We’ve all heard it before. While talking to a friend about the struggles of dieting, somebody will pipe up to say:
“I’ve tried everything but I just can’t lose weight. The problem is I have a slow metabolism.”
We may even have uttered these exact words ourselves in the past. But what exactly are we talking about when we talk about the speed of our metabolism? How does our metabolism affect our weight? What are the implications of having slow or fast metabolism? And is there any way to change its rate of speed?
In layperson’s terms, metabolism is the name given to the numerous chemical processes that make our bodies work. It’s responsible for the activities of our autonomic nervous system, like breathing and digesting food. It’s what’s allows our cells to repair themselves. It’s what oxygenates our blood and allows us to move. In short, it’s what keeps us alive.
All of these life-sustaining processes need energy, and the minimum quantity of energy our body needs in order for these processes to occur is what’s known as our basal metabolic rate, or BMR. Depending upon your age, size, diet and exercise habits, and other variables, your BMR can account for anywhere from 40% to 70% of your energy requirements. When people complain of having a slow metabolism, it would in fact be more accurate to complain that they have a low basal metabolic rate.
What Determines Your Metabolic Rate?
There are many factors responsible for determining your BMR. Some of them include your age, gender, height and weight, and your genetics.
Men, for instance, tend to have more muscle mass and less body fat than women do, which means they typically have higher metabolic rates, as muscle burns more energy (and therefore more calories) than fat does. Likewise, people of all genders who exercise regularly also tend to have a higher metabolic rate than people with more sedentary lifestyles, simply because having a lower body fat percentage and more muscle puts a higher demand on your metabolism.
Generally speaking, if your metabolic rate is low and you want to make it higher, the best solution is a proper diet and regular exercise. Changing the composition of your body so you have less overall body fat and more muscle mass will result in a higher metabolic rate as the demands on your metabolism change.
Of course, there are also some medical conditions that can affect your metabolic rate, making it difficult to lose weight even if you work out religiously and eat a low-calorie diet. Some of those conditions include Cushing’s syndrome and hypothyroid.
These are serious medical conditions that require treatment from a qualified medical professional. But for those of us with no such diagnoses, is there any way of giving our metabolic rate a little boost?
Keep reading to find out how!
How to Increase Your Metabolic Rate Naturally
We’ve already touched on the most reliable ways of increasing your metabolic rate, but we’ll cover them in some more detail here.
#1: Proper Diet
It’s not what any of us wants to hear, but the reality is that most of the time a failure to lose weight can be attributed to overeating and too little physical activity. If we want to get slim and stay that way, there is no magic pill that will do the job for us. The reality is that we need to create a calorie deficit by burning more calories than we consume each day in order to burn fat.
However, it’s important to note that there are right and wrong ways of creating a calorie deficit. One of the most popular wrong ways is the practice of crash dieting, in which people hoping to lose weight fast dramatically restrict their daily caloric intake. This method may yield short-term weight-loss, but the long-term results are generally poor.
That’s because crash dieting forces your body to start breaking down muscle tissue for energy. As your muscle mass decreases, the more your metabolic rate drops, and the easier it becomes for you to pile on unwanted fat after the diet has ended.
The safest alternative to crash dieting is to gradually cut calories. Aim for a reduction of about 500 per day, or the equivalent of one pound of fat a week. Starting with a more realistic goal will not only make it easier to stick to your new diet and track what you eat, it will also improve your odds of seeing long-term weight loss.
However, don’t think you can stop at diet alone. If your goal is to decrease your body fat percentage and also increase your metabolic rate, you’ll need to couple your new healthier eating habits with regular exercise.
Which brings us to …
There is no more efficient way of burning calories than through regular aerobic exercise. Not only will it help you lose fat, it will improve your circulation, give you more energy, help you to sleep better, and there’s even evidence to suggest that aerobics can help the brain produce new neurons.
Experts agree that if you want to lose weight, the surest way is by combining healthy eating with 150 minutes of cardio per week, or 30 minutes a day. Suitable aerobic exercises include jogging or running, swimming, jumping rope, biking, stair-climbing, and more.
It can be difficult to create and stick to a new exercise routine, especially if you’re transitions from a fairly sedentary lifestyle. For that reason, it’s a good idea to begin by breaking down your exercise periods into manageable chunks. Instead of 30 minutes from start to finish, aim for just ten or fifteen minutes per session and build from there.
This will, of course, take longer to burn fat and see visible results than a crash diet will, but it will also yield more favorable long-term results and be healthier for your body overall than simply depriving yourself of necessary food.
In addition to moderate aerobic exercise, we also recommend you begin strength-training.
#3: Strength-train your body to build muscle and further increase your metabolic rate.
As we established earlier, having more muscle and less body fat puts a higher demand on your body’s need for energy, which means it will use calories more efficiently, converting them into lean muscle rather than fat.
This doesn’t mean you need to take up full-time bodybuilding or shoot for a “ripped” look. It just means you need to make a point of working out your muscles in addition to your heart and lungs.
This can be accomplished through simple exercises like weight-lifting, leg presses, and crunches, as well as taxing physical labor (such as gardening, construction, or even heavy cleaning). You should aim to work out all your major muscle groups at least two times a week.
For beginners, it’s not a bad idea to team up with a personal trainer or a more experienced friend as you begin your strength-training routine. It’s easy for an overambitious beginner to strain muscles with overexertion or poor form, and it helps to have someone watching you who knows how to identify potential problems with how you’re working out. This will help you to avoid injury and get the best possible results from your workout.
Supplements to Enhance Your Weight-Loss Regimen
Now that we’ve covered the basics of what metabolism is, how it works, and what you must do to increase your metabolic rate and burn fat, let’s explore a few ways of enhancing your diet and exercise routine.
As you’re probably already aware, there are hundreds of products currently on the market that claim to stimulate the metabolism and promote weight loss.
But do any of them actually work?
To begin to answer that question, let’s look at just a few of some of the more popular purported metabolism boosters. Here is a list of ingredients commonly found in products that claim to be able to speed up metabolism:
- Caffeine: This stimulant is found in coffee, tea, sodas, chocolate, and other foods and beverages, and it has been shown to help increase thermogenesis, which is simply the process through which your body creates heat. This can help burn calories, hastening weight loss.
- Capsaicin: This is a heat-producing chemical found in hot peppers and other spicy foods, and there’s some evidence to suggest it can help burn up to 50 additional calories a day.
- Green tea: Also known for its detoxyifying properties, green tea is another product that may help with weight maintenance. It contains both caffeine and catechins (natural antioxidants) and might be a useful addition to your weight-loss arsenal.
There are many other ingredients commonly found in metabolism boosters, but these are some of the most popular ones.
By this time you probably have an idea of whether a metabolism booster is something you’d be interested in trying. If so, you may be wondering how to choose one.
It can be tricky, especially given that most herbal supplements aren’t FDA-approved, which means they’re governed by fewer regulations and quality-control guidelines than prescription medications.
To make it simpler for you, we’ve selected a handful of top-rated metabolism boosting pills as rated on Amazon.com. All of these supplements come with a user rating of at least 4 stars, and all have consumer feedback you can use to judge whether the product is reputable or not.
User-Recommended Metabolism Boosters
- AtraFen Elite: This metabolism booster advertises itself as a “diet product and thermogenic” i.e. a supplement that helps promote weight loss by increasing body heat to burn calories. It’s formulated for athletes and intended to help curb appetite. It also enhances focuses and increases energy. AtraFen is manufactured by NutraTech, and it currently boasts a 4.5 star rating on Amazon and more than 200 consumer reviews attesting to its efficacy.
- Natural Forskolin Weight Loss Supplement: Made from the root of the coleus plant, this 100% vegetarian metabolism booster delivers powerful antioxidants while helping to speed up weight loss and burn fat faster. It has a five-star rating and 16 user reviews.
- Uncover Thermogenic Fat Burner: This one contains two popular fat-burning supplements, garcinia cambogia and green tea. Garcinia cambogia is notable for helping block your body’s ability to produce fat, which can help you cut weight faster. This one has a five-star rating and 20 user reviews to its name.
There are many more metabolism boosters out there, but we selected these ones because they come so highly recommended by customers. However, we encourage you to conduct your own research before investing in any weight-loss product. At the end of the day, the truest test of any product is whether it yields results for you. What works for one person may not work for everyone.
To recap, increasing your metabolic rate isn’t as simple as just popping a pill. It’s a complex process that requires dedication to maintaining a healthy, low-calorie diet, doing regular aerobic exercise, and doing strength-training to build lean muscle. Combined, all of these practices will help you raise your metabolism, burn fat, and keep it off.
If you’re looking for a way to hasten this process along, we suggest trying one of the above metabolic enhancers we’ve profiled here. Keep in mind that these are supposed to work in conjunction with your diet and exercise regimen, not in place of it.
Also, please speak with your doctor before beginning any new diet or exercise routine, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions or take medication. It’s not always possible to predict how a sudden change in your lifestyle may affect your health, so needless to say if you have any adverse side effects you should stop what you’re doing right away and consult a doctor.
Have you taken any metabolism boosters for weight loss? Were they successful for you?