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Metabolism Boosters and Busters

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Like your thumbprint, your metabolism is uniquely yours. Metabolism is the body’s process of transforming calories from the foods you eat into energy. This complex process is regulated by the nervous system and hormones and is an important component in weight loss as well as maintaining a healthy weight.

While some factors affecting your metabolism are out of your control—such as age, gender and genetics—you can boost your metabolism through practical lifestyle choices.

Factors we cannot control:

  • Age—As we age, our metabolism declines slightly. This may be predominantly due to slowed metabolic rate of certain organs such as the brain, liver, heart and kidneys. These organs account for about 60% of a person’s metabolism and each, with exception of the heart, decrease in mass with age.
  • Gender—Men typically have higher metabolisms in comparison to women since, in terms of age and size, men tend to have greater muscle mass.
  • Genetics—Genes have a large role to play in one’s rate of metabolism.

Lifestyle Choices to Boost Metabolism

  • Physical activity
    Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy you use for everything in daily activities except sleeping, eating and purposeful exercise. It may include standing, walking, typing, doing physical chores, cooking, gardening or even fidgeting. Since exercise enables the body to burn more calories and convert food into energy more quickly, opting to take the stairs or park further away to get a few more steps in are practical ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine.
  • Aerobic exercise and HIIT
    Aerobic exercise effectively burns calories, but high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may increase the calories your body burns after your workout is complete. Mix up your exercise routine by adding in high-intensity intervals or full-body HIIT workouts.
  • Strength training
    Because muscle cells burn calories even while at rest, building more muscle through strength training is a metabolism booster. Even performing strength training for 10-15 minutes three times per week increases your metabolic rate. In addition, strength training maintains lean muscle mass while simultaneously promoting weight loss. This helps minimize metabolic rate decline that naturally occurs with less body mass.
  • Adequate calorie intake
    It is important to note that consuming an appropriate number of calories is necessary in order to achieve and maintain a healthy and stable metabolism. By restricting calorie intake too much for long periods of time, your body can go into “conservation” mode. As the body senses starvation, it slows your metabolism as a protective mechanism. While a calorie deficit is required to lose weight, over-restriction of calories can prove to be counterproductive to your weight loss goals. If you’re aiming to lose weight, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist to assist you in assessing an appropriate calorie range that will be effective for weight loss.
  • Diet quality
    The Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)—defined as the increase in metabolic rate after eating—is estimated to make up about 10% of your daily total energy expenditure. The exact TEF varies from person to person and depends on the size and macronutrient composition of your meals. For example, your metabolic rate is increased by 15-30% from protein intake, 5-10% from carbohydrates and 0-3% from fats. This is why portion control is vital to maintaining a healthy metabolism. Aim to fill ½ of your plate with fruits and vegetables, ¼ of your plate with healthy carbohydrates and ¼ with lean protein. 

    A few additional tips to help you boost your metabolism through your diet include:
    • Proper protein intake can also help slow muscle loss due to aging as well as from intentional weight loss, which in turn helps maintain your metabolism.
    • Processed foods tend to have a lower TEF than whole foods, so whenever possible opt for fresh, unprocessed foods.
    • Preliminary research suggests eating more calories earlier in the day and more frequently throughout the day can also increase your TEF versus eating larger meals later in the day.
  • Caffeine consumption
    Consuming caffeine in moderation from coffee and green tea may increase your metabolism by 3-5%, with its impact being more pronounced in lean individuals. However, other caffeinated beverages such as soda and energy drinks have not been proven to have a positive impact on metabolism due to their high sugar content.
  • Sleep and stress management
    High-quality restorative sleep—preferably 7-9 hours/night—is vital to regulating stress and hunger hormones, which impact metabolism. High levels of stress hormones can negatively trigger your metabolism to slow down and cause fat to be retained in the body. Inadequate sleep can also decrease your metabolism and change the way your body processes sugar.

The Effect of Medication and Supplements on Metabolism
Some medications can affect your metabolism—both negatively and positively. For example, various antidepressant and antipsychotic medications and medications that slow the heart rate, such as beta-blockers, can slow your metabolism. On the other hand, stimulants prescribed for ADD and ADHD, such as Adderall, have been shown to increase metabolism. If you are taking medications, talk with your health care provider about the possible effects they may have on your metabolism.

Certain supplements on the market carry claims of increasing metabolism that leads to weight loss. However, there is a severe lack of scientific evidence to back up these claims. A few examples of these supplements include:

  • Capsaicin
  • L-carnitine
  • Chromium picolinate
  • Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
  • Taurine
  • Ginseng
  • Guarana

Metabolism Buster—Yoyo Dieting
The biggest factor within your control that has a surprisingly large adverse effect on one’s metabolism is participating in fad diets. Yoyo dieting, also known as weight cycling, refers to repeated cycles of intentional weight loss and unintentional regain, which is quite common among people who struggle with weight loss. This cycle of repeated weight loss and gain can result in major muscle loss. For older adults, the regain of weight is more likely to be fat, not muscle. Over time, this can lead to low muscle mass and high fat mass, which is a significant metabolism buster.

Resting Metabolic Rate Testing
With a simple 10-minute breathing test—the resting metabolic rate (RMR) test—Cooper Clinic’s registered dietitian nutritionists can tell you about your metabolism and exactly how many calories you need per day to support your nutrition and weight loss goals. To schedule a resting metabolic rate test, call 972.560.2655 or visit the Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services website.

Article provided by Cynthanne Duryea, RDN, LD, and Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.