The diet industry is full of tips, tricks, and products to help you “boost your metabolism.”
At best, most of them are a waste of time and money.
At worst, they’re dangerous and uncomfortable.
As a nutritionist, here are just a few mythical "metabolism booster” questions my clients ask me about frequently, along with the truth:
- Will drinking ice-cold water boost my metabolism? If you enjoy icy water that's fine, but ice cold water constricts blood vessels in the GI tract and can cause digestive issues if you overdo it.
- Will eating tiny, frequent meals boost my metabolism? This can lead to never feeling properly satisfied and ultimately eating more, not to mention being constantly obsessed with food.
- Will eating spicy foods boost my metabolism? Go for it if you like spicy food, but the tiny impact on metabolic rate isn’t worth it if you don’t.
- Will fat burning pills boost my metabolism? Taking these can lead to serious medical complications.
- Will apple cider vinegar and lemon water boost my metabolism? Both are healthy things to include in your diet, but they won't magically increase your metabolic rate.
When it comes to long-term results, improving your metabolic rate may be far more effective than trying to eat less food. There are some tips that actually work, support overall health, and are easy to incorporate.
Here are the strategies that I recommend most often:
1. Eat More Fiber
Fiber doesn’t feed you, it feeds your gut bacteria. This means that fiber itself doesn’t provide energy to fuel your body. However, your body will still use some energy to try and process the fiber, which naturally increases your energy output for the day.
Aside from the metabolic benefit, fiber also keeps you full for longer as it helps produce the satiety hormone, glucagon-like peptide-1, in your gut. It improves overall gut health, lowers cholesterol levels, decreases constipation, and so much more.
Here are some foods to add to your next meal plan to increase your fiber intake:
- Chia seeds
- Ground flax seeds
- Coconut flour
- Psyllium husks
- Whole grains
- Leafy greens
Increase your fiber intake slowly to prevent too much bloating, and be sure to consume plenty of water to keep everything moving through your body.
2. Build Some Muscle
When it comes to working out, it’s easy to get distracted by the high-intensity cardio exercises that burn the most calories. This, however, is a mistake when looking at your overall metabolic rate.
Cardio workouts are the metabolic equivalent of working for an hourly wage. You can only make the money (or burn the calories) when you are actually doing work.
Lifting weights to build muscle, on the other hand, is the equivalent of making an investment. While the initial payoff might be lower, eventually you’ll be making money (or burning calories) in your sleep.
Muscle is metabolically expensive. Even if your height and weight stay the same, having more muscle means you will use significantly more energy for all daily tasks, including both working out and watching Netflix. So if you've been spending your workouts running, spinning, or on the elliptical, add some resistance training into your routine and you'll reap the benefits.
3. Get a Good Amount of Protein
Like fiber, protein requires a significant amount of energy to digest. This means your body has to work extra hard just to break it down, naturally boosting your metabolism.
It’s important to get a wide range of protein sources in your diet, including protein from plant sources, which usually offer the bonus of including plenty of fiber too.
Most people should aim for 20g to 30g of protein per meal. Portion sizes should be about the size of your palm and the thickness of a deck of cards.
Here are some great high protein foods to include on your next meal plan:
- Poultry (chicken/turkey)
- Lean pork
- Legumes (beans/peas)
- Red meat (beef/lamb)
- Protein powder
So the next time you see an ad promising you a “revved up metabolism,” remember that it’s the simple changes that provide the strongest benefit. Fiber, exercise, and protein on a regular basis will give you better results than a 30-day supply of pills ever could!
A healthy metabolism is like a healthy bank account. It takes time to build, and there are no shortcuts or quick fixes. Instead, focus on consistently doing the right things over long periods of time.