Can You Really Boost Your Metabolism?
- Written By:Lauren Slayton
Years ago, when my metabolic rate was higher than it is now (truth), I worked in obesity research. One part of the laboratory workups, for study participants, was testing their resting metabolic rate (RMR). RMR is the number of calories your body burns just to keep you alive and breathing. I was always surprised at how people at the same height and weight could have vastly different RMR results. Though there are certain foods and factors that can increase your RMR, the effect is mostly minor. But do not despair, there are some metabolism helpers.
Protein helps your metabolism in two ways. First, it can help build muscle. The more muscle and less fat one has, the higher your metabolic rate. Second, there’s something called the thermic effect of food. Basically, digesting protein increases your metabolism more than digesting carbohydrates or fat. Most of the studies looking at protein’s increase on RMR used 30% of calories from protein. Even going from 20% of your diet protein to 30% increased RMR. I suggest having protein at breakfast, lunch and mid-afternoon or multiple times a day.
We know that being dehydrated slows down your metabolic rate. And it seems the converse is true: hydration is metabolically helpful. One study concluded that two liters (eight cups) of water resulted in a 400 KJ (96-ish calorie) increase in energy expenditure. Other studies have tested two cups of water before each meal; this also increases RMR. The truth is, the better you hydrate, the better your body does everything.
There is so much in the news about gut health. Most of the information focuses on digestion and immunity, but there is a gut health and metabolism connection. Research has shown that certain medications impact RMR via your microbiome. The first studies that I know of focused on a drug called Risperidone. This is a medication used for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and research has concluded weight gain associated with this drug is due to changes in the microbiome. These microbiome changes lowered resting metabolic rates. So, we know there’s a connection between our microbiome and metabolism.
In addition to certain meds, artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, saccharin and aspartame adversely affect the microbiome and metabolism. It’s not completely clear which ways we can manipulate our microbiome to boost metabolism. Certain probiotic strains, such as lactobacillis rhamnosus show promise. If you take a probiotic, I’d be sure it contains this culture and also prebiotics. Prebiotics feed your good bacteria. You can supplement with prebiotics or eat probiotic foods such as dandelion greens, garlic, apples and jicama. Many of our clients take this probiotic, which we selected with these effects in mind.
There is a component of green tea called epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG. Studies vary but green tea may lead to a 50 to 100 calorie increase in metabolism. EGCG can also help you burn more calories when you exercise. In addition to metabolism benefits, green tea has strong anti-cancer properties, is important for liver health and is an “upper” sans jitters. I’d suggest 1-2 cups of a good quality green tea or matcha daily. That’s the thing with many of these “boosters,” for a sustained effect you have to do or consume them regularly.
While research has shown MCT oil is associated with weight loss, there are two potential explanations. Is it that MCT oil results in decreased food intake or does it lead to enhanced thermic effect of food (metabolism)? While it would be nice to have the precise information, chances are it’s a combination of these two effects. We know MCT oil can benefit your weight. Try a tablespoon in your morning coffee or smoothie.
I’ve mentioned some metabolism helpers. In terms of what hurts metabolism well…getting older. There’s a natural decline in muscle mass with age. So, don’t age (kidding). In all seriousness, weight training is important to counter this. Rapid weight loss is also harmful to your metabolism, sometimes permanently. And I mentioned artificial sweeteners. If you’re a yellow, pink or blue “packet” person or diet soda drinker — please ignore everything else I’ve said and break up with these first.