Who wouldn’t like a switch you could turn on and off to speed up your metabolism? The idea of boosting metabolism appeals to people! With almost 40% of Americans meeting the criteria for obesity, it’s easy to see why. You sometimes read about dietary supplements that claim to boost resting metabolic rate and burn more fat. These supplements appeal to people trying to lose weight. And then there are sources that say that you can boost your metabolism by eating certain foods or drinking particular beverages. How much truth is there to the idea that you can elevate your metabolism and lose weight by adding certain items to your plate? Let’s look at some foods that people believe can ramp up your metabolism and whether they work.
There is some evidence that certain foods modestly boost resting metabolic rate after you consume them. For example, studies show that green tea and oolong tea raise resting metabolic rate by as much as 5%. However, when scientific studies looked at the metabolism-boosting benefits of green tea, they used a concentrated green tea extract often combined with other components like guarana. Some studies show that concentrated green tea sources could boost calorie expenditure by as much as 300 calories daily. Sounds impressive, but it’s not clear whether sipping green or oolong tea as a beverage has the same benefits as a concentrated green tea supplement. In addition, the impact of green tea and green tea extract on resting metabolic rate varies between individuals.
In support of green tea, a study published in the Cochrane Database analyzed randomized-controlled trials of green tea and its impact on weight loss. Their conclusion was that drinking green tea led to a small but still statistically significant weight loss in obese individuals. So, the impact of green tea on resting metabolic rate is modest but it may contribute to weight loss, at least in obese individuals.
Coffee is another beverage that people drink to boost their metabolism, but does it work? Coffee contains several components that may raise resting metabolic rate. These include chlorogenic acid, theophylline, theobromine, and caffeine. Research shows that caffeinated coffee elevates resting metabolic rate by 3-11%, depending upon how much you drink. It also helps with fat mobilization so that your body can more easily use stored fat as fuel. The downside is you become tolerant of the metabolism-boosting effects of the caffeine in coffee if you drink it every day. Therefore, it’s not surprising that most studies don’t show that drinking coffee helps with weight loss without other lifestyle modifications. If you’re motivated to lose weight and adapt to your lifestyle to do so, caffeinated coffee may offer modest benefits. In addition, some studies find that it suppresses appetite.
Hot Peppers and Other Spices
Some like it hot – hot and peppery, that is. You may have heard that hot peppers and the spice cayenne pepper boost resting metabolic rate. How might it do this? The active ingredient in hot peppers is capsaicin, a compound that has anti-inflammatory properties too. However, hot peppers contain dihydrocapsiate, another compound in the same family as capsaicin. It too has thermogenic properties. Studies suggest that these compounds working together could boost metabolic rate by 8%, a modest increase. However, research also shows you’d have to eat large quantities of hot peppers to lose weight. Because of their tongue-tingling heat, that would be hard to do. Enjoy hot peppers and other spicy foods, but don’t count on them to trim your waistline unless you’re making other lifestyle changes that support weight loss.
Another hot spice is ginger, best known for relieving nausea and for its anti-inflammatory benefits. One study found that subjects who drank warm, ginger water with 2 grams of ginger powder with a meal burned 43 more calories than drinking warm water without ginger. Plus, ginger boosts satiety and decreases hunger too.
Science-Backed Ways to Boost Your Metabolic Rate
As you can see, the impact that specific foods and beverages have on resting metabolic rate is modest. In other words, drinking green tea and coffee and eating spicy foods isn’t a sure-fire prescription for weight loss. What matters most is the totality of your lifestyle. Exercise is an important part of the equation. Studies show that a single, high-intensity exercise session boosts metabolic rate for hours afterward. Plus, strength training helps you burn more calories even at rest by building more metabolically active muscle mass. The effects are modest, but you will also improve your body composition. More muscle mass is metabolically healthy too.
The Bottom Line
Are there foods and beverages that will boost your resting metabolic rate? Yes, but you have to consume a lot of them and it’s not always practical or healthy to do so. Don’t focus too much on foods that boost your resting metabolic rate. The benefits are modest. Instead, structure your meals around nutrient-dense food sources. Make sure you’re consuming enough protein because it, too, takes more energy to break down than carbohydrates or fat. Plus, protein-rich foods help you stay satiated and consume less overall.
Make sure you’re exercising too, including weight training. Building more muscle is one of the best things you can do for your physique and your metabolic health. If you enjoy metabolism-boosting foods like coffee, green tea, and spices, include them in your diet. They have health benefits. But don’t count on them to help you slim down without making other lifestyle changes.
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