body to keep

Through this process of metabolism your body burns calories and uses energy, this is called your metabolic rate and is the number of calories you burn per day to function.

It is affected by a variety of factors including;

  • Age: as you age your metabolic rate naturally slows down (1)

  • Weight: the more you weight the more calories you burn to sustain your mass (2)

  • Muscle: the more muscle you have the more calories you burn (3)

  • Activity Levels: the more exercise you do the more calories your body will burn (4)

Whilst you cannot drastically change the rate of your metabolism, there are a number of things you can do to increase your metabolic rate, burn more calories and feel better.


Metabolism & Fat Loss

Your metabolism or metabolic rate accounts for the majority of calories you burn a day. If your metabolism drops, then so does the number of calories you can eat per day and still lose fat.

As you diet and spend longer in a calorie deficit you burn less calories over time. This process is called adaptive thermogenesis and is the reduction in your metabolic rate beyond what is expected from the change in your body weight and reduction in activity. (5)

It means the longer you eat in a calorie deficit and the bigger the deficit is, the less calories you will burn as your metabolic rate continues to slow down.

This eventually leads to a weight plateau where your progress grinds to a halt.

To help you avoid plateauing this article will look at 10 science-backed ways to increase your metabolism and keep you burning fat.



How Eating Protein Can Increase Your Metabolism

Protein is a staple in any diet, particularly if you’re looking to build or maintain muscle mass when regularly strength training.

It can increase your metabolism through its effect on digestion.

This is a called the thermic effect of food (TeF), which is the number of calories you body uses to digest, absorb and process the food you eat. It accounts for a portion of your daily calorie expenditure.

Research shows this effect is highest after consuming protein, at times increasing your metabolism by 10 – 30%. Whereas carbs only result in an increase of 5 – 10% and fat by 0 – 3%. (6)

Additionally, protein is incredibly satiating which means you feel fuller after eating protein and will eat less in that meal and across the day. (7, 8)

Protein is also muscle sparing which can assist metabolism particularly when losing fat as it helps you retain muscle mass which is more metabolically active than fat. (9, 10)



How HIIT Can Increase Your Metabolism

HIIT or high intensity interval training is an intense form exercise that requires you to perform shorts bursts of all-out work followed by longer periods of active recovery or rest repeated for set period of time or number of sets.

For example, sprinting for 30 secs, jogging or resting for 60 secs and repeating 6 – 8 times.

As for how it can increase your metabolism, this comes to down to some called EPOC or excessive post-exercise energy consumption. EPOC are the calories burnt through the increase in metabolism as a result of exercise and additional oxygen needs of the body once you’ve finished.

Research shows that performing a session of HIIT can trigger EPOC and increase your metabolism for hours after you’ve finished exercising. (11, 12, 13, 14)

Additionally, whilst all forms of exercise create EPOC, there is some research that suggests this effect is greater after HIIT than other forms of exercise. (15, 16, 17)



How Building Muscle Can Increase Your Metabolism

Building muscle not only changes the way you look but it can also help increase your metabolism.

This is because muscle is more metabolically active than fat, requiring more energy to sustain, which results in you burning more calories at rest due to your increased energy needs. (18, 19, 20)

Regularly lifting weights can, not only help you build muscle but also prevent the loss of muscle mass when losing fat and the associated drop in metabolism this would bring. (21, 22)

In short, if you want to look good, feel great and burn more calories at rest then you want to incorporate some form of regular strength training in your exercise plan.



How Sleep Quality & Quantity Can Increase Your Metabolism

Sleep is vital process for proper functioning of the human body.

A lack of sleep increases hunger due to the imbalance in the hormones leptin and ghrelin which work to control appetite.

When you become sleep deprived, even just a little, these hormones are thrown out of balance leading you to feel hunger and less satisfied after meals. (23, 24)

This has knock-on negative effects on your weight and metabolism, driving up hunger and decreasing metabolism. (25, 26)

Sleep can also impact your ability to lose weight and then maintain it, as well as building muscle. Recommendations are to get 7 – 9 hours of quality sleep per night.



How Drinking Coffee Can Increase Your Metabolism

Coffee is fantastic as pre workout energy boost or a kickstart to get you moving in the morning.

Yet as if that wasn’t enough coffee can also increase your metabolism and promote fat burning. (27, 28)

However, the key being your coffee tolerance as these effects diminish greatly the more caffeine adjusted you are. For this reason, you want to minimise your coffee consumption otherwise you’ll lose the benefits. (29)



How Eating Spicy Food Can Increase Your Metabolism

Spicy food can help boost metabolism due to a substance called capsaicin. (30)

However, the effect if you can tolerate the level of spice needed have been shown to only contribute to an extra 10 calories burnt per meal. (31)

Whilst the trade off not seem worth it if you don’t like spicy food, for the spicy food lovers it can be a useful tool when combined with other metabolism foods strategies.



How Drinking Green Tea Can Increase Your Metabolism

There are many benefits of drinking green tea, one of which is its ability to increase your metabolism with studies showing an increase of up to 4%. However, this effect is not seen in everyone and may only be beneficial for some individuals. (32, 33)

In addition, to its effects on metabolism, green tea has also been shown to increase fat oxidation by up to 14%. (34)



How Drinking Cold Water Can Increase Your Metabolism

Drinking water can temporarily increase your metabolism through an effect dubbed ‘water-induced thermogenesis’. (35, 36)

This effect is magnified if it’s cold water that you’re drinking as your body expends energy heating the water with research showing that your metabolism may increase by 5 – 30% for 60 – 90 minutes after drinking.

Studies estimate that this effect could account for up to 100 extra calories burnt per day. (37)

Seeing as hydration is such an important component of health and performance by drinking more water, you’re at best burning more calories and at worst staying fully hydrated.



How NEAT Can Increase Your Metabolism

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or NEAT, is the activity you do which is not related to sleeping, eating or exercising and relates to the type of job you work, how much you move during the day, housework and how fidgety you are. (38)

For example, your strength workout is not NEAT activity but the amount you walk around at work and the type of job you do is NEAT activity.

This type of activity can burn a lot of extra calories a day and goes some way to explaining why some people need to eat 4,000 calories to gain weight and others can gain it eating only 2,500.

By being more active throughout day, whether it’s standing more, walking more, taking the stairs not the escalator or being more fidgety you can increase your metabolism and calorie burn by a large amount.



How Fasting Can Increase Your Metabolism

Fasting, particularly short-term intermittent fasting, can be a fantastic tool for managing calorie intake when losing fat.

Research shows that short-term fasting (36 – 48 hours) can even increase your metabolic rate by 3.6 – 10%. (39, 40)

As for how this might work with shorter 12 – 16 hours fast like those common with daily fasting protocols, the jury is still out, and chances are the effects are minimal or non-existent.

This means unless you’re incorporating prolonged fasts into your diet, your unlikely to see any benefits to your metabolic rate from fasting.

It’s also worth noting that this metabolism boosting effect drops off at some point after the 48 hour mark with research showing that after fasting for 60 hours metabolic rate is reduced by 8%.

This being said, there is evidence that intermittent fasting can help minimise the effects of adaptive thermogenesis when dieting, which is metabolism preserving action. (41, 42)


Takeaway Point

Management of your metabolism is key to successful weight loss over time.

When you diet and eat in a calorie deficit for a prolonged period of time you will suffer from a reduction in metabolism through a process called adaptive thermogenesis.

Over time this change in your metabolic rate will lead to a weight loss plateau, in order to prolong or prevent this you can increase your metabolism in a number of ways.

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