One term often comes to mind when discussing weight loss: metabolism. It’s the invisible engine that gives you energy and determines how efficiently your body burns calories and sheds fat. But how do you know if your metabolism is firing on all cylinders? According to research, the amount of American adults who are metabolically healthy is extremely low, even among individuals who are of normal weight. While everyone’s metabolism is unique, the good news is there are ways to boost your metabolism and lose fat naturally, without the need for extreme diets or overly strenuous exercise routines.
To learn more about revving up your metabolism naturally, we chatted with fitness and nutrition experts who delve into the best lifestyle habits to keep your body’s engine revving and melting body fat. Gianna Masi, CPT, RDN, a certified personal trainer and registered dietitian with Barbend, tells us, “Many people are curious how to make the most of their metabolism and achieve a desirable body composition. A combination of both dietary choices and lifestyle can help achieve your health and fitness goals. While nothing can burn f
at magically, these are all crucial ways to support a weight or fat loss goal and optimize your metabolism.”
Read on for the eight best ways to boost your metabolism and burn fat naturally, then uncover the 8 Best Morning Exercises for All-Day Fat Burning.
Balance your energy.
Maintaining a healthy metabolism often comes down to energy balance. That means consuming the right amount of calories your body needs for daily functions. When you strike the right balance, your metabolism works more efficiently, helping you manage your weight effectively.
A 2017 review pointed out that reducing your calories may not help you lose weight. When calorie intake is reduced, your body decreases its metabolic rate, burning fewer calories. As previously noted, it’s all about establishing a healthy balance and figuring out what works best for you. “Calories in and calories out is the first anchor of what’s important for our metabolism,” says Masi. “If you’re eating too many calories, that puts you in a surplus (gaining weight) versus a caloric deficit (losing weight).”
Mind your protein intake.
Protein is the building block your body needs for repair and growth. Research shows that including lean proteins like legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, chicken, and fish in your diet can boost your metabolism because they call for more energy to digest. Masi adds, “Protein is the most satiating macronutrient. It also helps maintain and build muscle while supporting a healthy and optimal metabolism.”
Muscles are like a furnace for burning calories. According to the Mayo Clinic, the more muscle you have, the greater number of calories you torch—even at rest. Resistance training exercises like weight lifting or calisthenics help build and maintain muscle mass, keeping your metabolism firing.
“Lifting weights and doing resistance training will do more for your body and metabolism than any option you see sold online for a quick fix. Muscle is medicine,” says Masi.
Get your cardio in.
Cardio workouts, like running or cycling, torch calories and keep your metabolic rate higher, even after exercising. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio each week to keep your metabolism running high.
“It’s essential to incorporate regular aerobic activity that you enjoy to support your heart and cardiovascular system,” states Masi. “Having a strong aerobic base makes active movement easier and more enjoyable.”
Staying well-hydrated helps your body process calories more efficiently, and even mild dehydration can slow down metabolism. “Water is essential for various metabolic processes, including the breakdown of food and the transportation of nutrients throughout your body,” explains Trista Best, RD, a registered dietitian with Balance One Supplements. “Even mild dehydration can hinder these processes and slow your metabolic rate, potentially making it harder to burn calories efficiently. Aim for at least eight to 10 glasses of water daily to support your metabolism.”
According to a recent review in Nutrients, choosing healthy, whole-food snack options as snacks can keep your metabolism in tip-top shape. “Including various metabolism-boosting snacks in your diet is a smart choice. Nuts like almonds and walnuts are rich in healthy fats and protein, aiding appetite control and metabolism. Packed with protein and probiotics, Greek yogurt keeps you full and supports gut health, affecting metabolism. Berries, such as blueberries and strawberries, offer low-calorie, antioxidant-rich options to support metabolism and overall health,” says Best.
A 2017 study found that chronic stress can trigger the release of hormones that lead to weight gain. Techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises can help reduce stress and support your metabolic health.
Masi says, “When you have elevated stress, it leads to higher levels of cortisol, which can make you consume more hyper-palatable foods. These are foods high in sodium, fat, and carbohydrates.”
Get enough sleep.
Research shows that not getting enough sleep disrupts the balance of critical hormones that regulate appetite and body weight.
“Adequate sleep is a fundamental factor in maintaining a healthy metabolism and supporting weight management,” states Best. “Aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night. This amount is essential as sleep plays a pivotal role in regulating hormones responsible for hunger and appetite. When you don’t get enough sleep, it disrupts the balance of these hormones, specifically leptin and ghrelin, which control your sense of fullness and hunger, respectively. The resulting hormonal imbalance can trigger heightened cravings, particularly for calorie-dense and sugary foods, making it more challenging to stick to a healthy eating plan and impeding weight loss efforts.”