How to Increase Your Metabolism Without Pills or Boosters
By: Rebecca Paredes
October 8, 2019
- Metabolism pills and boosters claim to burn fat in no time. But what does that actually mean?
- Your metabolism turns calories into energy. A lot of factors can impact your metabolism, from your age to your body composition.
- Some supplements actually support fat-burning, like MCT oil. Other supplements may contain ingredients you really don’t want in your diet, like artificial colors and flavors.
- Keep reading to learn the best ways to support your metabolism (no pills required).
Torch fat. Slim your waist. If you’ve ever looked at weight management supplements, you’ve probably seen metabolism pills and boosters that claim to burn fat in no time. But what does that actually mean, and can supplements really help your weight management goals? Here’s what you should know, plus tips to support a healthy metabolism.
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How does your metabolism actually work?
Simply put, your metabolism is the process of turning calories into energy. According to Alex Robles, MD, physician and certified personal trainer from the White Coat Trainer, metabolism can be broken down into two phases:
- Catabolism, when your body needs to break down molecules to produce energy
- Anabolism, when your body takes molecules to rebuild tissue and energy stores
“The actual part of metabolism that everyone cares about is how your body takes the food you consume to make energy, and how much of that energy is used up,” says Robles. The rate at which you burn calories is known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Broadly speaking, you burn calories just by existing — whether you’re sitting, exercising or sleeping, your metabolism is converting calories from food into energy. That energy powers your cells and maintains all your systems, from your brain to your muscles.
When you increase your BMR, you increase how many calories your body uses to keep everything running. Broadly speaking, when you burn more calories than you consume, you’re more likely to lose weight. However, in terms of weight management, calories are just one piece of a larger puzzle. There’s a lot of variability in everyone’s personal BMR due to variables like age, sex, body composition, hormone profile and inflammation levels.   Plus, your metabolism can be impacted by health conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome, kidney disease, nutrient deficiencies … the list goes on.  
All this to say, it’s too simplistic to say that your metabolism is something you can turn on and off with food, treadmills and pills. And if you’re taking metabolism pills without addressing the factors that are affecting down your metabolism in the first place, you probably won’t get the results you want, as quickly as you want them.
The problem with metabolism pills and boosters
Dietary supplements aren’t regulated the same way as conventional food and drug products. That means it’s important to purchase your supplements from reputable companies that clearly state their ingredients and sources. In terms of metabolism pills and boosters, companies can use a combination of ingredients that have been shown to support weight management and fat-burning, such as caffeine, capsaicin and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).  
The downside of these ingredients is that there isn’t enough evidence to support their ability to meaningfully boost your metabolism. And if you do want to add them to your diet, you can easily get them from food sources, like coffee and grass-fed butter. The other problem? Metabolism pills and boosters may contain ingredients you may not want in your diet, like artificial sweeteners and colors.
If you really want to boost your metabolism and maintain it long-term, focus on your physical activity and diet, and work with your doctor to address health concerns that are standing in your way.
How to actually support your metabolism
1. Increase your lean muscle mass
Building muscle is one of the best ways to boost your metabolism, period. That’s because body fat is easy for your body to store — but muscle is metabolically active tissue, Robles says. That means your body has to burn calories just to maintain your muscle mass. “Having more muscle mass will help you burn more calories when you exercise,” Robles says. “More muscle means more strength and more force production, which means more caloric expenditure.”
2. Eat complex, nutrient-dense foods
You might have noticed that you feel hungry soon after eating a doughnut, but you tend to feel fuller, longer after eating a balanced meal (aka lots of vegetables, quality fats and moderate protein). That’s because of a phenomenon known as the thermic effect of food, according to Robles. Your body has to burn calories to process and digest food. “The more complex the food is, the more your body has to work. Cheap processed foods full of simple sugars are easy for your body to metabolize, leading to a high calorie intake with minimal nutrition,” Robles says.
The takeaway? Eat minimally processed, whole foods as often as possible.
3. Don’t stay in a caloric deficit forever
Restrictive diets teach people to severely limit their calories, but weight management isn’t that simple. When you restrict calories for too long, your body responds by slowing down your metabolism. “Your body doesn’t care about weight loss. It only cares about survival,” Robles says. “A caloric deficit resembles a possible famine. In order to compensate, your body slows down its metabolism to expend fewer calories.”
That means caloric restriction can actually work against you in the long-term. There are many different ways to manage your weight, but few methods are quite as effective as eating nutrient-dense whole foods, avoiding processed foods and moving your body. These tips are old standards for a reason: They help form a meaningful foundation for you to feel your best.
Related: How to Use MCT Oil
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