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How to boost your metabolism

Boosting the metabolism is the holy grail of weight watchers everywhere. But how fast your body burns calories depends on several factors:

  • Some people inherit a speedy metabolism.
  • Men tend to burn more calories than women, even while resting.
  • For most people, metabolism slows steadily after age 40.

Although you can't control your age, gender or genetics, there are other ways to get a boost. Read on for some great ways to “rev up:”

1. Build muscle
Our bodies constantly burn calories, even when we’re doing nothing. This resting metabolic rate is much higher in people who have more lean muscle than those who don’t. Every pound of muscle uses about six calories a day just to sustain itself, while each pound of fat only about two calories daily. In fact, gaining one pound of muscle can increase the metabolism 10 to 12 percent, allowing more calories to be burned throughout the day. 

2. Kick your workout up a notch
Aerobic exercise may not build big muscles, but it can rev up the metabolism for hours after a workout. The key is to add a short bout of high-intensity exercise during a regular cardio routine. High-intensity exercise delivers a bigger, longer increase in the resting metabolic rate than low or moderate workouts. For example, during a daily 30-minute  walk, try a short burst of quick walking for 10-15 seconds at a time. 

3. Drink more water
The body needs water to process calories. Even mild dehydration slows the metabolism down. In one study, adults who drank eight or more glasses of water a day burned more calories than those who drank four. To stay hydrated, drink a glass of water or other unsweetened beverage before every meal and snack. In addition, try munching on fresh fruits and vegetables, which are full of fluid, rather than pretzels or chips.

4. Have your drinks on the ice
Ice-cold beverages prompt the body to burn more calories during digestion. Research suggests five or six glasses of water “on the rocks” can use up an extra 10 calories a day. That might not sound like much, but it adds up to a pound of weight loss per year – without dieting. The same applies to drinking iced tea or coffee, as long as you forego the cream and sugar.

5. Eat more often
Eating more really can assist in weight loss – eating more often, that is. Consuming large meals with many hours in between trains the metabolism to slow down. Having a small meal or snack every three to four hours keeps the metabolism cranking, burning more calories over the course of a day. Several studies also have shown that people who snack regularly eat less at meal time.

6. Spice up your meals
Spicy foods contain chemical compounds that kick the metabolism into high gear. Adding a tablespoon of chopped red or green chili pepper can temporarily boost the metabolic rate by 23 percent. Some studies suggest the effect only lasts about half an hour, but if you eat spicy foods often, the benefits may add up.

7. Eat more protein
The body burns twice as many calories digesting protein as it does fat or carbohydrates. Try replacing some carbs with lean, protein-rich foods to jump-start the metabolism at mealtime. Healthy sources of protein include lean beef and pork, fish, white-meat chicken or turkey, tofu, nuts, beans, eggs and low-fat dairy products.

8. Drink black coffee
Coffee drinkers often enjoy the increased energy and concentration that follows a “cup of Joe,” providing a short-term increase in the metabolic rate. In one study, the caffeine in two cups of coffee prompted a 145-pound woman to burn 50 extra calories over the next four hours. Just be sure to drink it black; adding cream, sugar or flavored syrups substantially increase the calories.

9. Just move around more during the day
The impact foods and drinks have on the metabolism is small compared to what is needed for sustained weight loss. The best bet for creating a mean, calorie-burning machine is to build muscle and stay active. The more movement during the day, the more calories burned.

Studies have shown that just moving around more during the day increases the body’s ability to burn more calories. One study showed that people who were fed an additional 1,000 calories a day did not gain weight IF they were moving around during the day. Those who did not move much during day, gained weight. An average person should take 5,000 to7,000 steps a day. If you are not moving around this much, begin increasing your steps! 

When diet and exercise are not enough
For many people, diet and exercise are not enough to help them win the battle of the bulge and move on to a healthy active lifestyle. Often, weight loss surgery is the best option.
The Bariatric Surgical Weight Loss Center at Flagstaff Medical Center is nationally recognized with a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence® designation by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. This designation acknowledges the excellence of FMC’s Bariatric Surgical Weight Loss Center and bariatric surgeons Andrew Aldridge, M.D., and Robert Berger, M.D., who are dedicated to providing high-quality care and excellent services.

Free information sessions:
If you are considering weight-loss surgery, Flagstaff Medical Center’s Bariatric Surgical Weight Loss Center offers free information sessions the second Tuesday of each month  6 - 7 p.m. These sessions include a presentation by our surgical staff on the causes of and complications related to morbid obesity, as well as the types of surgeries available. To register to attend a free information session, call 928 214-3737. To learn more about the program, visit