Your metabolism reflects the calories it takes to make your body operate daily. It's largely set by genetics but also by how much you move, your body composition and what you eat. A substantial boost in your metabolism happens as a result of your own actions, not from a supplement. Increase your activity level, eat the right foods and lift weights to build muscle, and you'll raise your calorie-burn rate without a pill. No supplement can raise your metabolism by 50 percent -- or any substantial percentage, for that matter.
Your resting metabolic rate makes up about 60 to 75 percent of your total metabolism. This is the amount it takes to perform basic bodily functions, such as breathing, regulating your temperature and pumping blood. Your resting metabolism depends on your genetics, age and gender. For example, men naturally have more lean muscle than women, so they tend to have faster resting metabolisms.
Your activity level affects another 15 to 30 percent of your daily burn. Movements such as washing the dishes, showering, tapping your foot, walking to work or running on the treadmill all factor in to this part of your metabolism. The last 10 percent of your metabolism comes from the thermic effect of food -- the amount of energy it takes you to digest, break down and store food and its nutrients.
Supplement Promises and Concerns
Supplement manufacturers want you to buy their products, so they'll promise that they can greatly increase your metabolism to help you burn calories and lose weight. Many of these supplements contain green tea extract, capsaicin from hot chilies, EPA fish oil, L-carnitine and other compounds and stimulants. No evidence affirms that these supplements promote weight loss, reports the New York Times. Even if they could change your metabolism, it would be by an incremental amount and temporary -- not enough to offset a high-calorie diet.
Supplements also aren't regulated for efficacy by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Some substances marketed to raise your metabolism and help you lose weight, such as ephedra, "Brazilian" diet pills or laxatives, can be downright dangerous. Other supplements don't contain what is claimed on the label. In 2013, Canadian researchers tested 44 popular supplements made by 12 different companies and found that many of them did not contain the ingredients on the label or were extremely diluted in strength.
Raise Your Metabolism Without Pills
Muscle burns more calories at rest than does fat. Amino acid breakdown and protein synthesis -- processes required to maintain muscle mass -- take a lot of energy, so your body must use more calories to support a lean body composition.
Actively do resistance training to build and maintain muscle, especially as you age, or you'll experience a natural decrease in muscle and increase in body fat. Through strength training, you raise the ratio of lean muscle to fat on your body and subsequently increase your metabolism. Every pound of muscle burns about 15 percent more calories than a pound of fat.
Aim for at least two strength-training sessions per week and address all the major muscle groups, including the back, chest, abs, legs, arms and shoulders. Use weights that feel challeging by the last repetition or two in a set of eight to 12. Do at least one set, but add more as you feel more proficient.
Daily Movement to Raise Your Metabolism
Aerobic activity, such as brisk walking or dancing, helps you burn more calories daily and is an automatic boost to your metabolism. Get at least 30 minutes most days of the week, but to increase your metabolism and lose weight, go for 45 or 50 minutes on most days, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
Being more active throughout the day also provides a metabolic boost. You don't have to hit the elliptical trainer multiple times per day -- just get up and walk for five or 10 minutes every hour if you have a sedentary job. Do household chores like washing the car, carrying loads of laundry or scrubbing the floor. Walk to work, if possible, or park far out in the lot to add steps. Fidget while at your desk or on the phone. All of these movements seem small, but the calories add up and increase your metabolism safely and easily.
Eat to Support Your Metabolism
Starvation diets and skipping meals aren't just hard to maintain; they actually stall your metabolism. When your body senses it's getting way too few calories, it naturally slows down activity and uses less energy. Very-low-calorie diets can suppress your resting metabolism by 20 percent, notes researchers at the University of New Mexico. You'll feel sluggish, so it's harder to exercise. You may even find yourself doing fewer calorie-burning daily chores and tasks than usual.
A mild calorie deficit of 250 to 500 calories per day does support weight loss, but make sure you still eat enough to maintain or increase your activity levels and to get enough nutrients to support good health. Consuming fewer than 1,200 calories per day for women and 1,600 for men is not advised. No food will magically increase your metabolism. Stick to meals consisting of moderate servings of vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, lean protein and whole grains, and you can lose weight.
- University of New Mexico: Controversies in Metabolism
- NHS: How Can I Speed Up My Metabolism?
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Metabolism Myths and Facts
- The New York Times: Weight Management
- The New York Times: Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem
- Go Ask Alice: Ideal Caloric Intake
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Position Stand on Physical Activity and Weight Loss