Think of your body’s metabolism as an engine. It burns food calories to keep it chugging along. Metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories. Apart from exercise, there are other ways to increase your metabolism: eat! We don’t mean reaching for that bag of potato chips, but eating foods that will boost your metabolism.
Everyone has a base metabolic rate – a minimum number of calories to keep the organs working, the brain functioning and the body able to walk, move and play. Now think about how much it would help if your metabolism could burn fuel at a faster rate. This would mean a more efficient engine that could burn more calories – the result being that you’d lose weight.
Our metabolic rate is largely dependent on factors such as gender, age and ratio of body muscle to fat. Exercise also increases the metabolic rate, which is why the more active you are the more calories you need as fuel.
Be a meat-eater: All foods create a thermic effect, that is, the extra energy used by the body during digestion that gives a boost to your metabolism. Protein gives the body a bigger metabolic boost than carbohydrates or fats. Eating more protein in combination with exercise can also build and maintain muscle mass which in turn, increases metabolic rate. To increase your protein but not fat intake, opt for lean protein sources such as fish, lean red meat, chicken breast, eggs, low-fat yogurt, tofu and beans.
Spice up the food: The powerful kick you get when you eat chilli peppers come from the capsaicin, which also raises your body’s internal temperature. This means that eating spicy food can cause your body to burn more calories, even for several hours after the meal. Studies have shown that on average, a meal containing spicy food can temporarily increase the body’s metabolism rate by about eight per cent. While this amount may be considered fairly negligible, the upside is that spicy food makes you feel fuller faster and eat less. So feel free to spice up your food by adding that hot pepper, ginger or mustard.
Eat your fruits and greens: Not only is the broccoli beneficial for fighting cancer, it also has calorie-burning benefits. Fruit such as blueberries and grapefruits boost the body’s metabolism. Researchers at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego, United States, have found that the chemical properties of the grapefruit reduce insulin levels, which boost metabolism and promotes weight loss.
Drink lots of water: It may not be technically a food but water, which is essential for life, has metabolism boosting properties. The body needs water to efficiently burn calories. Increasing water intake gets more oxygen to the muscles for them to expend energy. When you are dehydrated, the liver stops its job of converting stored fat into energy and helps the kidneys to accumulate fluid for later use, slowing down your metabolism rate.
Ideally, drink your water cold. Experts at the Weight Management Centre of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre has suggested that a cold drink can urge your body to burn a few calories as it heats the water to the core body temperature.
Apart from plain water, green tea or black tea has also been shown to have metabolism boosting effects. Studies have also indicated that caffeine can increase energy expenditure – just make sure your next coffee break does not include full-fat milk, cream or sugar!