Weight Loss

Is It Possible To Boost Your Metabolism?

There’s no easy way to lose weight.

I promise if there was a magic wand, or pill I could give to patients to help them magically lose weight, I would. In truth, the only real way to lose weight, and keep it off, is through physical activity and diet. Take in fewer calories than you burn, and you lose weight. Be cautious about believing ads that promise unbelievable results or suggest dietary supplements to burn calories or lose weight. Products that claim to speed up your metabolism are often more hype than help, and can be harmful. According to the FDA, dietary supplement manufacturers aren’t required to prove that their products are safe or effective, so view these products with caution and skepticism. Always let your healthcare provider know about any supplements you take.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends cutting calories by 500-700 calories a day to lose 1 to 1.5 pounds a week. If you can add some physical activity to your day, you’ll accomplish your weight-loss goals even faster.

We’re learning more and more about the mechanics that impact appetite, food selection, and how your body burns food. We’ve discussed many in past posts, including last week’s post on metabolism. As much as we want to know how to boost our metabolism and increase weight loss, many methods are unlikely to give long-term results. Since there’s a lot of information available, I wanted to reveal the truth behind the more popular methods thought to boost metabolism:

  • Keep hydrated: very hot or very cold beverage may help raise metabolism, but the impact lasts only about 30 to 40 minutes after drinking it. Being well hydrated is essential for maintaining a healthy weight. Studies have shown that drinking 17 ounces of water increases resting metabolism by 10–30% for about an hour. This calorie-burning effect may be even greater if you drink cold water, as your body uses energy to heat it up to body temperature. Studies also show that drinking water a half-hour before you eat can help you eat less. One study of overweight adults found that those who drank half a liter of water before their meals lost 44% more weight than those who didn’t.
  • Eat spicy foods: Research has tied spicy foods, like the capsaicin in hot peppers, to an increased metabolic rate. There is a link to such foods helping to mobilize fat cells for energy use. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to have a significant impact- those who took a daily capsaicin supplement for 12 weeks lost less than a pound. 
  • Increase proteins in your diet: Eating food can increase your metabolism for a few hours.This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF). It’s caused by the extra calories required to digest, absorb and process the nutrients in your meal. Proteins cause the largest rise in TEF. It increases your metabolic rate by 15–30%, compared to 5–10% for carbs and 0–3% for fats. Eating protein has also been shown to help you feel more full and prevent you from overeating. One small study found that people were likely to eat around 441 fewer calories per day when protein made up 30% of their diet. Eating more protein  can also reduce the drop in metabolism often associated with losing fat. This is because it reduces muscle loss, which is a common side effect of dieting.
  • Drink Green Tea or Oolong TeaAlthough some studies debate their efficacy, these drinks may increase metabolism by 4–5%. The teas may also help convert some of the fat stored in your body into free fatty acids, which may increase fat burning by 10–17%.
  • Sleep: Lack of sleep is linked to a major increase in the risk of obesity.
  • Drink coffee: Studies have shown that the caffeine in coffee can boost metabolism by 3–11%. Like green tea, it also promotes fat burning. However, this seems to affect lean people more. In one study, coffee increased fat burning by 29% for lean women, but only 10% for obese women. 
  • Replace cooking fats with coconut oilUnlike other saturated fats, coconut oil is relatively high in medium-chain fats. Medium-chain fats can increase your metabolism more than the long-chain fats found in foods like butter. In one study, researchers found that medium-chain fats increased metabolism by 12% compared to long-chain fats, which raised it by just 4%.
  • Eat more often: Eating more frequently can help you lose weight. When you eat large meals, your metabolism slows down between meals. Having a small meal or snack every 2-3 hours keep your metabolism cranking, so you burn more calories over the course of a day. Several studies have also shown that people who snack regularly eat less at mealtime.
  • Avoid crash dieting: Diets that require eating fewer than 1,200 calories (if you’re a woman) or 1,800 calories (if you’re a man) a day don’t actually help boost metabolism. These diets may help people drop pounds initially, but it often comes at the expense of good nutrition. The weight loss resulting from this type of diet is often muscle mass. Losing muscle directly leads to a slower metabolism. The final result is your body burns fewer calories and gains weight faster than before the diet. 

Whether these tips help boost metabolism or not, the bottom line is- they can’t hurt. Add a healthy diet and increased activity and you’ll be well on your way.

    –Dr. Courtney

  1. Anthanont P, et al. Does basal metabolic rate predict weight gain? The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016;104:959
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Losing weight.” https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/index.html
  3. Food and Drug Administration: “Beware of products promoting miracle weight loss.” https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm246742.htm
  4.  MayoClinic.org 

Main image courtesy of: oregonsportsnews.com

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