Have you ever known people who can eat whatever they want and not gain a pound? Odds are likely that they got lucky in the genetic lottery and won a high-octane metabolism. While your metabolic rate is mostly determined by the genes you inherited, there are a few factors you can control to boost your metabolism naturally.
Factors That Affect Metabolism
Your total daily energy expenditure — the number of calories you burn in a day — can be categorized into three components: basal metabolic rate, thermogenesis, and physical activity.
Basal metabolic rate is the amount of energy you expend at rest. This is the aspect of your metabolism that is mostly inherited. There is tremendous variability in metabolic rate between individuals, even between individuals with the same amount of fat-free mass.
Physical activity is the most well-known strategy for burning calories. Research shows that specific kinds of exercise like high-intensity interval training and strenuous resistance training, result in excess post-oxygen consumption which elevates metabolic rate for hours. With high-intensity exercise you are not only burning calories during exercise, but more importantly, after the exercise is over. Studies show that metabolic rate is elevated for up to 16 hours after the exercise.
The aspect of metabolism of most interest in recent times is thermogenesis. Thermogenesis is a metabolic process that results in the production of heat. A factor commonly associated with thermogenesis is shivering. Maintaining normal body temperature in cold temperatures results in calorie burning over the maintenance level. Cold shower, anyone?
Reducing Calories Can Backfire
Diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT) is the energy cost of digesting, absorbing, and assimilating nutrients into their storage forms. To put it simply, eating food burns calories and creates heat.
The factor that has the biggest impact on DIT is calorie intake. Long-term calorie restriction significantly lowers metabolic rate. Your body has sophisticated mechanisms for slowing your metabolic rate in response to calorie restriction. The decline in nervous system output coupled with decreased production in thyroid hormones, androgens, and catecholamines contributes to a lower metabolic rate.
The famous Minnesota Semi-Starvation Experiment is one of the most well-controlled studies of all time on this topic, showed that reducing calories by 50 percent for six months lowered metabolic rate by 40 percent. Participants lost 25 percent of their body weight, but weight loss virtually stopped by the end of the study. It took months of eating above calorie maintenance for participant’s metabolic rates to return to normal.
Foods That Boost Metabolism
If you plan to follow a reduced calorie diet and lose more than 10 percent of your body weight, it would make sense to incorporate foods that increase thermogenesis to prevent metabolic slow down. There are two foods that have been proven repeatedly to increase thermogenesis and promote weight loss.
Chili peppers not only prevent metabolic slow-down, but promote fat oxidation in negative energy balance as well. One study showed that when participants achieved a 20.5 percent negative energy balance, consumption of 2.56 mg capsaicin (from chili peppers) counteracted the unfavorable impact on metabolism.
Green tea has thermogenic properties beyond that explained by its caffeine content. A compound in green tea, epigallocatechin gallate, has been shown to increase metabolism by 4 percent over a 24-hour period.
Creating heat is the way to go if you want to maximize your metabolism. Add some spice to your meals and enjoy a cup of green tea with breakfast to boost metabolism naturally and prevent metabolic slow-down on a weight loss program.