“Top tips to boost your metabolism naturally” is not typical Lyons’ Share mentality. I’m all about feeling great, inside and out, protecting long-term health, and choosing to be empowered about your health. But seemingly every day, I get asked “how do I boost my metabolism naturally?” … and I know you’re out there googling if I don’t give it to you … and I’m frankly terrified at what you might find if you Google (please, no more scary pills!) … so here we are. Top tips to boost your metabolism naturally. You’re welcome 😉.
What is metabolism, anyway?
Technically speaking, metabolism is “the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life” (from Oxford Languages). So, basically, metabolism is everything that happens in your body.
Colloquially, when we talk about metabolism, many of us mean “how quickly we burn fat” or “how naturally thin we are” or “the ability to look at a cupcake and not gain weight.” And that’s not as wrong as it sounds … our metabolism is dependent on the body’s ability to turn calories we eat into usable energy to run all of its processes. And the more adept we are at utilizing those calories we eat for useful cellular processes, the more energy we have, the clearer we think, the healthier our body, and more.
Let me blow your mind…
Do you think you have a “slow metabolism”? (I still do, even as I type these words). Did you know that some research (like this study) shows that those who think they have a “slow metabolism” do not burn any fewer calories than those who think they have a “fast metabolism”?!?
Now, what this study misses (after all, it is a small study of only 44 people) is that people have highly different sensitivities to carbohydrates, blood sugar stability, hormonal fluctuations, microbiome health, and so much more, and all of that changes how we utilize food. So, your chronic cortisol overdrive and hormonal imbalance may lead you to not only have a higher blood sugar spike after your oatmeal (which leads to more insulin release, and ultimately more fat storage), but also likely leads to a bigger crash, which leads to you eating more food to feel better again, and again, to store more fat. And your friend Sally might be able to eat that same oatmeal with a much lower glucose surge due to her healthier microbiome or lower stress or other factors, and then she not only stores less fat but also has fewer cravings after.
So, there is some true difference. But the concept that, all else equal, some people just burn unhealthy food “better” may not be as accurate as we think.
How do you know if your metabolism is suffering?
Aside from those stubborn pounds that won’t go away, you may experience several other things when your metabolism is in need of a boost. Here are some of them:
- Energy slumps and fatigue
- Cold body temperature and inability to stay warm
- Thin, dry, brittle, and slow-growing hair, skin, and nails
- Low libido and irregular periods
- Bloating and constipation
- Excessive thirst and excessive urination
- Weak immune system
- Brain fog, anxiety, moodiness, or racing mind
Every person I know (and especially every woman I know) has experienced at least one of these before, so don’t ring the alarm yet. Your metabolism might be fine, as many of these symptoms apply to so many other conditions, and even to “regular life.” But if many of those are screaming your name, or you want to explore how to boost your metabolism naturally anyway, let’s dive into some tips.
Top tips to boost metabolism naturally
- Eat adequate protein. The thermic effect of protein (or how much energy your body has to use to digest it) is the highest of any macronutrient. The body utilizes 20-30% of the ingested calories from protein in digestion, vs. 5-15% of carbohydrates and about 5% of fat. Protein is important for so many other reasons, too – check out this post for how much you need to be eating daily, the benefits of protein, and how to get it in a healthy way!
- Reduce sugar and artificial sweeteners. Most of us know that sugar isn’t our metabolism’s best friend, but we tend to give artificial sweeteners a pass since they have no calories. However, research shows that aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin are linked to increased risk of metabolic dysfunction, metabolic syndrome, excessive weight gain, and type 2 diabetes. Yikes!
- Don’t restrict calories for too long. Dieting in the traditional way is a vicious cycle, where you dramatically cut down portions of what you’re regularly eating to scale back calories (sometimes to super scary levels!) and maintain this low calorie level for a long period of time as you’re losing weight and maintaining afterwards. Here’s the problem: your body adapts really quickly, and it wants to keep you alive, so it learns to operate on a lower calorie intake (this is the very definition of lowering your metabolism). But then, when you start eating your higher calorie intake again, your body thinks it is being overfed, and stores excess fat. So, you might scale back even further … and the cycle continues.This is why I encourage my clients to focus on quality over a specific calorie number. I promise, a slightly higher calorie intake full of lean proteins and vegetables with moderate healthy fats and some optional fruits, grains, and beans is much better for satiety, health, and sustained weight loss than a lower calorie intake full of chips and fast food. You may be able to lose weight off 1,000 calories per day of Twinkies … but you’ll tank your metabolism in the short-term and encounter a host of serious health issues in the longer term.
- Try Intermittent Fasting. I just said above not to dramatically lower your calorie intake for an extended period of time, so do not think of Intermittent Fasting as a way to cut intake down to unsafe levels. But if you just compress the window in which you eat, allowing for a longer fasting time during the day, your metabolism benefits from increased adiponectin (which helps fat loss without increasing appetite), a reduction of insulin resistance (making your body better able to deal with carbohydrates appropriately), and more. Intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone, though – check out this post to see if intermittent fasting is right for you.
- Enjoy some coffee. Many people who are fasting permit themselves to drink black coffee during the fast and find fasting far easier when they do. This is because coffee helps with satiety (via increasing adiponectin and CCK, two satiety hormones). It can also raise AMPK in our bodies, which helps us burn fat, preserve muscle, and reduce inflammation. I recommend Four Sigmatic mushroom coffees (and you can use code LYONS for 10% off here!)
- Be NEAT. No, not a tidy office, although that doesn’t hurt! NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis, and it’s basically all the calories you burn from activity that is NOT your dedicated exercise session that day. Let’s break down where the calories you burn come from:
- 60% of daily calorie burn is basal metabolic rate (BMR), or what you’d burn just laying in bed all day, for your body to keep operating.
- 10% of daily calorie burn is the thermic effect of food (TEF), or how much energy you spend digesting (see #2).
- About 30% of daily calorie burn comes from physical activity. But did you know that MOST of this is determined by NEAT (the calories you burn while NOT exercising)? You see, most of us only exercise an hour a day at most, and sleep 7-9 hours, so we have 14-16 additional hours to increase our metabolism!
You can increase NEAT significantly by simply standing through the day! This study shows an added benefit of 174 calories from an afternoon of standing (and this blog post from 2014, when I hardly had any clients, makes me so reminiscent, but has some great reasons to stand!). You could also aim to go for short 5–15-minute walks when you can get a break, run up and down the stairs, or toss a few push-ups in between Zoom calls. So don’t only focus on the exercise, but get active during the day!
- Build more muscle via strength training. Each additional pound of muscle on your body burns about 6 calories per day at rest, vs. 2 calories per day for a pound of fat. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you could add 5 pounds of muscle and keep it on for a year, you’d automatically burn an additional 3 pounds of fat without even doing a thing. And 5 pounds of muscle on your body is way healthier (and looks better!) than 3 pounds of fat. Strength training also burns calories even after you’re done exercising, so it’s a big winner for metabolism.
- Drink plenty of water. This study showed that after drinking 17 ounces of water, study participants’ metabolic rates increased by 30%, and estimated that drinking an additional 6 cups of water per day could lead to an increased metabolic rate resulting in a 5 pound weight loss over the course of a year. Water is so important for our overall health!
- Get plenty of sleep. Sleep is so important for overall health, and when it comes to metabolism, it’s a key player as well. Being sleep deprived makes us less able to use sugar for fuel (so it often gets stored as fat), reduces appetite control (hello, snack attack!), and increases cortisol (which again, causes you to hold on to fat). See this post for tips to improve sleep naturally!
- Enjoy some metabolism superfoods. There is no (I repeat, no!) magic metabolism boosting food. There is nothing that you will eat to magically make you lose 10 pounds overnight. That said, even teeny bits do add up, and all of these foods have small metabolic benefit.
- Green tea. Sipping green tea can lower levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and increase satiety hormones. Plus, the polyphenols and antioxidants help remove cellular waste and reduce inflammation, and can increase metabolism by 4-5%.
- Apple cider vinegar. Drinking this has SO many benefits (here are some more!), but one potential benefit is a boost to metabolism. Add 1 Tbsp to a small glass (about 6 oz) of cold water and drink first thing in the morning!
- Cayenne pepper. This spice improves lipid oxidation (“fat burning”) and decreases appetite. But remember what I said at the beginning of this tip … there is NO magic metabolism boosting food. The added benefit of having cayenne daily is about 1 pound per year! (
- OK, I’m really stretching here, but you know I’ll do anything to include chocolate in a healthy food list! This study showed that 40g of dark chocolate per day (about 1.5 ounces) improved metabolism of human subjects, particularly those who were more prone to stress. Sign me up!
Now it’s your turn … Which of these tips do you already do regularly? Which would you like to try out?