A Holistic Approach: 10 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism That Don’t Involve Supplements

Written by Toni Sicola
on December 18, 2019

Do you feel like your body has been sluggish lately? Having trouble losing weight or finding that you're overly full between meals? There's a chance that your metabolism could use a boost. Your metabolic rate is the rate at which you burn calories. If you can rev your engines and burn more calories at rest, you can help keep your waistline trim and have more energy to do the things you love. 

Questions Answered:
  • How does food impact metabolism?
  • What foods will speed up my metabolism?
  • What exercises increase metabolism?

There are a number of ways to boost your metabolism. Some are a little more challenging than others to add to your lifestyle, but most are really easy and just take a bit of effort to form new habits. Of course, forming new habits isn't always easy, but you might be surprised to learn that a few simple changes can go a long way to boost metabolism. 

Boost Your Metabolism - Exercise on Bike

Some things on this list involve spending more time being active, while others involve a few tweaks in the kitchen. Still others focus on a few lifestyle adjustments like establishing a good sleep schedule. 

The health benefits of some might seem obvious to you while others might come as a surprise. We'll start with the changes you can make when it comes to drinks and food, and then we'll move into the exercise strategies, followed by the lifestyle shifts. Each of these changes can help you kickstart your metabolism to boost your energy levels. And if you're at a weight loss plateau, these could help that too.

Food and Drink

1. Drink More Water

Water is critical for hydration. As you know, humans are 70% water, so staying hydrated is critically important for all the functions of your body to work properly. Research shows that drinking water can not only temporarily speed up your metabolism, it can also increase resting metabolism — this means that when you're doing nothing, you're still burning more calories than you would if you didn't drink enough water. 

The right amount of water needed changes from person to person, but what's important is listening to your body and drinking water when you're thirsty. It's also advisable to drink water when you're feeling hungry. That's true for two reasons. First, humans can sometimes mistake thirst for hunger. It doesn't hurt to start with water, and then if you're truly hungry, your body will tell you that too. Secondly, studies show that drinking water before a meal can lead to eating less at the meal, resulting in weight loss.

2. Drink Caffeinated Beverages like Green Tea and Coffee

Caffeine is a stimulant, so it can rev the engines of your metabolism. Studies show that both coffee and tea can boost metabolism, but for some reason, the effects are more pronounced in already lean individuals. 

Green tea is also particularly beneficial due to certain antioxidant compounds that have been shown to promote weight loss and insulin sensitivity (which helps keep blood sugar low), especially when combined with exercise.

3. Eat More Spicy Food (If You Can Stand It)

Spicy foods like peppers contain a compound called capsaicin, which has been shown to boost metabolism when eaten in certain quantities. Those quantities may be too high if you're sensitive to spicy foods, but if you're eating spicy foods in combination with other strategies on this list, they could have a synergistic effect with one another. 

4. Eat More Coconut Oil and MCTs

If you've been following the keto or paleo diet worlds, you know that coconut oils and the MCTs they contain can help boost metabolism and burn fat. MCTs are medium-chain fatty acids, which are easier to digest than long-chain fatty acids like olive oil and butter. While it's not advisable to cook with pure MCTs, it's a great idea to swap out your cooking oils in favor of MCT-rich coconut oil in order to take advantage of its fat-burning potential. 

5. Eat Low-Carb, Whole Foods

Along with adding whole fruits and vegetables to your diet, it's ideal to cut down on sugar as well. Sugar and other simple carbohydrates reduce insulin sensitivity, create spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, which can wreck your metabolism, and can ultimately create more hunger and an unhealthy cycle in the end. By focusing on low-carb, whole foods, you can avoid this unhealthy cycle that can stall out your metabolism.

6. Choose an Eating Style

Some nutritionists argue that eating multiple, small meals per day helps increase metabolism, while others argue for intermittent fasting, especially in combination with a low-carb or keto diet. While there's research to support both ways of eating, every individual is different, so talk to your doctor, nutritionist, or trainer to find out which option you should try first. It's possible that they could both work for you, but you can't do them both at the same time. You have to choose one at a time.


6. Try Burst Training

Burst training, also called high-intensity interval training (HIIT), is a type of aerobic exercise that can help increase your basal metabolic rate. Basal metabolic rate is similar to resting metabolic rate in that it's the amount of calories you burn when you're not doing anything. But a more precise way of describing it is that it's the bare minimum number of calories that you need for your body to perform the functions necessary for life (like breathing and pumping blood, etc.). 

HIIT involves getting close to maximum energy expenditure for a very short burst, resting for a short interval, then going to the max again. Doing this alternating effort in intervals maximizes cardiovascular health, creates lean muscle, and increases calorie burn long after you're done at the gym. 

7. Start Strength Training

Before you say that you don't want to get bulky, rest assured that if you're not bulky now, you won't get bulky lifting weights. Ideally, you'll build muscle, but unless you're doing some serious training and using specific supplements or drugs, you aren't going to turn into the Hulk. We aren't advocating that you become a bodybuilder. Rather, lean muscle mass is more calorie-intensive to maintain than body fat is. Meaning, the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns. 

If your goal is weight loss, it's also important to note that you can lose muscle if you're eating fewer calories. Resistance training can help you maintain your muscle mass, even during weight loss, which is really important for strength, flexibility, and overall longevity.

If you're new to the gym, consider hiring a trainer for a few sessions to help make sure you're using proper lifting technique and avoiding injury.

8. Move More

Movement isn't just about weights or cardio at the gym. Movement throughout the day is important to avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting is a health risk. In fact, the Mayo Clinic analyzed 13 studies on the health effects of sitting and found that mortality related to prolonged sitting (8 hours or more per day) was the same level as obesity and smoking. Pretty stark.

If you work at a desk, take regular breaks and walk a lap around the office. If you can get your company to invest in a sit-stand desk, do it. You can burn almost 200 more calories per day just by standing at your desk instead of sitting.


9. Sleep More

A good night's sleep is everything. It's the place where we go to recharge, and if you're looking for a recharge in your metabolism, it's the place for that too. Sleep deprivation decreases insulin sensitivity, adds inflammation to your system, and changes the balance of hormones that regulate all manner of functions, including hunger and satiety (ghrelin and leptin, respectively).

Create a regular sleep routine by practicing good sleep hygiene. Turn off the screens close to bedtime, relax in the evenings, and don't eat heavy foods too late at night.

10. De-stress

Stress, like prolonged sitting, is a hidden health risk that you might not be considering. The cascade of fight or flight hormones that pulse through your system in times of stress actually halt metabolism in its tracks. That's because in a situation of real danger, you'd need to run or fight, so your body instinctively turns off the internal functions and pours its energy into your arms and legs so that you can defend yourself. 

The problem is that these days, human stressors aren't physical, and many of them happen daily, creating a chronic stress response that's terrible for overall health and wellbeing, including metabolism. 

A Holistic Approach

Boosting your metabolism isn't just about getting more time in the gym. It's about taking a balanced approach to your overall health and finding ways to tweak what you're already doing to make it work better for you. Eating well, drinking enough water, choosing an eating schedule that works for your body, getting enough sleep, and figuring out the best way to destress are all part of the picture. 

Start with one or two of the items on our list and go from there to find the things that work for you. Gradually making adjustments and building on new habits is the best way to sustaining healthy lifestyle change.  


Author: Toni Sicola

Published: Dec. 18, 2019

Toni is a wellness professional with a Master's in Integrative Health, is passionate about spreading health, happiness, and personal fulfillment to as many people as possible. She has a professional background in health and wellness, dietary supplements, and nutrition, and embarks every day to live a well, balanced, happy life.

Written by Toni Sicola

Published: December 18, 2019