Is Your Metabolism to Blame?

Is a slow metabolism keeping you from losing weight? Can you do anything to speed it up? A closer look at what we can realistically do to change our metabolism. 

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #435

Obviously, you can burn more calories by exercising more. But there are only so many hours in the day--how many of them can you spend at the gym? If you could somehow somehow arrange to burn more calories just maintaining your basic biological functions, that could really help with weight control. And there are a few things that have been shown to increase resting metabolism (although there is a catch).

Things that can increase your metabolic rate

Gain muscle. Just as losing weight decreases the number of calories you burn, gaining weight increases the number of calories you burn--especially if you gain lean muscle. Strength training to increase your muscle mass can help you burn more calories.

Eat more protein. Protein takes a little more effort for your body to digest than fat or carbohydrate, so increasing the amount of protein in your diet can help you burn more calories. It can also help you gain more muscle.

Chill.  Your body burns calories in order to keep your body warm. The cooler your environment, the more calories it takes. Turning down the heat, taking cold showers, and drinking ice water can all increase your calorie burn. 

Your body burns calories in order to keep your body warm. The cooler your environment, the more calories it takes.

And finally, everyone’s favorite way to increase your metabolism:

Eat metabolism-boosting foods. There are also some foods and herbs, including hot peppers, vinegar (any kind), garcinia, and green tea, which have been demonstrated to increase the rate at which your body burns calories. 

See also: Foods that burn belly fat

And Now for the Fine Print

If these metabolism boosting techniques could increase your resting metabolism by 10%, this could add up to an extra 120 to 160 calories burned every day. Over the course of one month, you could theoretically lose a pound of fat.

Unfortunately, turning down the heat and eating more protein, hot peppers and green tea isn’t going to boost your metabolism anywhere near 10%. At best, you might burn an extra 10-20 calories a day, or enough to burn an extra pound or two per year.

The Bottom Line

Trying to lose weight by boosting your resting metabolism is like trying to row a boat with a butter knife. You're going to be rowing for an awfully long time without moving very far.

There are more effective ways to pursue weight loss, such as those I outlined in my episode on how to lose weight without dieting and those I use in my weight management coaching program. But it’s definitely worth your while to avoid things that may slow your metabolism--such as severe dieting and fast weight loss.

See also: How to avoid the Biggest Loser Syndrome


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.