Find out what works best for your metabolism and discover what’s best for you. Gain insights into simple, effective tips that enhance your energy and overall health
Boosting your metabolism: 5 ways from experts
You are probably familiar with the term metabolism but might not understand 100% what it means. At its most basic definition, your metabolism encompasses all processes involved in how energy is used in the body. This includes the use and storage of glucose, which we’ll expand on later. Most people associate metabolism with how quickly the body burns calories, and it’s why many are interested in having a “fast metabolism.” However, this process actually refers to metabolic rate, which is the number of calories your body uses daily and is influenced by genetics, age, muscle mass, and activity level. Increasing metabolic rate, commonly referred to as “boosting metabolism,” means increasing the number of calories your body uses at rest. People can also experience a temporary rise in metabolic rate, such as when you continue to burn calories after harder effort workouts. Glucose plays a central role in metabolism; it’s a fuel source for immediate energy and is also able to be stored in muscles and liver for later use. How well the body can process, use, and store glucose is one marker of metabolic health. When your body uses glucose efficiently, this results in steadier glucose levels, which has been shown to positively impact your mood, energy levels, mental focus, sleep, and more. (1) You can improve this glucose efficiency by increasing your metabolic rate. For the purposes of this article, we’ll encompass metabolic rate when we explain how to speed up your metabolism. Put simply: a fast metabolism means you burn more calories, while a slow metabolism means your body requires fewer calories daily. And while exercise is an obvious way to burn calories, you can also boost your metabolism with a number of science-backed approaches. It’s important to note that while the below methods have been proven to increase metabolism, your individual metabolic rate still varies on personal factors unique to you. None of these are a quick fix for improving your metabolic health, which requires implementing several lifestyle habits. How to speed up metabolism 1. Eat enough protein Your diet plays an important role in your metabolism. Including 25-35 grams of high-quality protein at meals helps steady your glucose after a meal (2) and supports muscle tissue, which uses 80% of the glucose consumed from a meal. (3) Plus, protein is satiating, so you’ll feel fuller for longer after you eat an adequate amount. Some examples of high-quality protein include chicken, turkey, beef, fish, Greek yoghurt, and cottage cheese. For plant-based protein options, try tofu, edamame, tempeh, beans and lentils, or quinoa. Did you know that protein also has the highest metabolic effect of all the macronutrients? (4) That means protein burns more calories to digest and process than carbohydrates or fats. This is known as the thermic effect of food, and when it comes to protein, 25-30% of calories from protein are used for digestion and metabolism compared to 5-10% for carbs and 0-3% for fat. (5) Caffeine can also have a positive impact on metabolism by increasing fat oxidation and further increasing the thermic effect of a meal. (6) However, caffeine can raise your glucose, and in some individuals can cause negative side effects like increased heart rate, anxiety, or GI distress. 2. Strength train As mentioned, muscle is the top regulator of glucose. So building and maintaining lean body mass is one of the most effective ways to boost your metabolism. Muscle tissue is very metabolically active; more muscle equals more calories burned at rest and better glucose regulation. (7) The NHS recommends adults do muscle strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms) on at least 2 days a week. (8) Strength training improves metabolism by directly using glucose as fuel during the exercise as well as increasing glucose use from the blood for up to 2 days after. More specifically, a programme that utilises progressive overload — which gradually increases intensity or difficulty so the body adapts and gets stronger (e.g. upping the weights lifted or number of reps performed)— supports building and maintaining muscle mass, which increases metabolic rate. (9) Try functional movements that target multiple muscle groups, such as squat variations, lunges, and deadlifts. It’s best to use your own body weight, free weights, or exercise bands to achieve these compound movements, versus exercise machines that often only target one muscle group at a time. You can also add a weighted backpack when you go out for a brisk walk, a highly effective exercise known as rucking. (10,11) Additionally, try to break up long periods of sitting with “exercise snacks” – brief periods of increased movement such as bodyweight squats or calf raises. Turn on movement alerts on your wearable device or set reminders on your phone or computer. Hit your daily step goal; studies have shown 8,000 steps or more daily is associated with better health outcomes. (12) Staying active during your day can help keep your metabolism elevated. 3. Get quality sleep Adequate sleep is associated with better metabolic health. (13) Even a single night of getting less than 6 hours of sleep will worsen glucose control the next day and can lead you to eat more and reach for more high-calorie comfort foods. (14,15) Getting quality sleep is easier said than done, but here’s a simple way to increase Zzzs: crawl into bed a little earlier. Even if you don’t fall asleep right away, allowing yourself extended time in bed can increase total sleep time. It can also increase time spent in REM sleep, which is when metabolic rate is higher. (16) Read our full article on how to sleep better. 4. Reduce stress Excessive stress can affect metabolism in several ways, primarily through the release of hormones and changes in behaviour and eating habits. Stress activates the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can break down muscle tissue for energy and lead to a slower metabolism over time. Stress can also cause changes in the appetite-regulating hormones ghrelin and leptin, making it difficult to choose glucose-friendly foods. This can also disrupt your energy balance and metabolism. It’s essential to manage stress effectively to minimise its negative impact on metabolism and your overall health. Some accessible ways to manage stress include exercise, yoga, meditation, talking to friends and family, keeping a gratitude journal, spending time outdoors in nature, and turning off notifications on your phone. 5. Stay hydrated and limit alcohol Maintaining proper hydration helps support a healthy metabolism, and one of the best ways to stay hydrated is to drink enough water. Adults should consume 2.7 litres of water for women and 3.7 litres of water for men daily as a general guideline, (17) although factors such as body size, activity level, and environmental temperature change the required amount unique to you. While alcohol is a liquid, it does not support hydration. In fact, it does the opposite. Plus, alcohol provides 7 calories per gram, not including carbohydrates that can naturally occur in beers, wines, and sugars added to mixers that can negatively impact your glucose. Since your body can’t effectively store alcohol, it prioritises metabolising alcohol at the cost of slowing the metabolism of carbs and fat. Benefits of increasing your metabolism Improving your metabolic health can make it easier to manage your weight and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. (18) Improved metabolic health has also been associated with an increase in energy, better mental focus, appetite regulation, and quality sleep. (1) Using a continuous glucose monitor like Lingo can help you regulate your glucose and improve your overall metabolic well-being. A final note from Lingo While your metabolism is influenced by a number of factors such as your genetics, age, muscle mass, and activity level, you can take steps to benefit your overall metabolic health, including improving your metabolic rate. Start by implementing the suggestions outlined in this article to create healthier habits and boost your metabolism. You might also consider using a continuous glucose monitor like Lingo to learn more about your metabolism and how you uniquely respond to different foods. Although diet plays a big role in your metabolic health, it’s just one component. It’s important to consider other factors including exercise and stress.