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Are Metabolism Boosters an Effective Way to Increase Metabolism?

Robert Bergen
Medically reviewed by Kimberly Langdon M.D.| 0 Comments

We all have at least one of those friends who can eat as much as she likes and still remain thin. 

 

Her secret? She claims that it is because of her high metabolism.

 

Metabolism is the process that your body uses to burn calories and provide energy to your organs, muscles, and cells. Many health products promise that with a little help from their metabolism boosters, you can speed up that process and start burning calories more quickly—even those pesky fat calories! 

 

Keep reading to find out if those promises are true!

Table of Contents  

What Is a Metabolism Booster?

A metabolism booster is any product that claims to increase your body’s metabolism. An increased metabolic rate burns your body’s stored calories quicker. Many companies market these metabolism boosters for weight loss.

How Does Metabolism Work?

Metabolism is the process in which your body converts stored calories into energy. 

 

Even when you are relatively inactive, your metabolism is constantly working to burn many calories a day in order to operate your basic bodily functions:

  • Respiration
  • Blood circulation
  • Digestion
  • Hormone regulation
  • Cellular growth and repair

 

Your rate of metabolism during this activity is called your ‘resting metabolic rate’ or ‘basal metabolic rate, or (BMR).’ BMR is determined by several factors which are usually uncontrollable, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Your sex—Males typically have faster metabolism due to increased muscle mass and bone density.
  • Your weight—Heavier or larger people are burning more calories than smaller people. A larger system naturally requires more energy to operate, even during low activity.
  • Your age—Older people have slower metabolisms, due to decreasing muscle, bone density, and slower general system activity.

 

Does Boosting Your Metabolism Help You Lose Weight?

The answer that you want to hear: Yes, it does.

 

The answer that you want to ignore: Probably not as effectively as you hoped it would.

 

While common foods and drinks can sometimes boost your metabolism, your metabolism usually limits the effects to a few hours after consumption. Also, only in some cases does this metabolism boost lead to fat burning.

 

For example, a 1980 study showed that caffeine and coffee increased metabolism for a few hours after consumption [1]. However, this only caused fat oxidation in patients with median weight.

 

Metabolism Booster Ingredients

Metabolism boosting supplements often contain a combination of ingredients to increase basal metabolic rate, or BMR. Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly-found ingredients.

Green Tea

A 2009 study concluded that consuming green tea extract (GTE) had a significant effect on metabolic weight loss [2].

Green tea contains a compound called epigallocatechin gallate, which was found to increase your metabolism and fat burn. One study published that about three cups of green tea daily are required to affect that metabolic rate, however [3]. Participants in this study were found to burn about 100 extra calories a day this way [4].

Other compounds in green tea may also be a factor in its metabolic weight loss effects. Green tea contains a significant amount of caffeine, which has been shown to give your metabolism a boost. It also contains other catechins which have been shown to have a minor effect on weight loss and weight maintenance.

Caffeine

Caffeine can boost metabolism by increasing the body’s thermogenesis, or in other words, its heat production. Extra heat production requires a higher number of calories.

One study from 1989 showed that consuming 100 mg of caffeine can increase the resting metabolic rate by about 3-4%. This increase lasts for about two and a half hours after consumption.

Both median-weight and overweight individuals experienced this metabolism increase, according to the study [5].

Some energy drinks and weight-loss products contain caffeine to stimulate basal metabolic rate. Keep in mind, though, that most Americans already consume an average of 200-300 mg of caffeine daily by drinking coffee and tea.

Capsaicin

Anyone who knows spicy food preparation will remember that capsaicin is the sweat-inducing chemical found in spicy chili and jalapeno peppers.

Research has also shown that capsaicin can support weight loss [6]. There are multiple methods by which capsaicin does this:

  1. Capsaicin activates certain transient receptors in the nervous system that lead to increased metabolism.
  2. Chili peppers also lead to better insulin control in the body, which can improve fat calories you burn and regulate blood sugar.
  3. Capsaicin also increases thermogenesis, elevating fat burn.
  4. Finally, hot peppers are known for appetite suppression. Including some spicy peppers in your meal can lead you to eat fewer calories, or consume smaller portions.

Again, capsaicin is often found in weight loss supplement products, which can provide the first three benefits from that list. But for the fourth benefit, it is helpful to consume capsaicin from hot peppers added to your meals.

L-carnitine

L-carnitine is derived from amino acids and facilitates the transportation of fatty acids across cell membranes. This allows the digestive system cells to break down fat cells and release the caloric energy.

Research has not yet determined the specific, quantifiable increase in BMR from L-carnitine [7]. However, this compound has been linked to other potential benefits, like reducing risk of certain heart diseases.

L-carnitine can be found in red meat like beef and lamb, but also in poultry, dairy, and fish. If these foods are not part of your diet, you can take L-carnitine in supplement products.

Chromium Picolinate

L-carnitine is derived from amino acids and facilitates the transportation of fatty acids across cell membranes. This allows the digestive system cells to break down fat cells and release the caloric energy.

Research has not yet determined the specific, quantifiable increase in BMR from L-carnitine [7]. However, this compound has been linked to other potential benefits, like reducing risk of certain heart diseases.

L-carnitine can be found in red meat like beef and lamb, but also in poultry, dairy, and fish. If these foods are not part of your diet, you can take L-carnitine in supplement products.

Vitamins and Minerals

B-complex vitamins can boost metabolism and burn more calories. They facilitate better metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in the body.

Niacin, Vitamin B-6, and Iron are all good for improving the body’s natural production of L-carnitine. This is usually a better method than taking expensive L-carnitine supplements.

Turmeric/Curcumin

Turmeric is another seasoning that has recently become popular for its anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that it can also help metabolic disorders and obesity.

 

How to Boost Your Metabolism Naturally

Due to the limited studies on metabolism-boosting supplements, most medical advice and dietary weight loss advisors recommend increasing your metabolism through natural means and lifestyle changes.

 

Changing your everyday habits can often boost metabolism and lead to greater weight loss than expensive and often ineffective supplements.

Eat Metabolism Boosting Foods

Adding many ordinary foods to your diet can have a positive impact on your body’s metabolism without harmful side effects.

 

  1. Protein-rich foods increase the thermic effect of food. This means that your body will use more energy to digest the proteins, which will lead to greater fat burning. Some proteins can increase your metabolic rate by 15%-30%, so increase the beans, meat, and fish in your diet and snack on some nuts between meals.
  2. Legumes, like beans, are a particularly effective protein-rich food to boost metabolism. The dietary fiber in legumes benefits your gut health, enabling the good bacteria in your stomach to facilitate better energy conversion. They are also high in arginine and glutamine, two amino acids that increase thermogenesis.
  3. Chili peppers, as we mentioned before, contain capsaicin to increase your metabolism. They have the added bonus of appetite suppression for weight loss.
  4. Coffee, tea, and energy drinks all boost metabolism by increasing thermogenesis. 200-300 mg of caffeine per day can be achieved with 2-3 cups of your favorite morning beverage. Green tea also contains those catechins that boost metabolism.
  5. Ginger tea has been shown to help your body burn extra calories per day when drunk before meals. As an added bonus, it can also suppress appetite, which is helpful for any diet.
  6. Apple cider vinegar can assist weight loss goals through a number of chemical processes. In recent studies, people who took apple cider vinegar in the morning ate much less throughout the day. Additionally, studies show that in other animals, apple cider vinegar increases enzymes that may help burn more fat and decrease fat storage.
  7. Coconut oil might be high in fat, but that fat is composed of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which pass directly to the liver and are not stored in the body. Studies have shown that MCTs increase metabolism more than longer chain fats.

Exercise Regularly 

Of course, any weight management service or fat-burning plan should include regular exercise. Exercise will not only burn calories, but it can also raise your metabolism levels and keep them elevated throughout the day.

 

In particular, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is effective for keeping your metabolism elevated for long after you finish your exercise. Studies have shown that HIIT exercise can burn more calories and increases the body’s resting energy expenditure more than other forms of exercise [9]. That rate of energy conversion can stay elevated for the rest of the day.

 

In general, aerobic exercise is what burns caloric fat. But it is important to remember that muscle mass requires the most energy to maintain, so increasing muscle burns calories and is a key component for boosting metabolism. 

 

Medical advice recommends that your regular exercise targets all of the major muscle groups at least once per week, using weight lifting or strength training.

 

Spice Up Your Fitness Routine

Building up good exercise habits can be frustrating, especially when exercise becomes repetitive. Implementing a few effective changes and variations can keep your metabolism strong while preventing malaise.

  • Vary the tempo of your exercise. Prolong the reverse movements for resistance training by taking a 4 or 5 count to lower the weights.
  • Change the number of repetitions for each exercise. Most people only think of increasing repetitions, but a high-intensity, fast set of fewer repetitions can also improve metabolism.
  • Decrease rest intervals. Keeping your heartbeats high is important for metabolism also, so don’t let your heart rate drop too far during rest intervals.
  • Isometrics are a good way to keep your muscles engaged without movement. If you are working in a stationary position most of the day, try to find isometric positions to challenge yourself, such as planks or wall sitting.
  • Unilateral Movements can be a good way to spice up your fitness routine and correct body/limb imbalances. Focus on your off-hand during arm, back, and chest exercises, or do extra reps with your off-leg occasionally.
  • Integrate your surroundings. Most of us have challenging activities all around us that we can use to spice up our fitness and boost metabolism. Do some reps with heavy groceries or other shopping items. Take a few lunges during the walk from your car to your front door.

Improve Sleep Hygiene 

Data from studies now show that poor sleeping habits can negatively impact metabolism [10]. It is possible that varying your sleep habits by an hour can increase your risk of metabolic irregularity by as much as 27%.

 

Online health information recommends that you try to stick with a consistent bedtime and wake-up alarm. Avoid late night sleep-harming activities such as screen time and blue light exposure.

 

The best medical advice suggests that keeping your sleep patterns consistent also may help you keep your metabolism consistent and avoid unpredictable weight gain.

Stay Hydrated 

Among the numerous reasons to drink lots of water each day, data from studies have shown that increased water intake can also increase resting metabolic rate [11].

 

The trick is consistent water intake throughout the day. Half a liter of water can increase metabolism by up to 30% for about an hour.

 

Cold water is preferable, because your body will expend additional energy raising the water temperature to match your internal body temperature.

 

As an extra bonus, water will also fill your stomach and decrease appetite, leading you to consume smaller portions. This will greatly benefit your weight management program.

 

Conclusion

 

While metabolism boosters can make you lose weight, you will probably gain much more benefit from the metabolism boost that comes with a well-balanced diet and regular exercise.

 

Make sure you consume a larger fraction of high-protein foods, and choose foods listed in this article that increase thermogenesis and amino acid production. Consume moderate caffeine daily, especially from green tea which also contains catechins.

 

The best health information recommends that you exercise each day, and include some high intensity interval training to really get your metabolism jump-started and keep it going strong all day.

 

And of course, whether you are taking metabolism-boosting supplements or not, increase your water consumption to keep your metabolism running smoothly. This is especially important in conjunction with supplement products, which can sometimes causeminor dehydration.

References

  1. Acheson, K J, et al. “Caffeine and Coffee: Their Influence on Metabolic Rate and Substrate Utilization in Normal Weight and Obese Individuals.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 33, no. 5, 1980, pp. 989–997., doi:10.1093/ajcn/33.5.989. 
  2. Pawar, Poonam. (2015). Green Tea and Weight Loss: An update (Meta-Analysis). International Journal of Biotechnology and Biomedical Sciences. 1. 21-24. 
  3. Hursel, R, et al. “The Effects of Green Tea on Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance: a Meta-Analysis.” International Journal of Obesity, vol. 33, no. 9, 2009, pp. 956–961., doi:10.1038/ijo.2009.135. 
  4. Publishing, Harvard Health. “The Truth about Metabolism.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-metabolism. 
  5. Dulloo, A G, et al. “Normal Caffeine Consumption: Influence on Thermogenesis and Daily Energy Expenditure in Lean and Postobese Human Volunteers.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 49, no. 1, 1989, pp. 44–50., doi:10.1093/ajcn/49.1.44.
  6. Varghese, Sharon, et al. “Chili Pepper as a Body Weight-Loss Food.” International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, vol. 68, no. 4, 2016, pp. 392–401., doi:10.1080/09637486.2016.1258044.  
  7. Pekala, Jolanta, et al. “L-Carnitine – Metabolic Functions and Meaning in Humans Life.” Current Drug Metabolism, vol. 12, no. 7, 2011, pp. 667–678., doi:10.2174/138920011796504536.
  8. Eckhert CD. Trace Elements. In: A. Catharine Ross BC, Robert J. Cousins, Katherine L. Tucker, Thomas R. Ziegler, ed. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 11th ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014:248-51.
  9. Wingfield, Hailee L, et al. “The Acute Effect of Exercise Modality and Nutrition Manipulations on Post-Exercise Resting Energy Expenditure and Respiratory Exchange Ratio in Women: a Randomized Trial.” Sports Medicine – Open, vol. 1, no. 1, 2015, doi:10.1186/s40798-015-0010-3. 
  10. Huang, Tianyi, and Susan Redline. “Cross-Sectional and Prospective Associations of Actigraphy-Assessed Sleep Regularity With Metabolic Abnormalities: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.” Diabetes Care, vol. 42, no. 8, 2019, pp. 1422–1429., doi:10.2337/dc19-0596. 
  11. Dubnov-Raz, G, et al. “Influence of Water Drinking on Resting Energy Expenditure in Overweight Children.” International Journal of Obesity, vol. 35, no. 10, 2011, pp. 1295–1300., doi:10.1038/ijo.2011.130.

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