Metabolism. It’s the set of life-sustaining chemical transformations within the cells of living organisms. It’s such a big concept that it’s understandable to feel as if it’s beyond your control. But that’s not true!
If you’re wondering how to increase metabolism, we’ve rounded up the 25 best quick and easy ways to rev your fat-burning furnace to help you reach your weight loss goals that much faster.
1. Eat enough
If you want to weigh less, you’ve got to eat less, right? Well, if you’re not eating enough calories, it can cause your body to lose muscle mass, which will decrease the rate of your metabolism. Plus, when you skimp on calories, your body slows the rate at which it burns calories to conserve the fuel it’s got.
“Under-fueling is just as risky as over-fueling,” explains Carolyn Brown, MS, RD at Foodtrainers in Manhattan. Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN, of the New York Nutrition Group agrees: “In an attempt for quick, noticeable weight loss, many people wrongfully believe that eating as few calories as possible is the best solution. Not only can this lead to numerous nutritional deficiencies as the body is getting less food overall, but it can also actually have the opposite effect on weight loss.” Instead of cutting calories like crazy, use the simple diet and exercise hacks below that can help you slim down quickly and safely without screwing up your metabolism.
2.Put on muscle
Even when you’re at rest, your body is constantly burning calories. In fact, 60 to 80 percent of the calories that you burn each day are being used up just keeping you alive, according to research published in Frontiers in Physiology. Studies show “resting metabolic rate” and total calories burned is much higher in people with more muscle because every pound of muscle uses about 6 calories a day just to sustain itself. If you can pack on just five pounds of muscle and sustain it, you’ll burn the caloric equivalent of three pounds of fat over the course of a year.
3. Try HIIT workouts to build muscle mass
When it comes to the best workouts for weight loss, neither weights nor cardio can completely move the needle on their own. Interval training is the best way to shed pounds, increase your metabolism, and improve insulin sensitivity. One International Journal of Obesity study found that 20-minute HIIT workouts helped women lose 5.5 more pounds and gain more lean muscle mass over the course of 15 weeks than women who did long, steady cardio workouts.
At the gym, sign up for a HIIT class, or turn your favorite aerobic exercise, (running, biking, even walking) into an interval workout by adding periods of intense speed (start with 30 to 60 seconds) followed by periods of rest (normal speed) for the same amount of time. Do this six to 10 times to complete a fat-slashing workout. As you get better, slowly increase the amount of time of increased intensity.
4. Eat enough protein daily
The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn—no matter what you’re doing. Hitting the gym helps you build muscle and eating protein keeps your gains from breaking down and slowing your metabolic rate as a result.
Research has found that because protein is more difficult for the body to break down and digest than other nutrients, it can increase post-meal calorie burn by 5 percent. Aim to incorporate some protein into every meal and snack throughout the day.
Metabolism-boosting foods high in protein include:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Chicken breast
- Ground turkey
- Flank, hanger, or skirt steak
Protein needs differ by individual, but typically consuming 0.8 to one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day should be sufficient enough to fuel weight loss, says Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN, a New York City-based dietitian. For a 130-pound (59 kilograms) person, that would equal between 46 and 58 grams of protein.
5. Choose whole grains
It takes the body extra effort to break down whole grains than more refined and processed grains, like the flour ordinarily used to make bread and pasta. You can help keep your metabolic rate elevated by consuming foods that the body has to work harder to digest, as shown in a Food & Nutrition Research study. Pomona College researchers found that consuming whole foods increased your post-meal energy expenditure by 50 percent compared to eating processed foods.
Your go-to foods that boost metabolism are whole grains that are also rich in fiber.
- Brown rice
- Sprouted grain bread
6. Get a good night’s sleep
Stephen Colbert’s doing great, but now it’s time to DVR him and start getting to bed earlier. A study in Finland looked at sets of identical twins and discovered that in each set of siblings, the twin who slept less had more visceral fat. If you do nothing else differently, just getting an extra half hour of shuteye will make all the difference. If you’re chronically sleep deprived, don’t be surprised if you gain a few pounds without eating a morsel of extra food. “A lack of sleep can cause several metabolic problems,” says nutritionist and Holistic Health Coach Seth Santoro. “It can cause you to burn fewer calories, lack appetite control and experience an increase in cortisol levels, which stores fat.”
Lack of sufficient sleep—under the recommended seven to nine hours a night for most adults—also leads to impaired glucose tolerance, a.k.a. your body’s ability to utilize sugar for fuel. “We all have those less-than-adequate nights of sleep,” says nutritionist Lisa Jubilee, MS, CDN. “But if it’s a regular thing, you’re better off lengthening your night’s sleep than working out, if fat loss or weight maintenance is your goal.”
7. And stop napping
Research has found that people burn fewer calories when they sleep during the day and log their waking hours after the sun’s gone down. To come to this finding, researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder studied 14 healthy adults for six days. For two days, study participants slept at night and stayed awake during the day, then they reversed their routines to mimic the schedules of night owls. When participants slept during the day, researchers found that they burned 52 to 59 fewer calories than they did while catching their Zzzs in the evening—likely because the schedule messed with their circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock that plays a major role in metabolism function. If you have no choice but to sleep during the day, aim to cut 50-60 calories from your daily diet.
8. Eat more high-fiber beans
Not only are beans a great source of plant-based protein, they’re also packed with both soluble and insoluble fiber. The process of digesting the fiber and protein in beans burns extra calories, and both types of fiber help lower insulin levels after digestion and cause your body to store less fat. Think of every bean as a little metabolism-boosting pill. One study found that people who ate a ¾ cup of beans daily weighed 6.6 pounds less than those who didn’t—despite bean eaters consuming, on average, 199 calories more per day.
9. Reduce common stressors
Stress can actually cause the body to metabolize food more slowly, according to research published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. To make matters worse, the food we crave when we’re stressed out tends to be fatty and full of sugar. Researchers say that the combination of high-cal cravings and a stress-induced, snail-paced metabolic rate can result in significant weight gain. To increase your metabolism, fight stress with laughter. Research shows that smiling and laughing causes levels of stress hormones to diminish.
10. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D
If there’s one supplement most Americans should be taking, it’s vitamin D. It’s essential for preserving metabolism-revving muscle tissue, but researchers estimate that a measly 20 percent of Americans take in enough via their diet. While you can nail 90 percent of your recommended daily value (400 IU) in a 3.5-ounce serving of salmon, popping a daily supplement is pretty convenient.
Good dietary sources of vitamin D for metabolism:
- Tuna: 68 IUs per 3 ounces White Albacore tuna (11% DV)
- Fortified low-fat milk: 120 IUs per cup (20% DV)
- Eggs: 40 IUs per fried egg (7% DV)
11. Drink a glass of water in the morning when you wake up
For nutritionist Lisa Jubilee, one of the best and cheapest ways to give your metabolism a jolt is to drink water (she suggests 20 to 32 ounces) shortly after waking. Why? During sleep, your body’s metabolic function slows down, and unless you wake up in the middle of the night to swig some water, you’re not taking in any fluids. Jubilee suggests completely rehydrating before stressing your body with any other food or drink. “My clients who have implemented this report less bloating, more energy and a smaller appetite,” she says. Her motto for getting your inner furnace stoked and ready for the day: “Rehydrate, then caffeinate!”
12. And drink more water in general
Weight loss doesn’t get easier than this: Simply drinking more water may increase the rate at which healthy people burn calories, according to a study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. After drinking approximately 17 ounces of water (about 2 tall glasses), participants’ metabolic rates increased by 30 percent. The researchers estimate that increasing water intake by 1.5 liters a day (about 6 cups) would burn an extra 17,400 calories over the course of the year—a weight loss of approximately five pounds!
13. Pack snacks on the go
“Always be prepared for a busy or unpredictable day by keeping healthy snacks on you, at your desk, in your car,” says Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, Real Nutrition NYC. Shapiro says that if you have to skip breakfast, lunch, or even dinner during your quest to look your best, you can keep your energy levels up while making healthy choices. “You’ll have no reason to run to the vending machine for chips or stick your hand in the candy bowl,” she says.
Shapiro recommends eating snacks to keep your metabolism humming such as:
- Almonds or other unsalted nuts
- Chia bars
- Protein bars
- Fruit and nut bars
14. Cut back on diet soda and artificial sweeteners
Yeah, yeah, it has zero calories, but drinking diet soda may yet play havoc with your goal of having a flat belly. Research published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism shows that artificially sweetened beverages may screw up the body’s normal metabolic response to sugar, actually increasing appetite! Increasingly, diet drinks are being linked to weight gain, metabolic syndrome and a host of other ills. (Find out what happens to your body when you give up soda.)
15. Go nuts
A 2003 study in the International Journal of Obesity demonstrated that a low-calorie diet that’s rich in almonds could help people shed weight. Not only do the good monounsaturated fats in almonds have an effect on insulin levels, say scientists, but also give dieters a feeling of fullness, meaning that they are less likely to overeat. So stock your pantry with almonds, walnuts, and nut butter.
16. Eat whole foods
The smoothie revolution is here, and lots of people are swilling down bushels of leafy greens. Believe it or not, there’s a downside to this ingenious delivery method. A big part of the body’s job—breaking down food so that the body can absorb nutrients—has been outsourced to our Nutribullets and Vitamixes. That means that the body is expending much less energy than it would if we were eating kale, spinach, and bananas in their solid form. Smoothies are great for weight loss, but by prioritizing lean meats, fish, fibrous vegetables and fruit, you are driving up TEF (the “Thermic Effect of Food,” or your metabolic rate after eating) and expending more calories on digestion.
17. Eat salmon
There are plenty of fish in the sea, but salmon may be the best one when you’re trying to find out how to increase metabolism. That’s because most cases of underactive thyroid are due to inflammation of the gland, and salmon boasts significant anti-inflammatory properties thanks to its rich omega-3 fatty acid content. In fact, a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the effects of weight loss and seafood consumption and showed salmon to be the most effective at reducing inflammation—better than cod, fish oil, and a fish-free diet.
18. Eat iron-rich foods
Iron deficiency affects more than 1 in 5 women in the U.S. Being deficient in essential minerals can show up in all kinds of ways, such as fatigue and anemia, but an iron deficiency can also be a blow for your metabolic health. See, your body can’t work as efficiently to burn calories when it doesn’t have what it needs to work properly. On the other hand, when you treat iron deficiency with sufficient iron intake, you can lose weight and improve metabolic parameters such as lowering blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels, according to a Clinical Therapeutics study.
Iron-rich foods you can add to your diet to boost metabolism include:
- 1 cup iron-fortified breakfast cereal, 100% DV iron
- 1 cup of lentils, 36% DV iron
- 3.5 ounces ground beef, 15% DV iron
- 1 cup spinach, 24% DV iron
19. Eat three meals a day
Bodybuilders have long sworn by eating every few hours to keep their muscles fueled, but don’t discount the weight loss potential of three squares a day. A study in the journal Hepatology put two groups of men on weight-gain diets. One group divided the calories among three small meals with snacks in between while the second group ate the same number of calories in three square meals. While both groups gained weight, researchers found that belly fat—the dangerous kind that increases heart-disease risk—only increased in the high-meal frequency group.
20. Drink less alcohol to increase fat burn
While drinking in moderation every so often won’t do too much harm to your waistline, making it a habit can slow down your metabolic rate. Why? When your body has a cocktail to break down, it takes precedence over any food that you’ve already eaten that’s waiting to be digested. This slows down the entire metabolic process. On the occasions that you decided to indulge, stick to low-calorie drinks. Alternate your alcohol with water to slow your pace, and cut yourself off after two drinks. Avoid ordering high-cal bar food like fries and burgers. An important note: Wine in moderation can have numerous benefits, including weight loss!
21. Eat zinc-rich oysters
Shuck one for your metabolism. Heck, make it a half dozen. After all, oysters are one of the best dietary sources zinc—a mineral that’s critical for thyroid health. In fact, the body needs enough zinc to activate production of thyroid hormone. And, in turn, we need enough thyroid hormone to absorb zinc. Any way you look at it, deficiencies are likely to result in a sluggish metabolism, and supplementing with the mineral has shown to get weight loss back on track. One study in Nutrition Research and Practice found that obese people who consumed 30 milligrams of zinc per day—the equivalent of just six raw oysters—had improved BMIs, lost weight, and showed improvements in blood cholesterol levels. Get shucking!
22. Snack on yogurt
Probiotics in products like yogurt and fermented foods like pickles and sauerkraut help good bacteria in the gut process food more efficiently. Not only is yogurt a great source of protein and calcium, a Nature study found that eating it as part of a reduced-calorie diet can help shrink your waistline. And you can incorporate it into dishes throughout the day.
23. Brew a caffeinated cup of coffee
Coffee is one of the best drinks for weight loss because it boosts your metabolism. A study published in the journal Food Science and Biotechnology found that caffeine revs the sympathetic nervous system and increases lipolysis (aka fat burn). A cup of black coffee is a good pre-workout beverage, too: Researchers found that cyclists who took a caffeine supplement were able to ride about a mile farther than those who took a placebo. Make yours a venti and skip the sweeteners.
24. But don’t overdo it on the caffeine
Have a few cups of java for a metabolism boost, but if you’re never seen without a mug at your lips, that could work against you, says nutritionist Amy Shapiro. Caffeine is a natural appetite suppressant. If you’re constantly consuming it, you may not eat much—or realize how hungry you really are—until you get home for dinner. “Not eating enough throughout the day can make your metabolism sluggish,” she says. “By the time you eat dinner, instead of immediately using that food for energy, your body is aggressively storing it as fat, just in case it will be deprived again.” Stick to three to four cups of coffee a day to keep your caffeine intake under control.
25. Add more avocado
It’s like butter that grows on trees. But instead of the cholesterol, trans fats, and saturated fats in real butter, avocado contains metabolism-enhancing monounsaturated fat. And that’s not all. Each creamy fruit is also packed with fiber and free-radical-killing antioxidants. Free radicals are destructive rogue oxygen molecules—natural byproducts of metabolism—that trigger various chain reactions in the body that destroy cells and DNA, causing all kinds of health problems. Antioxidants in fresh fruits and vegetables can help neutralize some free radicals, but they can’t reach the mitochondria—the base camp for the free radical army—and that’s a problem.
When your mitochondria aren’t working properly, your metabolism runs less efficiently. Enter: Avocado. A 2015 study found that monounsaturated-rich oil pressed from the fruit can help mitochondria become more resilient. Researchers say the results jive with low-disease rates in Mediterranean countries where olive oil—nutritionally similar to the avocado—is a diet staple.