You see them on TV and receive them in your email inbox— weight loss claims. You likely know that some electronic magic abs belt won’t turn your keg into a six-pack, but spotting fad diets and misleading weight loss claims isn’t always so simple. Case in point: diets and supplements that claim to kick your metabolism into overdrive.
Your metabolism is the rate at which your body burns fuel for energy. This fuel comes in the form of calories from food, stored fat and, sometimes, when your body isn’t metabolizing efficiently, your muscle tissue. The claim behind these diets and supplements is that you have significant control over how this machine works, and by flipping a switch with the right foods or herbs, you can blast through excess fat with ease. But it’s not that simple.
It’s through the manipulation of basal metabolic rate (BMR), activity, and food-induced thermogenesis that you may be able to affect how many calories you burn, and therefore find some level of weight loss assistance.
Your body needs energy to function— not just to work out or even carry on a conversation, but to keep your heart pumping, your lungs breathing and your other organs and systems doing their jobs 24 hours a day. The amount of fuel your body uses for these most basic functions is known as your BMR, which is the rate at which you burn calories while otherwise inactive. This number isn’t the same for everyone, and several factors influence your BMR, including your age, sex and body composition (percentage of body fat vs. muscle).
The energy you use to finish your workout, or even just walk to your mailbox (activity), along with the energy your body needs to digest and use your food (thermogenesis) affect your metabolism above and beyond your BMR.
Here are 3 lifestyle changes to boost your metabolism:
Switch up your diet
Diet-induced thermogenesis: It’s a mouthful. But it’s through this mechanism that most supplements can speed your metabolism. Caffeine, capsaicin found in hot peppers, green tea, cinnamon, medium chain triglycerides found in coconut oil— all of these things slightly and temporarily boost how many calories you burn. But the change is nominal, so don’t expect to drop pounds by sprinkling cayenne on all your meals.
Some diet pills also trigger thermogenesis by acting as stimulants, and although additions like capsaicin and green tea may be harmless, ma huang (ephedra), too much caffeine and hidden pharmaceuticals could cause unpleasant side effects if not medical emergencies. These ingredients work similarly but are far more powerful. When you take them, your pulse and your other body processes speed up, temporarily increasing the number of calories you burn but with other potential health risks.
Do more physical activity
Physical activity increases the number of calories you burn in any given day. The more active you are, the more calories you burn. In an effort to lose weight, many people hit the gym or the track to blast through several hundred calories in a single session. In just 30 minutes, the average 150-pound person can burn about 300 calories running at a moderate 12-minute-mile pace according to Harvard Health Publications, giving you an immediate return on your sweat investment.
This short-term payoff is wholly worth the effort. But the rewards of daily exercise don’t end with these calories. You’re improving cardiovascular and mental health as well. And, if you’re altering your body’s composition in the process by adding muscle, you’re in for some definite long-term metabolic changes.
Increase your muscle mass
When you are able to change your BMR, you change how many calories you burn even while at rest. But you really have the power to tweak only one factor that influences your BMR: your body composition.
“Each pound of muscle uses six calories to sustain itself each day,” explains Shane Allen, a certified sports nutritionist and weight management specialist in Fort Worth, Tex. “One pound of fat, on the other hand, only needs two calories each day.”
Adding lean muscle mass, therefore, increases your BMR, meaning your body will burn through more calories just to maintain its basic functions. Unlike the short-term changes you experience from a brisk walk or a few cups of coffee, this change in your metabolic rate has the potential to be permanent, as long as you maintain your muscle mass.
Altering your metabolism for weight loss success takes time and effort. You can’t add lean muscle mass overnight, and supplements that promise a quick boost may not have benefits that outweigh the risks. By approaching your metabolism with both short- and long-term proven fitness solutions, you’re building the proper foundation for healthy weight maintenance overall.