We’ve all been there – enviously gazing at someone devouring the same junk food as you, without fretting over those extra pounds on the weighing scale tomorrow. Well, they’re the few lucky ones blessed with a speedy metabolism. And if you aren’t one of them (I am not either), don’t sulk yet. Metabolism works quite like everything else in your life; while some are born with it, others have to work for it. And if you fall in the latter category, this curated list will turn out to be your true savior.
Metabolism – Part Nature, Part Nurture
Metabolism or metabolic rate is, as Harvard Medical School puts it, a series of chemical reactions in a living organism that create and break down energy necessary for life. More simply, it’s the rate at which your body expends energy or burns calories.’ Your body needs energy from calories just to be alive (breathing, circulation, cell production, nutrient synthesis, etc.). We also burn calories during any physical activity like standing, brisk walking, or exercising. Digestion, and absorption of nutrients from food, known as thermogenesis, also need calories.
The easiest and most recommended way to burn more calories is to exercise and be more active, in day-to-day life. Although, there are some foods that can rev up your metabolism by creating an instant burst in the thermogenesis process, or how much the food expends calories as it passes through your digestive tract. Here’s a roundup of the top 7 of these foods and drinks.
If you’re a coffee-lover, here’s another reason to eagerly reach out for another mug and savor it like pure bliss. The caffeine content in coffee can rev up your metabolism. According to a landmark study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a 100 mg caffeine dose (a typical 8-oz cup of coffee) increased the metabolic rate of participants by 4 percent, around 3 hours after ingestion. The same study outlined an increase in the thermic effect of a meal (calories used while digesting food) after taking caffeinated coffee.
Another study noted that caffeine triggers your nervous system, sending direct signals to fat cells to break down fat. Volunteers gave their blood samples after consuming 200 mg of caffeine (equivalent to a short brewed coffee cup by Starbucks).
It’s important to note that coffee can support metabolism only when sugar levels and creamer add-ons are minimal. Otherwise, you are just negating the positive effects it will have on your health.
There are coffee lovers, then there are tea lovers. Luckily, both of them experience similar metabolism benefits from their favorite drink. A 2013 study, published by the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, found that drinking 4 cups of green tea a day considerably decreased their body weight, body mass index, and waist circumference, after just two weeks.
The star ingredient in green tea is caffeine and catechins. Caffeine, no matter what the source, can boost your metabolism and stimulate fat burning. Green tea has lower caffeine levels than coffee though, roughly four times less for the same quantity. And black tea (our beloved Indian chai) has about two times lesser caffeine than the same size of coffee.
Catechins are a type of flavonoids, powerful antioxidants also found in leafy vegetables, berries, citrus fruits, wine, and other teas like black tea, white tea, etc. Studies have shown that owing to the presence of catechins, green tea can help burn an extra 70-100 calories per day. So, sip on a cup or two of green tea per day, and let the dynamic duo of catechins and caffeine rev up your metabolism.
The idea behind hot peppers (cayenne pepper and jalapeno) supercharging your metabolism is pretty simple. When you eat something spicy, it heats up your body and the cells, which start expending more calories to cool down and get them to a level temperature. A 2010 study found that dihydrocapsiate, a compound found in hot peppers, supplementation for a month increased the metabolic rate of volunteers by about 50 calories. Capsaicinoids, yet another compound in hot peppers, is found to decrease both body fat and body mass, as concluded by a 2018 study.
Some studies have also pointed out that spicy foods can help one feel fuller and thus, consume less food. This eventually leads to a drop in caloric intake and better weight loss results. Apart from boosting fat burn, hot peppers are generally considered to be a healthy addition to your daily meals. They have anti-inflammatory properties, can reduce the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, and promote better gastrointestinal health. So, keep adding this tangy spice to your daily meals.
All protein-rich foods help boost your metabolism. But some work better than others. Proteins are made of twenty structural units called amino acids. Two of them – arginine and glutamine – have a more pronounced effect on metabolism than others. Lentils are packed with these two amino acids, 1.3 grams of arginine and 1.5 grams of glutamine.
A 2009 paper found arginine to be a useful treatment for refining metabolic profile and diverting nutrients from your food to support muscle gain rather than fat gain. Another study published in Amino Acids concluded arginine’s role in the production of mitochondria, a power-house of cells where energy is created, and brown adipose tissue, where food is converted into body heat. Both of these effects can improve your metabolism over time.
Glutamine, on the other hand, has been found to increase both carbohydrate and fat oxidation after you consume a meal. The results were outlined in a 2006 study, published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. The researchers noted these changes could be possible because of glutamine’s effect on insulin.
A flavourful addition to your morning tea, delish gravies, and tangy pickles – ginger isn’t just a subtle enhancement for your taste buds but can upgrade your calorie burn levels as well. A 2013 study published in the journal Metabolism concluded ginger’s ability to increase the thermic effects of food (calories we burn during digestion) and suppressing appetite. Overall, ginger can help with weight management, if not weight loss.
A 2018 study also established ginger’s weight-loss benefits suggesting ginger can decrease body weight, waist-to-hip ratio, and increase HDL cholesterol levels (good cholesterol that plays an important role in metabolic rate). If you’re making an effort into working out and eating healthy, you want to make sure you make the most of it. Including ginger in your diet is easy and a great way to amp up your weight loss regimen.
Thinking of shunning this fat-filled item from your weight-loss regimen? Well, think again. Ghee made from pure cow’s milk can actually improve your metabolic rate, burn stubborn fat (especially abdominal fat), and promote lean mass development. The hero ingredient in ghee is conjugated linoleic acid, CLA. A 2017 study proved that CLA can help promote subcutaneous fat (jiggly fat common around abdomen and thighs) loss when you slim down, thus promoting a healthier form of weight loss. Another study backed this claim and added that CLA not only reduces body fat but also significantly improves muscle metabolism.
According to Ayurveda, ghee kindles digestive enzymes and sustains healthy microbes in the gut. Better digestion improves the thermogenesis process and calorie burn, thus boosting your metabolism over time. Consume ghee like our ancestors have, on your rotis, over dal-rice, and as an add-on to your warm milk. Experts recommend 2-3 tsp of ghee per day for optimum benefits, rest can turn into unwanted fat.
Out of all the foods that can boost your metabolism, dark chocolate has to be the yummiest one. According to a 2009 research published in the Journal of Proteome Research, cocoa can improve basal metabolic rate in humans, especially when it’s influenced by stress and anxiety hormones. The effects were noted in two weeks after volunteers were given 40 grams of dark chocolate every day. In another 2014 paper, a team of researchers concluded dark chocolate’s role in decreasing fatty acid synthesis, promoting fat metabolism, and increasing satiety.
Cocoa powder’s high level of flavonoids – powerful antioxidants – is behind all major benefits of dark chocolate. Flavonols are plant-based compounds that naturally occur in many foods, but none can match cocoa’s unique blend. Apart from their positive effect on metabolism, flavonols can also boost your mood, reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease, and protect your skin from everyday toxins.
To reap dark chocolate’s benefits, the optimal cocoa percentage should be 70% or more, according to Healthline. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the more antioxidants and nutrients you can derive from it.