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Can you boost your metabolic rate?

Our metabolic rate governs how many calories we burn - how can we increase it?

Think you are already doing all you can to stay in shape? Perhaps you are struggling to shift those extra few pounds of fat and wonder whether you can give your metabolic rate a little nudge?

A boost to your metabolic rate could lead to higher calorie use. So, your body could burn off a greater amount of fuel, including carbohydrate, fat… and last night’s pizza.

But is this possible? And if so, how can we do it?

What is our metabolic rate?

Metabolism is a word which gets thrown around a lot. It refers to all the chemical processes that go on continuously inside your body. This includes breathing, repairing cells and digesting food – these processes require energy which come in the form of calories in food.

A whopping 60-70 % of the calories we use are for our basal metabolic rate (BMR).

BMR includes all the calories your body needs to be alive - and do nothing more!

The second biggest use of calories by your body is the physical activity you do (10-15%), but this also depends on theexercisetype, time length, and intensity.

How to boost your metabolic rate

Your fat-free mass is the most important contributor to your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Fat-free mass includes all your organs (your brain, heart, liver and kidney) and your muscle mass. These parts of your body use the most calories.

So, increasing your muscle mass could be an effective way to increase your metabolic rate in the long-term [5]. And as a result, burn more calories.

Unfortunately for us, there is no quick or easy way to do this. It all comes down to one thing: exercise and good nutrition.

Strength and resistance training, such as weightlifting, may be more effective at increasing your muscle mass [7]. This is due to the anabolic (muscle building) capability of these training activities.

What’s more, in the short-term, exercise can boost your metabolic rate. Just 20 minutes of activity could keep your metabolism raised for hours - even after you stop moving! This is even more reason to be active regularly[8].

Exercise has many other benefits which are not limited to your BMR. More exercise can improve your body strength, bone density and gives your mental health a boost.

Differences in our metabolism

Factors known to affect your metabolic rate include your overall body size and gender. Men tend to have faster metabolic rate than women because they naturally have greater muscle mass [1]. Your genes could also play a part, but this is not fully understood yet [1].

As we age, our metabolic rate slows down. This is related to a change in our body makeup because we naturally experience a reduction in our fat-free mass (including muscle mass). Maintaining healthy amounts of exercise, including strength and resistance exercise, is especially important in older age to maintain muscle mass and body strength.

Some health conditions can also affect our metabolism. For example, hypothyroidism is a condition which can cause your metabolic rate to slow down. This is due to reduced production of thyroid hormones which regulate our metabolism. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, tiredness and depression [4].

If you are experiencing symptoms, Medichecks offers a first-stage Thyroid Function Blood Test, which can measure how well your thyroid is working. You may also be interested in taking an advanced blood test such as Advanced Thyroid Function Blood Test. This test will measure thyroid function and other nutritional markers (vitamin D and iron), to investigate whether there is a nutritional reason for your symptoms.

Can food boost our metabolic rate?

It’s a common misconception that consuming certain foods and beverages can lead to noticeable differences in your metabolic rate.

There is a small amount of evidence to show that consuming certain foods and beverages, such as green-tea [5] and spicy chilli [6], can increase your metabolic rate. But any effects are small and are only last for a short time after eating them.

To get the benefits from these foods, you would need to eat an awful lot over a long time. We don’t fancy it, do you?!

Plus, the limited available evidence only shows around a 1-2% benefit to weight loss (this is about 1 kg in a 70 kg man). In other words, even if it does work, you wouldn’t even notice a difference.

So, what about juice diets? Unfortunately, these are not very effective either. In-fact, any crash diet could have the opposite effect that you want on your body. If you cut the calories you eat, your body could use your muscle mass as fuel - not helpful if you want more muscle mass to get a faster metabolic rate.

Stick to a well-balanced, nutritious, post-workout meal which is rich in protein, carbohydrate and veggies. This will support your body and muscles with the nutrients it needs to get fitter and stronger.

Summary

So, to cut a long story short. If you are looking to ‘boost’ your metabolic rate, the answer is simple: do more exercise (but remember to refuel afterwards with good nutrition). Doing so will help you to build up your muscle mass and perhaps burn more calories.

Along with benefits to your metabolic rate, exercise has enormous advantages to both your physical and mental wellbeing – which is all the more reason to go out on that jog.

You can test your body’s internal health with an Ultimate Performance Blood Test from Medichecks. This test will give an in-depth look at many areas of your health and fitness including your muscle health, kidney heath and levels of inflammation. It will even measure your body levels of essential vitamins which are important for your sport performance and overall health.

References

[1] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/metabolism-and-weight-loss/ [2] Geissler, C. and Powers, H.J. eds., 2017. Human nutrition. Oxford University Press. [3] Mousavi, A., Vafa, M., Neyestani, T., Khamseh, M. and Hoseini, F., 2013. The effects of green tea consumption on metabolic and anthropometric indices in patients with type 2 diabetes. Journal of research in medical sciences: the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 18(12), p.1080. [4] NHS. Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). Health A to Z 2018 [cited 2020 24th August]; Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/underactive-thyroid-hypothyroidism/. [5] Speakman, J.R. and Selman, C., 2003. Physical activity and resting metabolic rate. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 62(3), pp.621-634. [6] Galgani, J.E., Ryan, D.H. and Ravussin, E., 2010. Effect of capsinoids on energy metabolism in human subjects. British journal of nutrition, 103(1), pp.38-42. [7] MacKenzie-Shalders, K., Kelly, J.T., So, D., Coffey, V.G. and Byrne, N.M., 2020. The effect of exercise interventions on resting metabolic rate: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of sports sciences, 38(14), pp.1635-1649. [8] Knab, A.M., Shanely, R.A., Corbin, K.D., Jin, F., Sha, W. and Nieman, D.C., 2011. A 45-minute vigorous exercise bout increases metabolic rate for 14 hours. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 43(9), pp.1643-1648.