April 5, 2021
Have you ever wondered about your metabolism? Is it fast? Slow? Or just normal? Is it all about genetics, or is lifestyle a factor too? Can you change it?
“Metabolism” refers to all of the processes happening in your body at a cellular level. The ones that turn food into energy you need to breathe and think. For your heart to pump and your muscles to work. A higher metabolism, or metabolic rate, means your body burns more calories at rest. Even though the overall idea is simple, everything that goes into metabolism is pretty complicated!
Things like genetics, age, and body composition all factor into your metabolism. Even though your resting energy needs stay pretty consistent, there are some things you can do to temporarily “boost” your metabolism and burn more calories. For example, exercise. But did you know that certain foods can boost your metabolism too?!
Let’s see which ones!
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What Does It Mean To “Boost Metabolism?”
Basically, it just means that your metabolic rate (how fast your body burns calories while you rest) increases for a short amount of time. It’s normal for this to happen when you digest and absorb food, but some foods increase metabolic rate more than others.
And like I said, this effect is temporary. Like, a couple of hours. BUT every small increase adds up, right? And even if you’re not counting calories or trying to change your weight, this stuff is just super interesting! I’ll never get tired of learning how our bodies work.
Coffee and Tea
The key player here is caffeine, so decaf doesn’t apply here.
Caffeine is a stimulant. And it does more than just wake you up (or make you super jittery). It can actually increase your metabolic rate! The amount is pretty small though. A few studies found that drinking THREE cups of coffee a day increased metabolism by about 100 calories. That’s a lot of caffeine though. If you’re a one-cup-a-day kind of person, the metabolism boost is going to be less, but still effective.
Caffeine has other perks too, like potentially helping you use fat for energy and boosting your workout performance (that’s why a lot of pre-workouts contain caffeine!).
Even though tea is much lower in caffeine than coffee, it contains catechins that may boost your metabolism and help burn fat even more than caffeine alone.
This one’s pretty simple. High-protein foods just require more energy to digest than others! While your body digests these foods, your metabolic rate can actually increase up to 30 percent. Which is A LOT compared to the 10 percent increase from carbs and less than 5 percent increase from fat.
Protein also helps your body grow and preserve muscle mass, which can help your metabolism stay steady (and not drop) if you lose weight.
Spicy food doesn’t just fire up your taste buds. It fires up your metabolism too! Chili peppers contain a chemical called capsaicin, which is responsible for your mouth feeling like it’s on fire when you eat spicy food. But capsaicin can increase your calorie burn too, by firing up your metabolism. The amount is pretty small though, like 50 calories per day.
But if you LOOOVE spicy food like I do, who knows! Maybe it could add up.
I’ve also seen some capsaicin supplements for weight loss, but there’s not much research to support that they actually work.
Legumes include foods like:
They are protein-rich, and we already know that means your body burns more calories during digestion. But legumes also contain fiber that feeds “good” bacteria in the gut. Those “good” bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids, which can help your body use stored fat for energy!
Legumes also contain certain amino acids that some studies link to a slightly higher calorie burn during digestion.
Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium out there. And that’s important because selenium keeps your thyroid gland healthy. And THAT is important because your thyroid regulates your metabolism.
Don’t go crazy eating brazil nuts though! Eating too many can actually lead to selenium toxicity. Stick to 1 – 3 nuts per day.
Even though I don’t like chocolate, I thought this one was super interesting! Some studies show that eating cacao can stimulate using fat for energy. One study also found that cacao has a preventative effect on carb and fat breakdown, meaning it keeps some calories from being absorbed.
The downside? We need more research on humans (instead of mice) to draw a more solid conclusion on how this works.
Still worth a shot if you love chocolate! Keep in mind that raw cacao is probably more effective since it’s minimally processed.
I love coconut oil! I always knew it was a healthy alternative fat source for butter, but I didn’t really know it was a food to boost metabolism!
It all comes down to the type of fat you get. Coconut oil is special because it contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Most other types of fat contain longer chains. MCTs make a beeline for your liver as soon as they’re absorbed, where they’re used for energy. So basically, MCTs are less likely to be stored as fat.
A handful of studies also show that MCTs increase your metabolic rate more than longer-chain fats you get from sources like oils, fish, nuts, and avocado.
You know I’m going to jump on any opportunity to remind you to stay hydrated! Water just does soooo many good things for us, including our metabolism! The temporary boost comes from thermogenesis.
Basically, when you drink COLD water, your body uses energy to heat the water you drink up to body temperature. One small study found that this can increase metabolism up to 30%, but only for a short period of time.
Staying hydrated also helps all of your body’s systems run more efficiently. This includes the process that burns body fat!
So even though we’re talking about foods to boost metabolism, you need to drink up, too!
It’s cool to see how it’s possible for certain foods to boost metabolism! But as always, everyone is different and there’s no magic food that will burn tons of calories or melt fat. The best ways to support your metabolism are eating a variety of healthy foods and staying active!
Did any of these foods that boost metabolism surprise you?! Let’s discuss in the comments!