By Sam Davis, BHS, CPT, FNS
Boosting your metabolism is a great way to burn fat quickly and efficiently. It can give you energy to lose the extra weight and the motivation to keep it off. While you do not have control over the genetic factors that affect metabolism, there are a few easy ways you can help your body process calories to burn fat faster and then maintain that fat loss.
It’s easy to blame weight gain on your metabolism (we’ve all been there), but in reality, a slow metabolism is not the actual cause of weight gain. Your metabolism does dictate your body’s energy needs, but how many calories you consume and how much physical activity you engage in determining how much weight you gain, or don’t gain.
Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. This chemical process breaks down the compounds you consume and converts them into energy for your normal bodily functions like breathing, muscle contraction, and hormone regulation, just to name a few.
There are several factors that determine your metabolism. Your body size and body composition play a massive role in how your metabolism works. If you are a taller person, you naturally will burn more calories, even at rest. Body composition also plays a role because the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn. Muscle tissue is more active and burns more calories than fat tissue just by existing on your frame, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn!
Your sex also plays a role to do with how many calories are burned without any exercise or activity. Men tend to have less body fat and more muscle than women of the same age and weight, which helps men burn more calories.
Energy needs for your body’s basic functions, even at rest, stay pretty constant and don’t change easily.
Your body needs water to function properly at all levels—including processing calories. If you are even slightly dehydrated, your metabolism slows down. Multiple studies have shown that participants who drank at least eight glasses of water a day burned more calories than those who consumed slightly less.
Purchasing a large Hydroflask or another refillable water bottle is a perfect way to track your water intake. It’s important you drink at least one glass of water per hour, with every meal, and with every snack to help with hydration. If you are someone who drinks coffee all day long, limiting your intake will help with hydration. Since caffeine is a diuretic, consuming more than 250mg of caffeine (2 eight-ounce cups of coffee) a day can dehydrate you. Limiting your caffeine intake is another way to stay as hydrated as possible and keep your metabolism hot.
There are certain habits you can create when it comes to your nutrition to help you increase your metabolism.
Snacking smart can help you lose weight. If you are someone who eats a couple of large meals a day with hours in between, you are actually slowing down your metabolism. Having small meals or snacks every two to three hours keeps your metabolism moving and your hormones stable, which in turn helps you burn more calories over the course of the day. When you snack, you are less likely to eat massive meals, which also helps with weight management as you are not eating an excessive amount of calories.
Spicing up your meals is another way to help you boost your metabolism. Capsaicin is a chemical compound that occurs in peppers like jalapeno, cayenne, and other spicy chilli peppers. Studies show that it may support fat loss by making you feel fuller and increasing energy expenditure which helps you burn fat. Some people revert to capsaicin supplements, but I would not recommend this. If capsaicin is consumed in excess, and over an extended period of time, it can cause stomach irritation, pain, bloating, and heartburn. Just stick to spicing up your food. There are better options for fat burning supplements that will help you much more without the stomach ulcers!
Upping your protein intake is a huge nutritional area that most people miss when they are trying to lose fat, especially if you’re participating in weight training. Protein is actually a thermic food, which means your body burns calories to digest it. Most proteins are slow digesting, which helps you stay fuller longer so you don’t overeat, and the slow digestion helps your body have a constant source of energy so it is able to keep your blood sugar levels stable (also an important factor in fat loss).
Your basal metabolic rate, or BMR, is the rate at which your body burns calories just to survive. The largest factor in your metabolic rate is your total body mass—specifically muscle mass, as it burns more calories, even at rest. You can control your BMR to some extent by gaining or losing weight, but keep in mind you cannot change your bone structure or height, which are also factors in your BMR.
Studies estimate that for every pound of muscle on your frame, you will burn around six calories per day while at rest, while one pound of fat only burns two calories per day. For example, if you add eight pounds of muscle to your frame, you are burning 48 extra calories a day, 336 extra calories a week, and 1,440 calories per month. This may not sound significant at first, but if your goal is to lose fat, this most definitely adds up over time.
Developing muscle has a compounding effect. The more muscle you have, the stronger you are, the more intense your workouts are, and the more calories you burn during your workouts. Over time, fat loss becomes steady and second nature.
If keeping your metabolism high and burning calories is your number one goal, improving your performance should be at the top of your priority list, along with eating properly and staying within a calorie deficit.