8 essential tips to give your metabolism a boost
7 min read
- Metabolism is the process of turning the food you eat into energy that you can use.
- Your metabolism is an important indicator of health status. The better your metabolism, the better your health.
- You should take a holistic look at metabolism. Don't just look at calories and weight loss.
If you’ve ever felt like your metabolism is working against you, the good news is that you’re not alone.
The bad news is that over 90% of Americans have poor metabolic health, according to research on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Despite what the dieting world wants us to believe, weight loss is a lot more complicated than simply eating less and exercising more. We call this the “calorie myth,” which has been used by big pharma and big food companies to trick the American public into believing that the reason why we’re overfed and undernourished is overeating and a lack of exercise.
Truth is, improving metabolic function and reaching your ideal weight is a complex web of psychological, biological, hormonal, emotional, environmental, and behavioral factors that determine health status…all of which are unique to you. A term coined by the functional medicine world as “bio-individuality.”
To understand if your metabolism is working against you, we first need to understand the mechanisms of weight gain, overeating, and obesity. As we pointed out earlier, weight gain in the form of excess body fat accumulation is a complex problem that requires a multifactorial and holistic approach to solve.
First, let’s see what exactly metabolism is and how to determine if you are likely to have metabolic syndrome (which is not good for your health)...
What Exactly Is Metabolism Anyway?
Metabolism is the process of turning the food you eat into energy that you can use. The processes by which the mitochondria in your cells create ATP for your bodily functions — such as breathing, circulating blood, absorbing nutrients, and everything in between — are essential bodily functions that depend on metabolism.
Metabolic rate is a similar concept to metabolism. This is what people are talking about when they say fast or slow metabolism. So what exactly controls how fast or slow our metabolic rate is? The metabolic rate depends on:
- Basal metabolic rate: Resting metabolic rate (RMR) or resting energy expenditure (REE) — is the number of calories the body burns at rest. It makes up 60% to 75% of the total calories you burn each day. BMR is the energy (or calories) you need to “keep the lights on” in your body (like breathing, digestion, body temperature control, etc.).
- Thermogenesis: Thermogenesis is when your body produces heat. It’s caused by the activation of brown fat (a specific type of fat) and during digestion and absorption of food — which also burns calories.
- Physical activity: Most people know the relationship between exercise and burning calories. Specifically, the body needs energy to move, so the more you exercise, the more energy you use.
You don’t need to hit the gym to burn calories, though—energy is also required to do non-exercise movements throughout the day (like walking up the stairs, folding laundry, doing the dishes, and playing with your dog).
While daily exercise or movement is a crucial factor in maintaining good metabolic health, the western world often overestimates the benefits of metabolic health while underestimating the number one factor… the food we eat.
But Why Does Metabolism Matter?
Your metabolism is an important indicator of health status. The better your metabolism, the better your health.
Chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes are metabolic in nature, which means that they’re caused by a dysregulation of your metabolism. The biochemical processes in your body are thrown out of whack, which leads to these diseases.
In fact, metabolic syndrome is the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), and obesity. They put you at higher risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other conditions affecting your blood vessels.
So, when trying to assess health, it’s impossible to get the complete picture without considering metabolism.
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|< 40 mg/dl (men), < 50 mg/dl (women) or taking cholesterol medications
|150 mg/dl or taking cholesterol medications
|> 40 inches (men) or > 35 inches (women)
|> 130/85 mmHg or using hypertension medicine
So, What Causes Metabolic Syndrome?
The exact cause of metabolic syndrome is unknown, but it’s pretty easy to make some educated assumptions. There is a strong correlation between the changes in our food system and the Standard American diet to the overall health of our society.
Many features of metabolic syndrome are associated with “insulin resistance.” Insulin resistance means the body does not use insulin efficiently to lower glucose and triglyceride levels.
If we look at metabolic syndrome as an effect of obesity, then the current theories about calories in calories out make sense.
But what actually causes obesity? And what if metabolic syndrome causes obesity instead of the other way around?
Why Calories Matter Less Than You Think
The usual way of thinking about obesity is based on energy balance.
It’s based on the theory of thermodynamics. If we eat more than we use, the extra calories are stored as fat for future use. If you always eat in excess and keep storing this fat, it eventually leads to obesity.
This is known as the energy balance model.
Calories In vs. Calories Out = Net Caloric Surplus or Deficit.
The theory states that consuming more calories than you burn leads to obesity.
But here’s the problem: Calorie consumption has actually decreased since the year 2000. But, obesity rates have increased by more than a third since then, to almost half of the U.S. population today.
We’ve explained this paradox further in our blog post about why some meal replacements work and others don't. But here’s a brief overview for easy reference:
The carbohydrate-insulin model explains this paradox. The problem is eating ultra-processed carbs and refined oils lead to hormonal changes that program our body to store fat. So, even if you eat the same amount of calories in the form of ultra-processed carbs instead of protein, fat, or complex natural carbs — you will get fat.
Same calories. Different outcomes.
So just eating less doesn’t help when you don’t change what you eat.
Calories In vs. Calories Out Doesn’t Look At Micronutrients
Another reason for metabolic syndrome is the lack of micronutrients in the diets of most Americans.
We believe in the Triage Theory by Dr. Bruce Ames. The theory states that our body prioritizes using limited micronutrients for short-term survival over long-term health.
So, it means that if you don’t get enough vitamins and minerals, your body will use them for processes that we need right now for survival over processes that help us live longer. It’s our body’s way of saying, “what’s the point of saving food for later if you’re starving right now?” And this is indirectly supported by science.
There’s research showing that people with obesity have more micronutrient deficiencies.
Researchers looked at levels of vitamin A, D, B, iron, zinc, and calcium in obese individuals, and guess what? They were deficient.
But there’s no research showing micronutrient deficiency causing obesity right now. So research has also proposed the hypothesis that obesity might cause micronutrients to be stored in fat tissue instead of being used by the body.
Either way, micronutrient deficiencies can’t be good for your metabolic health, can they?
This is another thing that the calories in calories energy balance model is missing.
Leptin and Other Hormones
The calorie fallacy model also doesn’t look at leptin and other hormones released when we eat food. Leptin is a hormone made by our fat cells and tells our brain that we’ve stored enough fat.
So, leptin is one of the hormones that help regulate how much we eat. The more fat you have, the more leptin you produce, telling your brain that you’ve eaten enough.
But eventually, your brain stops responding to leptin because there’s so much of it. This is called leptin resistance.
Leptin resistance is one of the key features of obesity and metabolic syndrome.If you have leptin resistance, your body will think you’re starving even when you’re full.And different foods have different effects on your leptin levels.
Research has shown that eating a lot of fructose, and omega-6 fatty acids have been shown to increase leptin levels leading to leptin resistance. Low protein in diets fed to rats also showed high levels of leptin.
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How to Boost Metabolism: Tips for Boosting Metabolism and Weight Loss
One thing is clear — metabolic health and weight loss go hand in hand. So how can you boost your metabolism? Here are some tips:
1. Increase Your Protein Uptake
Eating food temporarily increases your metabolism for a couple of hours. This is called the Thermic Effect of Food and comes about because extra calories are required to digest, absorb and process the nutrients you just ate.
Protein causes the highest spike in the thermic food effect as it requires 20 to 30% of its usable energy for metabolism. The figure is 5 to 10% in carbs and 0 to 3% for fats.
Protein is also more satiating, which helps prevent overeating and plays a vital role in maintaining and building lean muscle - one of the most important ways to improve metabolic function.
2. Hydrate More
People who reach for water instead of fizzy, sugary drinks tend to be more successful at shedding extra kilos and keeping them off.
One reason for this is that sugary drinks contain sugar. Replacing them with water automatically reduces your calorie intake.
In addition, one study showed that drinking 500 ml of water can increase the resting metabolic rate by 30% for an hour.
Another reason to drink more water is that it helps create a feeling of satiety. This encourages you to have smaller meals, which means fewer calories.
3. Look Into Weight Lifting
Muscle is more metabolically active compared to fat. Therefore, building muscle can help increase your metabolism, making you more “metabolically flexible,” so you burn more calories every day, even when your body is at rest.
Every pound of muscle utilizes up to 6 calories daily for basic sustenance, compared to 2 calories daily for fat. This is a slight difference, but it compounds over time.
Lifting weights also helps prevent muscle loss when trying to lose weight which is important to ensure you’re shedding excess body fat and not lean muscle.
4. Prevent Insulin Resistance and Leptin Resistance
Obesity causes insulin resistance, making you less metabolically flexible over time. This makes it harder for the body to burn fat and calories. In addition, insulin resistance feeds leptin resistance, further exacerbating fat regulation and metabolism.
On the other hand, leptin is an adipokine hormone produced in fat cells. Leptin is related to adiposity levels, and when functioning correctly, it tells the brain when you are full. It also lets the brain know when your body has stored enough fat.
When it’s wonky, you develop leptin resistance that contributes to long-term stress and insulin resistance. This is disastrous to the metabolism.
5. Pay Attention to Sleep and Stress Management
Prolonged stress places you in an extended flight or fight mode. This causes your adrenal glands to produce more cortisol. Higher levels of cortisol give you bursts of energy while slowing down other body functions, including metabolic action.
To avoid this, it makes sense to prevent known stressors or find ways to counter or channel stress better. Exercise, for one, is known to increase your happy hormones, better known as endorphins, and it’s one way to relieve stress. The other is engaging in more positive things and creating more meaningful connections.
Sleep is the other part of this equation and arguably one of the most important things we can do to improve overall health and metabolism. Sleep duration and sleep quality affect our metabolism. So it’s not enough to sleep long hours, but these hours should yield restful restorative sleep. Our circadian rhythm affects how our bodies use insulin. Invest in good sleep just as much as you do other things.
6. Stand, Step More
Sitting too much does nothing to support metabolic health. For some professions, workers are at their desks for much of the workday.
If this is you, stand up and take some steps, at least hourly if possible. Standing and stepping are associated with a lower cardiometabolic risk, waist circumference, body fat, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, weight, and fasting triglycerides.
If you have a desk job, countering the time you spend sitting with some activity will help your metabolic health.
7. Rest Your Body and Cells With Fasting
Whether you pick up circadian or intermittent fasting, bundling food intake into a set time window improves metabolic health. As long as you are not malnourished or underweight, fasting is among the most potent ways to rev up your metabolism.
Fasting makes your body think there is no food coming in. In response, your body is forced to burn fat, increase the health and number of mitochondria in your cells and increase autophagy.
These processes are like a clean and reboot cycle for your cells and have powerful effects on your metabolism.
8. Improve Nutrient Status
Eating a balanced diet rooted in real whole foods that includes a variety of micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, can help improve metabolic health.
These micronutrients play important roles in many of the body’s metabolic processes, including converting food into energy and regulating hormones that control appetite and metabolism.
For example, vitamin D and magnesium are important for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, while vitamin B12 and folate are essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system.
Additionally, consuming adequate amounts of fiber and lean protein can help support metabolic health by promoting feelings of fullness and healthy digestion.
We developed the All-in-One Essentials Shake as a simple solution for meeting your daily nutritional requirements without the chemicals, seed oils, or other junk found in many meal replacement products and “natural” health supplements.
Your metabolism plays a crucial role in keeping your weight in check. So, It’s worth your time to find ways to keep your metabolism on the up and up.
This is not always easy to do. As such, finding tips and tricks to boost your metabolism can come in handy in helping you meet your weight and metabolic health goals, even on the go.
One simple solution? Our 21-Day Transformation Program. Whether you aim to lose weight, gain more energy, or live a more connected and conscious lifestyle, the Transformation Program is exactly what you need to accomplish.
Rooted in whole food, plant-based nutrition, and mindful living principles, the Transformation Program is the ultimate solution for taking your health and performance to new heights.
Not only will it help to reveal everyday things in our diets and environments that wreak havoc on metabolism but it also provides you with step-by-step guidance to take back control of your health and master your metabolism.
- García, Long, and Rosado, "Impact of micronutrient deficiencies on obesity" Nutrition Reviews, Volume 67, Issue 10, 1 October 2009, Pages 559–572
- Mendoza-Herrera et al (2021). The Leptin System and Diet: A Mini Review of the Current Evidence. Frontiers in endocrinology, 12, 749050.
Disclaimer: The LYFE Fuel blog is for informational purposes only. The information does not serve as a replacement for professional medical advice or treatment. We kindly ask you not to ignore professional medical advice because of any information you’ve read on https://lyfefuel.com/. If you have any concerns about your health, please consult a physician or appropriate health care expert.