According to research, most people have very similar metabolisms and an individual’s size is only rarely down to metabolic rate.
However, because overweight people have larger bodies, their bodies ‘need’ more calories for processes such as respiration, cell production and repair, as well as digesting food. Regardless of this, there are eight lifestyle choices you can make to boost your metabolism.
Build muscle to boost your metabolism
The cells in your muscles have to work harder than those in fat cells, so by adding muscle, you can increase your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is what people are referring to when they say ‘metabolism’ – how quickly you use up calories.
Read our guide to strengthening your muscles at home
Cut some calories to boost your metabolism
As you age, you tend to lose muscle mass and gain fat, which means your BMR slows down, ie you no longer burn fuel as quickly as before. To address this issue, you’ll need to eat fewer calories than you used to if you want to maintain the same weight or figure. Cut down on sweet or carbohydrate-rich foods but keep up your intake of lean protein, low-fat dairy and fresh vegetables and fruit. That will help maintain muscle mass and bone strength, while reducing your calorie intake.
But don’t cut too many calories, or you could slow your metabolism down
Dramatically restricting your calorie intake could actually slow your metabolism down. That’s because when you go on a crash diet, your body starts to break down muscle mass, which in turn means fewer muscle cells using up calories. So when you diet, reduce your calorie intake by only 300 calories a day. You’ll lose weight more slowly than on a crash diet, but you’re more likely to stick to it and your metabolism won’t suffer as a result. Protein in the form of eggs, cheese, yogurt, or baked beans, along with fresh fruit and wholegrain toast will set you up nicely for the rest of the day.
Run for the bus to boost your metabolism
Aerobic activity burns calories faster than any other type but to trigger that aerobic process your heart needs to beat faster, so you need to jog, cycle fast or swim at speed. If you’re not sure whether you’re doing aerobic exercise or not, try talking – if you can talk easily, without having to take breaths between words, you’re not going fast enough. NB Check with your doctor before changing your exercise regime.
Lift some weights to boost your metabolism
As you age and your strength begins to diminish, it’s easy to let others help you and so lose even more muscle mass. But don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you need to carry your own suitcases all the time – in fact, carrying heavy loads like this when you’re not used to it could cause you an injury – it simply means you need to include strength-training in your weekly exercise regime. Use resistance bands to work out at home or the gym, or buy some simple wrist and ankle weights to use while you walk, for example.
Drink green tea to boost your metabolism
While studies haven’t been able to definitively prove green tea’s metabolism-boosting benefits, there is some evidence that epigallocatechin, a substance in the tea, can stimulate metabolism. Whether or not there’s enough of it in a cup of green tea to make a difference isn’t certain, but as green tea is full of antioxidants too, it certainly won’t do you any harm to drink it.
Learn more about the health benefits of tea and coffee
How vinegar helps your metabolism
Again, the scientific evidence isn’t quite there yet with this one – studies have shown that people consuming 30ml per day lost more weight than those who consumed 15ml or none – but there isn’t any evidence that it has a direct impact on metabolic rate. However, if it helps you lose weight, that will have an effect on your BMR, so it could be worth a try. Add it to salads, pickles, to a barbecue sauce, or even sprinkle some balsamic vinegar over strawberries – it sounds odd but it’s delicious and brings out the flavour of the fruits!
Discover the foods most likely to help you burn fat
How red grapes help your metabolism
Resveratrol, found in the skins of red grapes, has been associated with all kinds of health benefits, and some studies have linked it with improvements in aspects of metabolism such as lower blood sugar and pressure, as well as decreased liver fat. The jury’s still out on whether it actually helps speed metabolism so instead of drinking red wine to get your resveratrol, which will add empty calories to your diet in the form of alcohol, sip on red grape juice or even better eat the real thing – that way you’ll be enjoying the benefits of healthy fruit at the same time.
Find out more about the role of antioxidants in your diet