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Top 6 Natural Metabolism Boosters

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Metabolism boosters - Dr. Axe

There are plenty of metabolism booster supplements out there, but do any of these purported metabolism boosters actually work?

When most people think of what it means to have a “high metabolism,” they picture someone who’s “luckily” naturally thin. We assume these people can maintain a healthy body weight mostly due to their genetics, despite whether they try to eat a balanced diet and exercise or not.

However, studies have shown that people who identify themselves as having a fast metabolism don’t actually differ that much in terms of calorie expenditure compared to others who assume they genetically are at a metabolic disadvantage.

Another interesting finding: Contrary to popular belief, you actually maintain a mostly steady metabolism from your 20s to about your 60s. Your metabolism then naturally slows once you reach older age.

However, it can be hard to eat well and be active enough throughout your life, which means you probably need to proactively add certain habits into your daily routine to keep yourself feeling and acting young.

So do any”metabolism boosters” actually work? Truth is, it’s difficult to actually speed up your metabolism.

Still, there’s plenty you can do to prevent weight gain and maintain a body composition that you’re happy with. Let’s find out below how to do just this.

How Your Metabolism Works

What does “metabolism” really even mean? Metabolism is the “series of reactions that occur within cells of living organisms to sustain life.”

It’s essentially the complex series of processes within the body that turn calories we consume into usable energy. Technically, metabolism is all of the chemical reactions that take place in a living organism every day to keep it alive.

Calories (also called kilojoules) are really a measure of energy, and our bodies depend on getting enough of them to keep us functioning in all aspects of life.

While a properly working metabolism is definitely important for burning fat and preventing unwanted weight gain, boosting your metabolism is also critical for many other bodily functions.

Every single system within the body, from the endocrine system to digestive system, is linked to our rate of energy production at the cellular level.

A strong metabolism is tied to more than a svelte body — it’s beneficial for:

  • immune function
  • lower rates of infectious and degenerative diseases
  • fertility and a healthy sex drive
  • lean muscle mass
  • having more energy and vigor
  • brain functionality
  • longevity
  • and much more

Your brain is actually one of the biggest beneficiaries of a strong metabolic rate, since its energy demands are extremely high. Approximately 16 times more energy is needed to keep the brain working than to support skeletal muscle!

What Determines Your Metabolism?

Your metabolism is affected by several factors, including:

  • Your genetic makeup
  • Body composition (percent of muscle mass and fat)
  • Gender
  • Hormonal health
  • Level of activity
  • Age

Some of these factors are within your control (like muscle mass and activity level, for example), while others are not (genetics and age).

Signs You’re Suffering From a Sluggish Metabolism

How do you know if you’re in need of a metabolism boost? Here are common signs you’re suffering from less-than-ideal metabolic functioning and could benefit from a metabolism booster:

  • ongoing fatigue
  • cold body temperature, frequently feeling cold
  • thinning hair on your head
  • cracked, dry skin
  • low libido and poor sexual health
  • irregular periods
  • slow-growing, brittle fingernails
  • trouble sleeping through the night
  • constipation and slow-moving bowels
  • bloating after eating
  • mood disorders like anxiety and depression
  • frequently urinating
  • struggling to lose weight
  • excessive thirst and dry mouth
  • trouble concentrating or brain fog
  • allergies and hypersensitivities
  • low energy levels
  • low motivation for physical activity
  • getting sick more often
Signs you need metabolism boosters - Dr. Axe

Top 6 Natural Metabolism Boosters

Ready to learn the best ways to boost your metabolism and burn fat? Here are some of the top metabolism boosters to try.

1. Stop Dieting! Give Your Body the Calories It Needs

If you’ve ever been on a diet in the past (and who hasn’t?), you probably noticed yourself becoming moody, tired and possibly even sick more frequently. These are signs of your metabolism becoming more sluggish — in other words a decrease in your basal metabolic rate.

On the other hand, keep your body properly fueled and it will perform much better in all areas of life for many years to come. This is a long-term solution instead of a quick fix.

If you live in a calorie deficit because your exercise level is too high and your food intake is too low, your metabolism gets the message that it must slow down all functioning to conserve energy. You can wind up entering a catabolic state known as “starvation mode” that causes hormonal and cellular changes that drive up your hunger and thirst, while slowing down your ability to burn fat and grow muscle.

Which metabolism booster is good for weight loss then? I recommend you stop counting calories and instead focus on nutrient density.

Eating enough every day, especially when you consume calories from a variety of unprocessed whole foods, is critical for metabolic health. It also supports cognitive, hormonal, sexual and digestive health.

People who are well-fed and avoid yo-yo dieting often experience better digestion, positive moods and more motivation, stronger desire to be active, better mental health, stronger sex drive, and more stable blood sugar levels. Eating enough also usually means you have more motivation to be active, gain strength and muscle mass quicker, and feel less fatigued.

2. Get Plenty of Sleep and Rest

There’s a proven link between a properly functioning metabolism and getting adequate sleep and rest. This is why sleep deprivation can contribute to trouble with weight loss.

“Running on fumes” can seriously slow down your metabolism since the body works to conserve energy when it’s fatigued. Therefore if you’re wiped out, you won’t burn calories like you would if you were well-rested.

According to the one meta-analysis, sleep restriction decreases insulin sensitivity and causes changes in brain activity in response to food stimuli, meaning food (especially unhealthy types) becomes more rewarding.

Make it a priority to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night in order to keep hormone levels in check, including cortisol. High cortisol levels associated with a lack of sleep are tied to poor mental functioning, weight gain and becoming more resistant to insulin that controls blood glucose levels.

Another way to maintain hormonal balance is to rest enough between exercise days. Overtraining repeatedly causes fatigue, muscle loss and a lower basal metabolic rate, not the opposite as you might think.

Exercise impacts your hormonal status, and intense workouts without rest elevate cortisol levels. This winds up impairing insulin sensitivity, stalling the body’s ability to recover from workouts and damaging the processes that repair and build healthy muscle tissue.

3. Try High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Exercise of any kind is important for keeping metabolic function working into older age. Some studies have found that while metabolism usually declines as someone gets older, this isn’t necessarily the case if you stay active and maintain muscle mass.

A study published in the American Journal of Physiology showed that there wasn’t a significant difference in resting metabolic rate between groups of young and older physically active men who were matched for exercise volume and estimated energy intake. Therefore, a decline in metabolism seems to be related most to age-associated reductions in exercise volume and calorie consumption than aging itself.

What is a good metabolism booster when it comes to exercise? High-intensity interval training (HIIT), a form of exercise that features intervals that vary between all-out effort and short periods of rest, is known to especially jump-start metabolic functioning better than steady-state workouts can.

Quick bursts of intense exercises — such as sprinting, cycling, or burst training and plyometrics — help the body continue to burn calories even after your workout is over, a concept known at the “afterburn effect.”

One of the best things about HIIT workouts is that they require less time than traditional cardio workouts, yet they have more profound benefits. Several studies have investigated the effects of calorie expenditure and fat loss in adults practicing HIIT workouts and have found that while HIIT typically burns fewer calories during the actual workout when compared to steady-state cardio exercise, HIIT can result in more fat loss due to its overall effects on one’s metabolism.

This phenomenon is due to the way the body uses higher levels of oxygen to recover following intense physical activity. HIIT burns more fat over the duration of the day, builds more muscle and improves metabolic function compared to steadier exercises.

It can also generally improve cardiometabolic functions and even hormonal balance, such as in women with PCOS.

6 natural metabolism boosters - Dr. Axe

4. Start Lifting Weights

Strength training — whether lifting weights or using your own body weight — can support your resting metabolic rate because it builds lean muscle mass, which naturally uses more calories than body fat does.

Find a way to practice resistance/strength training regularly, whether this means doing CrossFit workouts or simply using dumbbells and performing body resistance moves at home.

To improve your body composition, I recommend ideally doing heavy weight training of six to 12 reps, five days a week, for about 45–75 minutes for the best results.

5. Avoid Inflammatory Foods

Certain foods slow down digestive processes and increase free radical damage, which is one major cause of aging. You can think of these as “metabolism death foods.”

The body recognizes processed and inflammatory foods as toxins, and therefore eating these triggers your innate immune system’s fight-or-flight response. This increases inflammation and stress hormone production, which slows down metabolic functioning.

Sadly, even some foods that seem “healthy” are the culprits for unwanted weight gain, thyroid dysfunction, ongoing fatigue, hormone imbalance and digestive distress.

When trying to boost your metabolism, I recommend avoiding the following foods as much as possible:

  • Sugary drinks (including soda and juices)
  • Foods with added sugar
  • Processed foods made with grains, especially the kind that contain gluten (including wheat products like bread, pasta, cereal, crackers, muffins, desserts, flours, chips and granola bars)
  • Refined vegetable oils, such as safflower and sunflower oil
  • Artificial sweeteners and other artificial colors, dyes and ingredients
  • Low-quality dairy and animal products (the kind that are not grass-fed, pasture-raised, raw and organic)
  • Trans fats and hydrogenated fats

6. Add Metabolism Power Foods to Your Diet

Below are some of the best foods for increasing your metabolism:

  • High-protein foods, such as wild-caught fish, cage-free eggs, grass-fed beef or raw dairy products
  • Garlic
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Probiotic foods, such as kefir and yogurt
  • Coffee and green tea
  • High-antioxidant foods, including vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices
  • Spicy foods, such as those with pepper

Certain foods might help the body use and expend energy better. This has to do with the thermic effects of some foods, especially those high in protein, meaning the body works harder to break down and metabolize certain fat-burning foods.

Eating enough protein, for example, is tied to a strong metabolism, as are some spicy foods. Packing in healthy high-protein snacks and sources throughout the day is one the simple metabolism boosters that also keeps you full for longer.

Protein is beneficial for keeping energy and blood sugar stable while also helping build calorie-burning lean muscle mass.

Drinking natural forms of caffeine in moderation, like coffee or green tea, is also supportive of a healthy metabolism. Green tea consumption has been considered a natural metabolism booster for centuries thanks to special antioxidant compounds in addition to low levels of caffeine.

Garlic is another food that acts as a thermogenic in the body, which revs up the metabolism’s heat-producing effects. It’s also tied to lower blood sugar levels and less fat accumulation thanks to a compound called  allicin.

Naturally warming foods like cayenne pepper, chili and other spicy ingredients are known to increase heat in the body thanks to an active compound called capsaicin. There’s evidence that warming spices like cinnamon, pepper and ginger aid in lipid oxidation, which is the process of burning fat for energy. These antioxidant-packed spices also might help decrease appetite and slow the growth of fat cells.

Lastly, let’s not forget about apple cider vinegar, a top ingredient for digestive health and balancing blood sugar.

How Diets Can Sabotage Your Metabolism

As mentioned above, very low-calorie diets can actually interfere with your ability to burn more calories. Therefore you want to avoid most fat diets when trying to boost your metabolism.

Healthy metabolic function is one of the body’s ultimate forms of protection, and we need to consistently eat and rest enough to keep ourselves thriving. While cutting or counting calories is usually most people’s go-to approach for attempting to lose weight, taking this too far can have a negative impact on metabolism, ultimately backfiring in terms of fat loss.

To reach and maintain a healthy body weight, aim for a balanced diet.

While calorie intake varies from person to person, we all need to meet our needs in order to supply the necessary chemicals that are used for building, upkeep and repair of all body tissues. Very low-calorie diets miss key nutrients. This robs the body of raw materials like carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus or sulfur, which are supplied in carbohydrates, lipids, protein and water from our diets.

Weight loss potential decreases when your body becomes convinced that you’re starving and deprived of calories. Even though you might intentionally cut calories and work out more, the body can’t tell the difference between starvation done “on purpose” and the kind we experience during times of famine.

Meal timing can look differently for different people, with some choosing to eat three square meals a day with fewer snacks, while others prefer eating smaller meals but more often. Either approach is OK as long as it keeps your energy, blood sugar and hunger levels stable.

In fact, if you try a keto diet and are able to reach a state of “ketosis,” the end result is staying fueled off of circulating high ketones. These can alter your metabolism in a way that some people like to say turns you into a “fat-burning machine.”

Your Metabolism Matters for More Than Your Appearance:

In addition, to support a healthy and stable weight, one of the most compelling reasons to work on increasing your metabolism is that this keeps us from prematurely aging and getting sick often.

When you have a sluggish metabolism, the body’s natural defense mechanisms and levels of immunity drop, and you become more susceptible to lurking viruses, yeasts, fungi, parasites and bacteria that surround us.

You’re more likely to deal with the common cold, reproductive problems, mood changes or various infections when your metabolism slows down.

Another benefit of eating enough calories every day is that it helps you maintain a healthier relationship with food. Being deprived can increase cravings and preoccupation with “forbidden” foods, while practicing balance and moderation allows you to make better decisions related to healthy eating long term.

Conclusion

  • Your metabolism refers to how well your body digests food and burns calories for energy. It’s also called your basal metabolic rate, which is defined as “the number of calories required to keep your body functioning at rest.”
  • Research shows that your metabolic rate is mostly stable all throughout your adult life, from about age 20 to 60. People blame weight gain on their age, but usually it’s actually due to changes in diet and activity levels.
  • So what boosts one’s metabolism most? The goal is to maintain a healthy metabolic rate no mater your age, which allows you to burn fat and prevent yourself from becoming overweight.
  • To support or increase your metabolism, eat a balanced diet, don’t severely restrict calorie intake, sleep enough, manage stress, regularly do strength training and avoid ultra-processed foods.
  • Whole, nutrient-dense foods can also potentially act as metabolism boosters, such as eggs, meat, yogurt, spices, probiotic foods, green tea and coffee.

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