How to Increase Your Metabolic Rate
If you’re trying to lose weight, increasing your metabolism or metabolic rate can enable you to lose more weight without cutting more calories. The commercialism surrounding “metabolism-enhancing products” has made it difficult to separate fact from fiction (or advertising), but you can find a few research-based suggestions here.
How to Increase Metabolism to Lose Weight
Tips on how to increase your metabolism fast – naturally and permanently:
1. Understand what metabolism is.
In the simplest terms, metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories. Very few people have a fast metabolism. A faster metabolism will enable you to lose more weight than a person with the same activity level, diet, and weight.
2. Determine what is influencing your metabolism.
There are some factors that you can control and change, and some factors that you can’t. Note the following:
- Age – Metabolic rate decreases 5% each decade, after the age of 40, partly because of decreased muscle mass.
- Gender – Men generally burn calories more quickly than women because they have more muscle tissue.
- Heredity – We typically inherit our metabolic rate from previous generations.
- Thyroid disorder – Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland) can slow down or speed up metabolism.
- Weight – different tissues of your body contribute different amounts to resting metabolism. Muscle contributes more than fat per unit mass; and because it is denser than fat, muscle contributes much more per unit volume but this may not be practically significant. See weight training below.*
3. Estimate your resting metabolic rate (RMR).
RMR is often used interchangeably with basal metabolic rate (BMR). Although they are slightly different, estimating either is sufficient for the purpose of losing weight. What these equations will show you is, that if you weigh more, your RMR will be higher. To calculate your RMR, use the Mifflin-St Jeor equation (which is more reliable than the Harris-Benedict equation). There are also calculators online that can do this for you:
- RMR = 9.99w + 6.25s – 4.92a + 166g-161
- w = weight in kilograms; if you know your weight in pounds, divide by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms.
- s = height in centimeters; if you know your height in inches, multiply by 2.54 to get your height in centimeters.
- a = age in years
- g = gender = 1 for males, 0 for females
4. Adjust your diet accordingly.
Another important thing about how to increase metabolism rate is knowing how to maintain your RMR or Resting Metabolic Rate. Your RMR tells you how many calories you need to maintain your body at rest. Ideally, your daily consumption formula to maintain your weight should be:
- RMR x 1.15
- Example: RMR = 2000, so your maintenance intake is 2000 x 1.15 = 2300
- To lose weight safely, do not exceed your maintenance intake or have a caloric intake lower than your calculated RMR.
- Count calories by recording what you eat and looking up how many calories each food item contains (either on the food packaging or in tables provided in books or online).
5. Eat small, frequent meals.
Extending the time between meals makes your body go into “starvation mode,” which decreases your metabolism as a means to conserve energy and prevent starvation. While some people are able to lose weight through intermittent fasting, most people generally eat less and weigh less overall when they eat small, frequent meals. In addition to having four to six small meals per day, eating healthy snacks will also increase metabolism.
6. Boost metabolism temporarily with aerobic exercises.
Different physical activities burn different quantities of calories, but the important thing is to raise your heart rate and sustain the activity for approximately thirty minutes.
7. Boost metabolism long-term with weight training.
Muscle burns more calories than fat does (73 more calories per kilogram per day, to be exact) so the more muscles you build, the higher your resting metabolic rate (RMR) will be. Every muscle cell that you gain is like a little factory that constantly burns calories for you, even while you sleep, and revs up when you exercise.
- This is the only way to increase RMR, which accounts for 60 to 70 percent of the calories you burn daily.
- From a recent conservative estimate, one can extrapolate that in one year a person with 2.2 kg more muscle will burn calories corresponding to 1 kg of fat due to this muscle mass. Young healthy men typically have 35 to 50 kg of muscle mass, so the most muscular men in the range burn extra calories relative to the least muscular, corresponding to 6.8 kg (15 pounds) of fat per year.
8. Re-calculate your RMR as needed.
Your metabolism rate will drop down as you lose weight. The more weight your body is carrying, the more calories your body has to burn in order to sustain itself, even at rest. When you begin restricting your calorie intake, you’ll lose weight relatively easily because your body’s high caloric needs are not being met. But after you begin to shed the weight, the body has less mass to carry, and thus needs fewer calories.
In order to continue losing weight, you will have to restrict your caloric intake even further in order to maintain a difference between what your body needs and what you are providing. Let’s go through a hypothetical example:
- You are 200 lbs and your body needs 2500 calories a day to sustain itself. You cut down your caloric intake to 2000 calories.
- You lose 25 lbs. Now your body only needs 2250 calories to sustain itself because it’s carrying less weight.
- If you continue with your 2000 calorie per day diet (the diet that helped you lose the first 25 lbs) you will still be losing, but at half the speed. In order to maintain a steady weight loss, you will need to reduce your caloric intake further. However, it is at utmost importance that you do not try to consume fewer calories than your RMR!
- Another possible problem: If you continue with your 2000 calorie per day diet (the diet that helped you lose the first 25 lbs), you may actually gain weight back because of varying levels of exercise. Let’s say you lose 50 lbs. on your 2000 calorie diet. Your sustaining calories might be 1800. You’re actually consuming enough calories to gain weight, but how would that happen if you had stayed on your diet? This can happen when your exercise has burned through your calories. If you slowed on exercise at this point, you would actually gain weight again.
The point here is to recheck your RMR when you lose weight and compare it to your consumption and keep on updating it.
- It has been proven that all foods do have what is called the thermic effect. Foods with protein have a 30% thermic effect, and are the most thermal of all foods. So that means if you eat a 100 calorie portion of meat, 30 calories from the food are required to break down the fibers in the protein and to properly digest it. Foods with higher amounts of fiber also have a high thermic effect. This is why people who eat 40% protein 40% fibers/grains and 20% mainly monounsaturated fat diets do very well, especially if they are carbohydrate sensitive and/or endomorphs.
- Some sugar substitutes may adversely affect metabolism and weight loss.
- If you are pregnant or nursing, your caloric needs are increased. Speak to your doctor or midwife before restricting your diet or limiting any specific food group.
- Don’t overdo your diet or exercise program. Losing more than a pound a week can be detrimental to your health. Check with a physician or a nutritionist to determine what would be considered appropriate weight loss for your level of fitness before you start a new exercise or diet plan.
Adapted from How to Increase Your Metabolism.