Technically, metabolism encompasses the various processes that contribute to cell energy requirements, structure, and waste removal. Some of these processes are catabolic — meaning they involve the breaking down of compounds — while others are anabolic processes that involve the building of compounds.
For the purposes of this article, we'll concentrate on the catabolic process that is the breaking down of food into glucose, and then further into pyruvate, to provide energy for your cells. In many of the resources you come across, this will be the general definition of metabolism.
From the general definition above, you’ll likely deduce that if you increase metabolism, you will be able to burn off any extra calories and fat that you ingested. But it’s not as straightforward as it seems.
There are several factors that affect your metabolism, and some of them you simply cannot control. Your metabolism varies depending on:
- Activity level
- Muscle mass
While you can control the amount of activity that you engage in, you definitely cannot control your age or genetics. For example, the rate of acetylation is genetically determined. There are ‘slow acetylators’ and ‘rapid acetylators,’ meaning that some people can metabolize certain nutrients and substances quicker than others.
We’re going to focus on the factors that you can control and look at a few effective ways to boost metabolism.
Despite the fact that some elements of your metabolism are out of your hands, there are still many effective ways of increasing metabolism. Many of these methods of boosting metabolism revolve around your activity levels and the food you eat on a regular basis.
Let’s explore how to increase your metabolism.
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Doing intense exercise. When it comes to how to speed up your metabolism, one of the best things you can do is engage in high-intensity workouts that expend more energy. They require your body to metabolize more food in order to provide your muscles with the energy they need. When you mix up your exercises, your body maintains a high metabolism and burns more calories and fat.
Resistance training. Resistance training is a great metabolism booster since it increases your muscle mass. Muscle cells have a higher metabolic rate than fat cells do. Resistance training includes weightlifting, push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups, among other exercises.
Eating at regular intervals. In an effort to lose weight, it’s common to eat a lot and then skip meals. But the reality is that when body detects this, it slows down the metabolism process. A better approach is to eat several small meals at regular intervals throughout the day.
Being well hydrated. Drinking water is important if you want to increase metabolism. The body uses water in the majority of its processes — and the metabolism is no different. When you drink water while resting, your metabolism actually increases. When it comes to how to raise metabolism by drinking water, opt for room temperature water. Drinking before your meals can also help lower your appetite and ensure you don’t overeat. It’s equally as important to remember not to hydrate with sugary drinks. Not only do they provide empty calories, but they can also affect your teeth — a double whammy.
Getting enough sleep. Failing to sleep enough tends to result in your metabolism being thrown off balance and can be a risk factor for obesity. Sleep deprivation can lead to hormonal imbalances — leptin, the hormone that regulates energy balance by inhibiting hunger, goes down while ghrelin, the hormone that increases appetite, goes up. This can result in weight gain.
Another efficient way to increase your metabolism is by making some changes to your nutrition and lifestyle. One key change: cut out sugary foods from your diet and opt for more nutritious alternatives.
The more nutritious metabolism-boosting foods include:
- Protein. It’s important to include a sufficient amount of protein in your diet. Sources include fish, chicken, and lean meats, as well as legumes like beans and peas. Your body requires more energy to fully digest proteins, which causes your metabolic rate to rise in order to meet this demand for energy.
- Green tea. Green tea contains catechins and caffeine, both of which are good for increasing the metabolism of fat in the body. It is no wonder, then, that green tea is part of the diet of many people who are trying to lose weight!
- Chili. Chili peppers contain capsaicin, which is the compound that gives you that burning sensation. When ingested, this compound increases your metabolism and also cuts down the fats.
- Coffee. Coffee contains caffeine, the compound you crave in the morning before you start your day. If you feel an energy boost when you drink a cup, you’re not imagining it. Caffeine increases your metabolism and makes more energy available for your body to use.
- Seaweed. This plant contains plenty of iodine. The thyroid glands, which are located at the front of your neck, use iodine to produce the thyroid hormones. These hormones are responsible for regulating the metabolic rate in your body. Certain types of seaweed (like kelp) contain a lot of iodine, though it’s advisable to consume them in moderation.
So, if you're wondering how to boost your metabolism, try including some of these foods in your diet and increasing your activity level to include more high-intensity exercise sessions.