This article will explain metabolism, how it affects your health, and what factors can boost your metabolism, including sleep, diet, and exercise.
Metabolism refers to the many processes in your body that release or use energy. This includes converting different fuels in your body and providing the energy you need to live.
Your metabolic rate represents the energy the body burns to carry out its tasks, typically measured in kilocalories or simply “calories.” In other words, your metabolic rate is the calories burned just to keep you alive.
There are two main components to metabolism:
- Resting metabolic heart rate: Your resting metabolic rate (RMR), which is your metabolism at rest and during sleep.
- Conversion: Your metabolism converting energy for additional tasks.
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a MyPlate Plan that provides a framework for how many calories you burn daily. This framework factors in your age, weight, and activity level.
Everyone is different, but the framework can help give a general idea of the calories you burn daily. For example, an average adult needs around 2,000 calories per day.
How does your metabolism affect your body?
All of the processes in our body require energy to perform, including:
- growing and repairing cells
- digesting nutrients from food
The amount of energy it takes to do those things is different for everyone. For instance, someone with a higher metabolism will burn more calories at rest than someone with a slower metabolism.
Your metabolism also changes at different points in your life. Relative to your body size, your metabolism is extremely high in your first year of life. It declines and slows as you approach 20 years, then stabilizes from ages 20–60 in adulthood. Typically, it slows again after 60 years.
How much energy your cells need to function depends on a few different factors, including:
- activity level
- medical conditions that might need more energy or interfere with energy processes, such as diabetes
How does metabolism affect your health?
Metabolism plays an important role in your health. A slow metabolism may cause excess weight gain, even if you exercise and eat a seemingly appropriate number of calories per day. It can also make it difficult for you to lose weight.
An excessively fast metabolism may make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight. A high metabolism may also link to certain health conditions, such as hyperthyroidism.
Why should you boost your metabolism?
Some people may want to boost their metabolism to help improve their energy levels, promote weight loss, or improve their health.
Research links some conditions to metabolism, including:
Maintaining a healthy metabolism can help manage those conditions as well.
If your doctor suspects you have a slow metabolism, they may also recommend trying to boost it for long-term changes.
Read more about diabetes, sleep apnea, and PCOS here.
How can diet boost metabolism?
Diet does play a role in metabolism. Your metabolism naturally increases when you eat because your body requires energy to process and digest your food.
However, the food and drink you consume can impact your metabolism differently.
Eating enough protein is crucial to maintaining a healthy metabolism. A 2020 review explains that rats with insufficient protein physically changed their metabolisms. This change prompted them to eat more food and store more fat in their bodies.
Additionally, you need adequate protein to maintain muscle mass in your body. Typically, the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will be.
Recent studies are inconclusive about just how large of an impact drinking water has on your metabolism.
However, staying hydrated is essential to all body functions, including metabolism. Dehydration will impact every system in your body, including your metabolism, how full you feel, and how well your muscles can work.
Researchers are unsure how much of an impact drinking tea can help boost metabolism.
A 2018 clinical trial finds that women drinking 3 cups of green tea per day for 8 weeks decreased symptoms of metabolic disorder. This supports the theory that green tea may help boost metabolism.
Spicy foods and metabolism
Evidence suggests that spicy food increases metabolism, particularly red chili peppers and foods with capsaicin.
A 2017 review finds that people who ate foods containing capsaicin increased their oxygen consumption and body temperature. They also lost more weight compared with the control group.
How can exercise boost metabolism?
Exercising has an impact on your metabolism. The more energy your body needs to accomplish tasks, the higher its metabolic demands.
Exercising too much, however, can actually slow down your metabolism. Research suggests that your basal resting metabolic rate slows significantly after intense physical training. This decrease is to compensate for the excess energy burned during training.
Other research explores the metabolism slowing in response to increased demands, including a study based on participants from The Biggest Loser show.
The study confirms that the contestants’ metabolism slowed down during the show with increased exercise and calorie restriction. Additionally, the metabolic changes persisted for years afterward. The more weight the contestants lost, the more their metabolism slowed.
Weightlifting, strength training, or resistance training can temporarily increase your metabolism.
A recent study finds that strength training may specifically boost metabolism in fat cells, which may help people trying to lose excess fat.
Building muscle boosts your metabolism because you need higher metabolic rates to maintain the muscle, even when you are not exercising.
Staying physically active throughout the day can help you burn more calories. It can also help prevent your body from entering a resting metabolic state, where energy consumption will be slower.
Move your body in a way that feels good. If you can, incorporate some strength training a few times per week to help keep your metabolism healthy. Be careful not to exercise excessively, which can slow your metabolism down.
How can good sleep boost metabolism?
Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for maintaining your metabolism. Chronic and short-term sleep deprivation can significantly slow your metabolism. These conditions can also change your appetite and how full you feel after eating.
Even 5 hours of sleep per night for 4 nights can substantially impact your metabolism. Catching up on your sleep on day 5 can help restore some aspects of your metabolism. However, it still can slow down metabolism in your fat cells.
To help keep your metabolism running at an optimal rate, aim for at least 8 hours of sleep each night.
How long does it take to boost your metabolism?
Metabolism varies between individuals, so boosting your metabolism will look different for every person. The body is also adaptable. It can slow down your metabolism in response to calorie restrictions and increased exercise, making weight loss more challenging.
Genetics also plays a large part in metabolism. In general, however, you can start boosting your metabolism in one 30-minute strength training session.
For the best long-term impact to boost your metabolism, you should aim to:
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of protein.
- Stay hydrated.
- Get 30–60 minutes of moderate exercise per day.
- Incorporate strength training into your exercise routine several times per week.
- Manage your stress.
Metabolism is the individual process of how your body burns energy to complete tasks. Everything from breathing to exercising requires energy. The metabolic rate, or how fast metabolism works, is different for everyone. Age, weight, activity levels, and genetics can impact metabolism.
Additionally, metabolism changes at different points in our lives. Your metabolism will be slower after age 60 than in your young adult years. Metabolism can also slow to compensate for calorie restriction and exercise, making weight loss challenging for some people.
Maintaining a healthy metabolism is important to help you manage your weight and decrease the risk of health conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
There is no one proven strategy for increased metabolism for everyone. However, the best ways to boost your metabolism are leading a healthy lifestyle, staying active, and eating a well-balanced diet.
Your metabolism may also benefit from incorporating strength training into your exercise routine, eating spicy foods, staying hydrated, and drinking green tea.