Are you putting the hours in at the gym but not seeing any changes in the mirror? Or maybe you’ve been restricting your diet for weeks without seeing any difference in the scales. If that sounds familiar, then boosting your metabolism may be the key to getting the results you’re after.
What we eat and drink, our lifestyle habits and our activity levels all have an impact on our metabolic rate. Keep reading to find out how simple changes to each of these areas can help you kick-start a sluggish metabolism.
Simply put, the term metabolism refers to all of the chemical activities that occur in your body. Your metabolic rate, on the other hand, is the rate at which your body burns food or fat to create energy. And your resting metabolic rate is the amount of calories your body burns just to keep you alive through essential functions such as keeping your heart beating (1). The higher your metabolic rate — resting or otherwise — the greater the number of calories you burn up, and by extension, the more body fat you can burn off. While genetics, gender and age have some effect on your natural metabolic rate, the good news is you can rev up your metabolism yourself with a few lifestyle changes. Here’s how.
When you’re dehydrated, your cells aren’t performing at their best and your system becomes sluggish — including your metabolism. Aim to drink around 8 glasses or 2-3 litres of water a day to keep your body running at its peak. Not only will this help to restore your natural metabolic rate, but it may also actually boost it too (2).
When you eat, your body burns up calories just by breaking down, absorbing and digesting what you put in your mouth. This is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). Different foods produce different thermic effects, and protein has a higher TEF than carbohydrates or fat. That means that your body burns more calories when eating high-protein foods like chicken, eggs and beef than it does when you gorge on high-carb meals. Plus, protein is the best way to make sure your body has what it needs to build muscle, and muscle burns more calories at rest than body fat (3).
If you’re regularly exercising and still see no results, then try changing up your workout by incorporating some high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT involves alternating extreme bursts of exertion — such as sprints or squats — with periods of gentle exercises. This technique not only helps to burn a large number of calories in a shorter time, but it’s also been proven to boost metabolism even after you finish working out. That’s because when you exert yourself through high-intensity bursts of exercise, your body uses up its oxygen stores, and it then has to work to replace them later on (4).
Spices such as chilli, cinnamon, black pepper and ginger can also boost your metabolic rate, if only temporarily. Capsaicin — a compound found in chillis and capsicums — is particularly effective at revving up your metabolism and helping you burn off some of the calories from that curry (5).
Studies have shown that the caffeine in coffee can increase your resting metabolic rate, and consequently, the amount of energy your body uses up even when you’re doing nothing at all. Don’t fancy a flat white? Try green tea instead. Research suggests that, in addition to caffeine, the catechins in green tea may help increase energy expenditure, raise your metabolic rate and burn fat (6).