Commentary by Karen Adkins, MD, IU Health Physicians Primary Care North
Whether people are trying to lose weight or want to prevent weight gain, metabolism is usually part of the discussion. The speed at which the body burns calories – called “metabolic rate” – is different for everyone and is based on a variety of factors, including age, gender and genetics. Patients often ask what they can do to boost their metabolic rate. Here are a few suggestions:
Build muscle and stay active – The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate – even at rest. In fact, every pound of muscle burns six calories each day, while fat burns just two. Exercise, especially high-intensity aerobic exercise, can increase metabolism in the hours following a workout.
Eat more often – Having small meals or snacks every three to four hours keeps your metabolism up and running.
Drink water – Your body needs water to use calories, so even mild dehydration can slow metabolism. Drinking a glass of water or an unsweetened beverage before meals helps keep you hydrated.
Increase protein – It takes more calories to digest protein than to digest fat or carbohydrates. Although eating a balanced diet is important, choosing more servings of healthy proteins, such as turkey, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, white chicken meat, lean beef and tofu, can increase metabolism.
Choose green tea – The combined benefits of caffeine and catechins in green or oolong tea can boost metabolism for a couple of hours and may help your body burn more calories during moderate exercise.
Add some spice – Believe it or not, spicy foods have benefits when it comes to increasing metabolism. Although their effect is temporary, if you eat spicy foods often, the benefit could add up. Consider adding chopped red or green peppers or red pepper flakes to foods.
Diet sensibly – Very low-calorie diets can stall metabolism. You may lose weight, but much of this is likely muscle, which will slow your metabolism in the long run. Plus, very low-calorie diets often mean you aren’t getting the nutrition you need for optimal health. Talk to your doctor about a diet plan that’s right for you.
Karen Adkins, MD, specializes in internal medicine and family medicine. She is a guest columnist located at IU Health Physicians Primary Care North, 11725 N. Illinois St., Ste. 595, in Carmel. Reach her by calling the office at 688.5522.