When most of us think about metabolism, we associate it to weight — if you’re looking to boost your metabolism, it’s often with the goal of weight loss in mind. While it’s true that metabolism is a factor that influences weight loss or gain, that’s hardly its only function.
Put simply, your metabolism is the chemical processes that occur in your body to convert the food that you consume into energy, which you can use to breathe, move, think, perform physical activities and function, in general. When we reference energy in relation to metabolism, it’s not the energy most of us think of — i.e., what gives us the oomph to carry out a workout or get up off the couch when we’re feeling particularly fatigued.
Rather, it is the energy within our cells that is used to power the chemical reactions needed to maintain the function of our cells and bodies, explains Anna Barbieri, M.D., OB-GYN, integrative medicine doctor, founding physician of Elektra Health and co-founder of TaraMD.
Considering metabolism plays a role in weight loss, it’s only natural to wonder whether it’s possible to boost your metabolism to speed up the process. While more research is needed to determine how much effect this will have on losing weight, there is some science-backed data to support the fact that it is possible to boost your metabolism — and lose weight as a result.
Here’s a close look at some of the best ways to boost your metabolism, according to science.
1. Start lifting weights.
If exercise is already part of your regimen, that’s great, but you may need to rethink your workouts if all you’re doing is cardio. In fact, one of the best ways to boost your metabolism is by building more lean muscle, according to Tom Holland, exercise physiologist, certified sports nutritionist and fitness expert. He recommends engaging in two or three full-body resistance-training workouts per week. “You can use your bodyweight, free weights, machines and/or resistance bands to build additional muscle mass,” he adds.
2. Make sure you’re eating enough protein.
Protein is a macronutrient that is involved in myriad different bodily processes, including repairing and building bodily tissues, growing your hair and nails, maintaining fluid balances and more, Barbieri notes. In order to break down and digest protein, our body uses significantly more energy than it does when it digests the two other macronutrients — fats and carbohydrates.
One component of your metabolism is TEF, or the thermic effect of food, which is the amount of energy it takes to digest, absorb and store the food you consume, Holland explains. In fact, one study, published in Nutrition & Metabolism, found that TEF was able to increase metabolic rate by as much as 30 percent. Another perk of consuming protein is that research shows it helps you feel full and stay full longer, which can cut down on the amount of calories you consume throughout the day, potentially aiding in weight loss.
3. Incorporate HIIT training.
HIIT training, or high-intensity interval training, has become popular in recent years. It essentially involves working out in a way that you oscillate between low- and high-intensity movements or activities. The theory, which has been supported by research, is that these short bursts of intensity coupled with moments of recovery help you burn more fat and boost your metabolism. “After a HIIT workout, you continue to consume oxygen at a higher rate, which can help you burn calories while your body has already started the process of repairing from the stress of the workout,” explains Marvin Nixon, MS, NBC-HWC, CPT, certified nutrition consultant and ACE-certified personal trainer.
4. Drink green tea.
Green tea has long been hailed for its slew of health benefits, including a reduced risk in diseases, including cancer, enhanced brain function and weight loss. As it turns out, drinking green tea may help boost your metabolism by as much as 5 percent, per research published in the International Journal of Obesity. “Green-tea leaves are rich in caffeine, which has been discussed in the past as being associated with a way to speed up the metabolism,” explains Allen Conrad, DC, CSCS, owner of Montgomery County Chiropractic Center in North Wales, Pennsylvania.