Boost Your Metabolism With These Science-Based Hacks

Metabolism is how quickly your body breaks down food. Increasing metabolic rates helps people lose weight and gain more energy. While metabolism is partially impacted by genetics, decades worth of research prove that diet and exercise impact metabolic rate.

Fortunately, small tweaks in habits and diet can increase your metabolism every day. Standing more, drinking water, and sleeping for seven hours all improve your metabolism. Once you learn these tricks, you’ll be able to rest assured that your body is happy. Here are the best, research-backed hacks to boost your metabolism.

Add Protein To Your Menu

Not only does protein help you feel fuller for longer, but it also burns more calories. In 2005, a study in the American Journal of Nutrition found that increasing protein intake by 15% to 30% drops 441 calories a day. It also kickstarts your body into burning an extra 80 to 100 calories per day.

Person grills chicken, sausage, and vegetables
Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post via Getty Images
Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post via Getty Images

According to registered nurse Rebecca Lee, protein takes longer to digest than fat and carbs. The longer digestion takes, the more calories your body burns. Note that many studies on protein digestion involve a high-protein, low-fat diet.

Just Two More Cups Of Water Can Help Drastically

Drinking water starts a process called water-induced thermogenesis. When you drink cold or room-temperature water, your body burns calories to raise your body temperature. In one 2003 study, scientists found that drinking 500 ml of water (about two cups) increases metabolic rate by 30%.

Woman drinks water at a cafe in Bali

Published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, the research predicted that drinking 1.5 liters of water per day (around six cups) burns 5.3 lbs of fat over one year. In addition, drinking water before a meal will help you feel fuller, according to a 2008 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Eat More Fiber-Filled Foods

Fiber improves your digestion and promotes healthy bowel movements. But that’s not all. According to research, it also speeds your metabolism. During a 2017 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that replacing refined grains with fiber-filled whole grains burns at least 92 extra calories every day.

A young woman prepares a smoothie from fresh fruit and vegetables
Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images
Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images

“Since fiber is hard for the body to break down, it takes work, thereby burning calories,” registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Bonnie Taub-Dix told Well and Good. You can increase fiber by eating more seeds, fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, high-fiber cereals, and whole grains.

Keep The Skin On Fruits And Vegetables

Fruits are a tasty source of vitamins and fiber. You can reap the benefits of these foods–and save time–by keeping the skin on. “The skin of fruits and vegetables is often where a good portion of the nutrients live, as well as the fiber,” says Registered Dietitian Tanya Zuckerbrot.

Christine Burns Rudalevige on using apple cores and peels.
Gordon Chibroski/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Gordon Chibroski/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Keeping the skin on guarantees that you’re eating more fiber. And keeping your digestive system up-and-running is imperative to your metabolism, says Dian Griesel, Ph.D. “The more your body’s working naturally for you, the more your metabolism’s staying high,” she explains.

Have Fun HIIT-ing!

Of all exercise, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the most intense. These quick bursts of energy are designed to burn fat rapidly. According to research in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, two minutes of HIIT increases your metabolism more than 30 minutes of endurance training.

Unsplash/Karsten Winegeart
Unsplash/Karsten Winegeart

The reason HIIT works is because it quickly activates excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. After your workout, your metabolism will remain heightened for a while. HIIT exercises usually involve a couple of minutes of intense exercise paired with along recovery period, a process that’s repeated several times.

Cook More Soup And Blend More Smoothies

In the body, soup digests similarly to high-protein meals. Liquid-thickened foods take longer to digest, which helps us feel fuller and boosts our metabolism, according to 2012 research published in The Journal of Nutrition. This effect was the same for other blended foods, including smoothies.

Woman eating vegetable cream soup.
Anjelika Gretskaia/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Anjelika Gretskaia/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In 2017, researchers for the Nottingham Digestive Diseases Center discovered that the stomach separates foods in blended meals. Not only does this process take longer, but it also digests the water first. Like drinking water before a meal, this effect helps you feel fuller and slows down your digestive process.

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

If you don’t sleep enough, it can slow your metabolism for the rest of the day. Researchers examined almost 140 studies in the International Journal of Endocrinology and concluded that sleep loss significantly lowers metabolism. Laboratory studies show that sleep deprivation interrupts hormones that regulate metabolism.

A young man with a sleepy expression playing Sony PlayStation 2 video games on a sofa alongside a table of snacks
Philip Sowels/Future via Getty Images
Philip Sowels/Future via Getty Images

Nutritionist Rebecca Cafiero adds that lack of sleep increases our cravings for unhealthy foods. Since sleep deprivation throws off our blood sugar, our brain seeks more sugar to satisfy our craving and lift our mood. Make sure you catch at least seven hours of sleep a night.

Artificial Sweeteners Aren’t A Healthy Substitute

Although artificial sweeteners have the benefit of zero calories, they come with their own set of health risks. At the 2018 Experimental Biology meeting, researchers presented evidence that consuming zero-calorie sweeteners slows down metabolism because they prevent fat from being processed regularly.

Packets of Equal and Splenda in a coffee bar in New York
Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images
Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

As with any food, consuming artificial sweeteners in moderation won’t harm you in the long-term. But lead researcher Dr. Brian Hoffmann, Ph.D., says that the more you consume these sweeteners, the worse your metabolism will become. If you can, limit both sugar and zero-calorie sweeteners as much as possible.

Stand Up For A Couple More Minutes

People with desk jobs are at higher risk of slow metabolism. The simple act of standing forces your body to consume energy faster than while you’re sitting. Research in Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that 185 extra minutes of standing–about one afternoon–burns an extra 174 calories.

Woman uses a standing desk

You don’t have to stand all day for this benefit. Intermittent standing and sitting at work still increases energy expenditure, according to the Journal of Physical Activity and Health. If you have a standing desk, you can stand for ten minutes every hour to increase your metabolism. Otherwise, take a walk during your breaks.

Don’t Skip Breakfast

Some people think that by skipping breakfast, they’ll eat fewer calories, which helps their metabolism. But science suggests the opposite. In 2017, a study in the Journal of Physiology reported that eating breakfast created more energy that sped up peoples’ metabolism. On top of that, eating breakfast decreased the amount of insulin-resisting genes, which can prevent chronic illnesses over time.

Child eats cheerios cereal for breakfast

“Breakfast consumption increased total calorie intake in lean people,” explained lead author Javier Gonzalez, “but this was offset by breakfast also stimulating physical activity and energy expenditure in lean people.” Although you’ll eat more calories with breakfast, you’ll also burn them off faster.

Don’t Skip Meals, Period

According to research, keeping your calories too low harms your metabolism. Haley Robinson, a Piedmont Clinical Dietitian, explains that skipping meals slows your metabolism overall. Not only are you hungrier later, but you lose blood sugar and grow fatigued. This is why eating smaller meals five times a day works best for some people.

Woman eats lunch on her kitchen counter
Unsplash/Cooking in Color

In 2007, research in Metabolism demonstrated that skipping meals leads to weight gain overall. Throughout the study, participants who skipped up to two meals a day also had a higher risk of diabetes after eight weeks. Don’t put yourself in the same boat as them.

Pick Up Strength Training

Have you ever wondered why professional bodybuilders eat so much? It’s because muscles burn calories just by existing. “Every pound of muscle burns 7-10 calories per day, just so it can maintain itself,” says Registered Dietitian Scott Keatley. Over time, these muscles can contribute to a faster metabolic rate.

Byron Buxton worked on strength and conditioning drills during a workout at Norcross Sports Training Academy
Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via Getty Images
Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via Getty Images

The more muscle you build, the harder you can exercise. This can lead to longer and more intense, satisfying workouts. After exercising, your metabolism keeps going through a process called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). One study in 2000 found that women who underwent strength training prolonged this process by 40 minutes.

Start Your Day With Cooked Eggs

After scientists confirmed that eating breakfast helps your metabolism, they researched which meals support weight loss the most. In 2008, a study in the International Journal of Obesity examined people who ate an egg breakfast and those who had a bagel breakfast. The egg group lost 65% more body fat and had a 61% lower BMI after eight weeks.

Person salts a fried egg in a pan
Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images
Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images

Contrary to popular belief, eating eggs does not put you at risk of heart disease. While eggs do raise cholesterol levels, they also lower blood sugar and activate fat burning in the body. And they’ll keep you full throughout your morning.

“Low-Fat” Food Isn’t Always Better

Processed foods labeled as “low fat” aren’t always what they claim to be. A review in the journal Appetite found that 68% of low-fat foods did not have fewer calories. Those that did only had a difference of about 50 calories. Many of these products replaced fat with sugar, which harms your metabolism.

Low fat products sign in Tesco, UK

Because many of these dishes have little protein and fiber, they often leave people hungry. A 2012 study in Obesity Research claimed that, although energy consumption was the same between “low-fat” and regular meals, the low-fat dishes left participants craving more food. You’re better off eating unprocessed meals with healthy fats.

Enjoy Some Green Tea

Caffeine speeds up your metabolism. But green tea works harder by adding catechins–a type of antioxidant–to the mix. These substances release the hormone norepinephrine, which releases fat cells to be burned as energy. During a scientific trial in Obesity, participants who drank two cups of green tea a day lost belly fat.

Woman drinks green tea in a hammock

According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, drinking green tea can raise our metabolic rate by 4%. This is a temporary change, but if put it good use, it can help you in the long run.

Stress Comes First

Consistent stress can negatively impact your metabolism over time. Stressed people tend to have higher insulin levels and less fat oxidation. In 2016, research in Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences discovered that chronic stress might lead to long-term metabolic disease. If you’re having trouble boosting your metabolism, you may need to tackle stress first.

Man presses hands against his face

Researchers from the University of Florida said that betatrophin may be to blame. During chronic stress, this protein inhibits enzymes that otherwise break down fat. “Stress causes you to accumulate more fat, or at least slows down fat metabolism,” says lead investigator Li-Jun Yang, M.D.

Cook With Healthy, Fatty Oils

A food’s healthiness isn’t just about calories, and cooking oils prove this. Although they’re high in calories, natural oils such as olive and coconut oil contain medium-chain fatty acids that help your metabolism. Four weeks of cooking with these oils can help you drop weight, according to a controlled trial in Obesity.

Woman's hand pouring olive oil at marinated raw lamb chops with onion and pepper
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

These results come from unprocessed oils such as canola oil, olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil. These products contain healthy saturated and unsaturated fats that boost calorie consumption in the body. Most generic vegetable oils do not promote your metabolism.

Want Some More Spice?

Spicy foods don’t just burn your mouth; they also burn calories. Chili peppers contain capsaicin, the spicy flavor that kickstarts your metabolism. Research in 2010 indicated that peppers increase energy expenditure and calorie-consumption. According to wellness expert Caleb Backe of So Yummy, that’s an extra ten calories per meal.

Woman eating red chili.
Gerhard Joren/LightRocket via Getty Images
Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images

This isn’t to say that you should scorch your mouth for every meal. Your increased metabolism will only last for a short while. But you can also receive capsaicin from other spices, including ginger and paprika. If you want to spice up your meals, know that you’ll be doing your metabolism a favor.

One Cup Of Coffee Helps More Than You Realize

Although some people have demonized coffee over the years, that daily dose of caffeine comes with health benefits. One benefit is that it increases metabolic rate up to 11%, according to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Caffeine speeds up the body’s functions, which results in more fat being burned.

Sam Penix takes a sip of a latte at the Everyman Expresso coffee house
Tom Kelley/Getty Images

According to one study in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 200 ml of coffee (less than one cup) boosts your metabolism for up to three hours after drinking it. So you don’t need to over-caffeinate to reap the benefits. Unlike green tea, this effect only occurs with caffeinated coffee.

Avoid MSG When You Can

Some people avoid MSG like the plague for its alleged dangers. The truth is that MSG, a common flavor additive in processed savory foods, is safe to consume according to the FDA. However, there is evidence that MSG contributes to weight gain, and some people are particularly sensitive to this chemical.

Studio shot of products with MSG in it
Dustin Shum/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
Dustin Shum/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

In China, two studies have linked obesity to MSG in adults. One 2008 study in Obesity found that eating a lot of MSG increases weight by up to 2.2 grams per day. Further research in The American Clinical Journal of Nutrition found that MSG increases BMI. While you don’t have to avoid MSG entirely, limit it if you can.