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Do Metabolism Boosters Work?

By Fitoru | 14 January 2019
lady with rings around waist

Have you ever wished there was a magic pill you could take or food you could eat that would give you a serious metabolism boost? If you haven’t, you’re definitely in the minority. Millions of Americans buy specially prepared meals and weight-loss supplements that promise to make it quick, easy, and even fun to lose weight. According to a comprehensive study, the U.S. weight loss market in 2018 was valued at $66 billion. Unfortunately, many so-called metabolism boosters just don’t work. Read on to learn about five natural compounds and five metabolism-boosting foods that can actually help you reach your weight-loss goals.

What Is Metabolism and Why Is It Important?

The simplest definition of metabolism goes something like this: a term that describes all the chemical processes your body uses to convert the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in the foods you eat into energy for your cells.

Do metabolism boosters work? Get the facts.

Another key term to understand is metabolic rate. This refers to the amount of time it takes your body to convert and expend calories. In other words, how long does it take your body to burn off the calories you eat?

Your basal metabolic rate, or BMR, represents the amount of calories your body requires to carry out essential bodily functions like breathing and circulating blood throughout your body. If you never moved, this is the number of calories you would need to consume simply to stay alive.

Experts have stated that your BMR accounts for about 70% of the calories you burn each day. That means it accounts for by far the largest percentage of your daily caloric needs.

A number of factors determine your BMR, such as:

  • Genetics: Your genetic makeup has perhaps the greatest influence on your BMR. A number of studies, like this one, have shown that there’s what researchers call “a significant heritable genetic component” when it comes to setting your BMR.
  • Age: After you turn 20, your BMR decreases by 2% per decade. So, if you’ve ever felt like it’s gotten easier for you to gain weight and harder for you to lose weight as you get older, that’s not in your head.
  • Sex: Men tend to have a higher BMR than women do. However, there’s some evidence to show this may be more of a factor during childhood and adolescence than during adulthood.
  • Height: The taller you are, the higher your BMR. One reason for this is that you have a larger skin surface area that burns calories through heat loss.
  • Body weight and body fat percentage: Having more muscle and less fat typically translates to a faster BMR. Interestingly, some studies show a correlation between weighing more and having a higher BMR.
  • Diet: Sticking to a low-calorie diet for a long period of time can significantly decrease your BMR. This is, sadly, one of the clearest and most scientifically-validated findings about BMR.

Researchers are still working to answer the question of why some people’s metabolisms run faster than others. It appears that certain medical conditions, medications, and the climate in which you live can also affect your metabolism. And, of course, your degree of physical activity definitely contributes to the total number of calories you burn, although many of us tend to overestimate the impact of that factor.

The Two Main Types of Metabolism Boosters

Now that you have a sense of what metabolism truly is and how it works, it’s time to talk about what speeds up your metabolism. Metabolism boosters fall into two main categories: supplements and foods.

Do metabolism boosters work? Get the facts.

A number of companies offer products that they claim can boost your metabolism. Many of these claims have to do with a process called thermogenesis. The idea behind thermogenesis, essentially, is that certain substances you ingest can cause you to burn more calories.

Certain foods can also reportedly speed up your metabolism. In some cases, that effect has to do with the energy required to digest those foods. In other cases, it’s more about specific nutrients the foods contains.

Remember, the higher your metabolism, the more calories you burn each day and the easier it becomes to prevent weight gain as well as to lose unwanted weight. No wonder so many people are looking for ways to boost their metabolisms! But the facts are that many of the ingredients and foods that reportedly do so just don’t work. So we compiled a list of five common ingredients in metabolism-boosting supplements that really work as well as five popular metabolism-boosting foods with proven benefits.

5 Truly Effective Ingredients in Metabolism-Boosting Supplements

Metabolism-boosting supplements often contain a number of different ingredients. Here are five that you’re likely to encounter.

1. Caffeine

Studies indicate that caffeine can, indeed, increase thermogenesis, leading to more calories burned. Since the 1980s, researchers have consistently found that caffeine intake can significantly increase your metabolic rate.

One of the most effective ways to use caffeine to support healthy weight loss is to take green coffee extract, which also contains chlorogenic acid, another compound shown to increase weight loss.

A randomized, controlled trial published in the Journal of International Medical Research found that green coffee extract outperformed coffee when it came to weight loss as well as body fat percentage. Participants who took green coffee extract lost an average of 11.9 pounds and saw their body fat percentage drop by 3.6% while those who simply drank coffee lost only 3.7 pounds and had a 0.7% drop in body fat percentage.

2. Capsaicin

This natural plant compound puts the tingling hotness in chili peppers. And some findings show consuming it may lead to greater weight-loss results. According to a systematic review of 20 high-quality trials, capsaicin can increase the number of calories you burn by an average of 50 calories a day. That may not sound like a lot, but trust us, it definitely adds up.

The authors found that capsaicin “significantly reduced abdominal adipose tissue levels” (meaning less belly fat!) and reduced appetite too.

3. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

More research is needed to confirm the weight-loss benefits of conjugated linoleic acid, often abbreviated to CLA, but results so far have been encouraging.

A meta-analysis published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that CLA can promote both weight loss and fat loss more effectively than a placebo, but the authors noted that further research is needed on how CLA supports long-lasting results.

It’s also worth mentioning that CLA can cause gastrointestinal side effects for some people.

4. Garcinia Cambogia

The weight-loss effects of garcinia cambogia extract, derived from a tropical fruit of the same name, has been the subject of a number of randomized, controlled trials. A systematic review published in the Journal of Obesity found a statistically significant difference in the weight lost by participants who took garcinia cambogia versus those who took a placebo.

The main ways garcinia cambogia encourages weight loss are by reducing your appetite, preventing the production of fat cells, and reducing the accumulation of belly fat.

As with CLA, there can be some gastrointestinal side effects, and more research is needed to determine the long-term weight-loss effects of garcinia cambogia.

5. Resveratrol

This natural plant compound can be found in high concentrations in the skin of red grapes. Other sources of resveratrol include mulberries and Japanese knotweed.

So far, there’s limited data on resveratrol and metabolism from human studies. But the results of research conducted with rats are quite exciting. According to one study, resveratrol can prevent weight gain. It can also prevent the creation of adipocytes, cells that specialize in the storage of fat, as well as cause existing adipocytes to undergo apoptosis—in simple terms, they self-destruct.

5 Research-Backed Metabolism-Boosting Foods

As you may have intuited, many of the best metabolism-boosting foods backed by research are fruits and vegetables. These nutrient-rich foods contain vitamins and minerals that help your metabolism run as efficiently as possible. High-protein foods, in particular, lean meats as well as nuts and seeds, have also been linked to increased weight loss. Plus, one extremely popular superfood contains a special kind of fat that can help you shed pounds.

If you’re looking for ways to speed up your metabolism, try incorporating these five foods into your diet.

1. Berries

Studies show that berries can have a seriously beneficial effect on your metabolism. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism looked at the ability of eight different kinds of berries to prevent weight gain:

  • Lingonberry
  • Blackcurrant
  • Bilberry
  • Raspberry
  • Açai
  • Crowberry
  • Prune
  • Blackberry

They found that several of the berries could prevent weight gain, lower fasting insulin levels, and decrease body fat content.

Conveniently enough, berries are also super delicious! We love using them to make healthy desserts, like this berry and chia pudding.

2. Cruciferous Vegetables

Research has shown that eating more cruciferous vegetables can lead to weight loss. Members of the cruciferous family, like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, provide three vital nutrients that rev up your metabolism:

  • B vitamins
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin C

Plus, they contain tons of water and fiber, a combination that studies have linked to healthy digestion and an increased ability to burn fat.

3. High-Quality Eggs, Fish, and Meats

Eating more protein has been shown to support weight loss in multiple ways, according to an article published in Nutrition and Metabolism.

One reason is because your body has to expend more energy to digest proteins than it does to digest fats or carbohydrates. The scientific term for this is the thermic effect of food (TEF), which refers to the amount of calories your body uses to digest, absorb, and process the nutrients in the food you eat.

Protein also helps you stay full longer and supports the growth and maintenance of muscle mass, a key factor in metabolic speed.

4. Nuts and Seeds

The plant-based protein in nuts and seeds (as well as in beans, lentils, pseudocereals like quinoa, and so on) has the same thermic effect as animal proteins.

While dieters may worry nuts are too high calorie to be a good weight-loss food, that’s simply not the case. Studies show that adding nuts to your diet can be a weight-control boon. Nuts also have a low glycemic index, which means they don’t cause blood sugar spikes and dips that can manifest as hanger attacks.

Hemp seeds and flaxseeds provide lots of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation while increasing blood flow to your muscles.

5. Coconut Oil

Hopefully you already know that eating fats won’t make you fat, and coconut oil is a great example of how the reverse can actually be true! Coconut oil is a phenomenal source of a medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Once absorbed, MCTs go straight to your liver where they’re converted into ketones, which your body uses for energy.

A wealth of research reveals that adding MCTs to your diet can lead to weight-loss results. It also appears, according to this pilot study as well as other findings, that coconut oil can be especially valuable when it comes to reducing belly fat.

Do metabolism boosters work? Get the facts.


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