A faster metabolism is sometimes pitched as the key to weight loss. If only you could speed up the rate at which you naturally burn calories, you could better manage your weight. Many old-fashioned remedies for speeding up your metabolism exist -- from drinking ice-cold water to eating spicy food. But, the boost you get from such actions is minor and unlikely to make a significant difference in how many calories you burn. The most effective way to speed up your metabolism at home is to move more and build muscle mass.
Your metabolism is a complex process by which food is converted into energy to fuel your body. That energy is in the form of calories, and you need a certain number of calories each day. About 60 to 75 percent of your calorie needs come from your resting metabolic rate, or RMR, which is what you need to simply exist -- to circulate blood, maintain organ function and inhale oxygen. Another 15 to 30 percent you use for activity, including washing your hair, cleaning the kitchen floor and running on a treadmill. The final 10 percent of the calories you burn are used to help you digest food. Known as the thermic effect of food, or TEF, this also includes the absorption, transport and storage of nutrients.
Add Muscle Mass With Weight Training
You can affect all three components of your metabolism, RMR, activity and the TEF, but some more significantly than others. For example, you can change your RMR by adding muscle mass, which is far more metabolically active than fat tissue. If you add 4.5 pounds of muscle, you can increase your daily metabolic rate by about 50 calories per day. This may not seem like a big caloric increase, but it can make a difference in terms of weight management. Burning an extra 50 calories a day will help you shed a pound in 10 weeks, simply from having that additional muscle tissue in your body.
Add muscle by weight training at the gym. Include at least one exercise that addresses every major muscle group and do one set of eight to 12 repetitions is sufficient. For greater gains, add another set or two and increase weight when 12 repetitions feels doable.
Move More to Speed Up Metabolism
One of the easiest ways to increase metabolism is by increasing physical activity. A sedentary person's metabolism is slower than a more active person's because the less active person uses fewer calories for movement. Formal exercise helps you burn calories, but you can also raise your metabolism with small efforts throughout the day. Known as NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, all the minor movements you do -- from tapping your foot to taking the stairs to pacing while on the phone -- raise your metabolism.
Consciously raise your activity level to boost your metabolism. Start a step challenge with friends, park farther out the lot or add 10 minutes to your current exercise routine. At home, you can do a few extra household chores, too: wash the car by hand, hang laundry out to dry and walk the dog twice.
Effectiveness of Food and Beverage Home Remedies
The thermic effect of food makes up a small portion of your metabolism. If you eat more protein, you may burn more energy during digestion. That's because your body uses more calories to digest protein compared to carbs and fat, points out a 2009 paper in the Annual Review of Nutrition. Getting enough protein -- around 0.6 grams per pound of body weight -- may help you feel fuller and help you retain more muscle mass when you're following a low-calorie diet, according to a study published in a 2015 issue of Clinical Nutrition.
Many home remedies involve using other foods and drinks to boost your metabolism. Some diets recommend you drink green tea regularly to raise your metabolism, but its effects are slight and often nullified by a high caffeine intake and ethnicity. Caucasians may experience fewer weight loss benefits compared to Asians, according to a review published in a 2009 issue of the Journal of Obesity.
A glass of ice-cold water is also recommended as a way to boost your metabolism, but the effects are minor and short-lived. A 2006 Journal of Endocrinology and Medicine showed that the cold water only increased metabolism by 4.5 percent for an hour, which is equal to a total of approximately 2 to 3 extra calories
Spicy foods seasoned with ginger, black pepper and capsaicin from hot peppers may have an effect on thermogenesis, or calorie burning, notes a paper published in Physiology and Behavior in 2006. The increases are small, however and not enough make a significant impact on weight loss. Exercise and muscle gain provide a more significant metabolic boost that can make a difference in your weight.
Eat Enough Calories to Fuel Your Metabolism
Eating an adequate number of calories also keeps your metabolism humming. When you eat fewer than 1,200 calories per day, your metabolic rate naturally slows down by as much as 20 percent, whether you're conscious of it or not. You use fewer calories to do the same work than you would if you were adequately fueled. Your body also dips into muscle stores for fuel, rather than fat, further reducing your metabolic rate. Exercise becomes a chore, and you may become too tired to put forth quality efforts.
A 500- to 1,000-calorie deficit created by eating less and moving more daily is enough to create a loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week. Gradual weight loss keeps your metabolism burning and helps you sustain a healthy weight for the long term.
- University of New Mexico: Controversies in Metabolism
- McKinley Health Center: Breaking Down Your Metabolism
- Experience Life: Protein Power
- Clinical Nutrition: Exploration of the Protein Requirement During Weight Loss in Obese Older Adults
- Annual Review of Nutrition: Dietary Protein, Weight Loss, and Weight Maintenance
- International Journal of Obesity: The Effects of Green Tea on Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance: A Meta-Analysis
- National Public Radio: Will Drinking Green Tea Boost Your Metabolism? Not So Fast
- Physiology and Behavior: Metabolic Effects of Spices, Teas, and Caffeine
- The New York Times: The Claim: Spicy Foods Increase Metabolism
- Journal of Endocrinology and Medicine: Water-Induced Thermogenesis Reconsidered: The Effects of Osmolality and Water Temperature on Energy Expenditure After Drinking