Metabolism. It’s a word many of us have heard for most of our adult lives, but so much of the information we’ve received about it is probably confusing at best and inaccurate (or plain false) at worst.
What is metabolism?
Metabolism is the bodily process of converting the food we eat and the beverages we drink into energy. Since our bodies require energy for everything from walking and talking to digestion and sleep, metabolism is a critical process that plays a huge role in how our bodies function.
Because our bodies are all different, some people have a more efficient metabolism than others. These differences in metabolism among individuals are how the concept of “fast” and “slow” metabolisms came about.
3 ways metabolism happens
Metabolism happens through three processes:
1. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): BMR is the number of calories your body burns to keep it functioning while at rest. BMR actually accounts for the largest number (65-75 percent) of total calories your body burns throughout the day.
2. Thermic Effect of Food (TEF): TEF is the energy your body needs to digest, absorb, transport and store the food you eat. It accounts for approximately another 10 percent of the total calories your body burns in a day.
3. The Thermic Effect of Exercise (TEE): TEE is the energy you need to perform active movements like running, walking, biking, stretching, lifting, doing housework and so on. It accounts for the rest of the calories you burn in a day.
Foods that can boost metabolism
Whether you have a “slow” or a “fast” metabolism, there are things you can do to help your body burn calories more efficiently. As you might be able to guess based on the descriptions of TEF and TEE above, the types of foods you eat and the amount of movement you do can help. Here we’ll focus on TEF by suggesting a few foods and drinks you can consume to boost your metabolism.
Hydration plays a big role in maintaining an efficient metabolism. Drinking enough water each day is an easy way to help your body metabolize food for a short period of time. Researchers note that a majority of the increase in metabolism from drinking water is due to the additional calories needed to bring the water up to body temperature.
Several studies have reported that the caffeine found in coffee can help increase metabolism. However, the effects appear to vary from person to person, based on characteristics like body weight and age.
Not a coffee drinker? Don’t worry — tea can also provide a metabolism boost! The combination of caffeine and catechins found in tea (specifically oolong and green tea) may work to increase metabolism. However, as with coffee, the effects may vary from person to person.
4. Protein-Rich Foods
Foods that are high in protein, such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts and seeds, could help increase metabolism for a few hours since they require your body to use more energy to digest them. Research shows that protein-rich foods increase TEF the most.
5. Spicy Foods
Certain spices are thought to contain beneficial metabolism-boosting properties. Three specific spices that have been shown to increase metabolism in research studies include ginger, grains of paradise and cayenne pepper. Additionally, chili peppers contain capsaicin, a chemical that may slightly boost your metabolism by increasing the calories and fat you burn. It’s important to note, however, that many people can’t tolerate these spices at the doses required to have a significant effect on metabolism.
While the specific effects each of these will have on metabolism will typically vary based the amount consumed and by the individual, they’re worth giving a shot — especially since these foods and drinks can provide other health benefits to boot!