Want To Lose Weight Fast? Eat These 7 Foods To Speed Up Your Metabolism

When you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll want to know every tip and trick to make the process as quick and easy as possible.  

Did you know that certain foods have been studied to increase your metabolism, which increases the number of calories you burn per day?

Implementing these 7 metabolism-boosting foods can make weight loss easier, especially if combined with other lifestyle modifications.

Key Takeaways

  • Those with a faster metabolism will lose weight more easily than those with a slower metabolism because they can eat more food while losing weight.
  • Lean protein, whole grains, berries, chili peppers & spices, and coffee & green tea can boost your metabolism and help you burn more calories per day.
  • Beyond what you eat, other lifestyle factors can assist with weight loss, such as getting regular physical activity, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, and managing stress.

Understanding How Diet Impacts Metabolism

You probably know that the foods you eat as part of your daily diet provide your body with energy in the form of calories. But, you may not know that the foods you eat can also impact how many calories you burn each day. 

The calories you consume are known as “calories in” and the calories you burn are referred to as “calories out.” 

When calories in = calories out, you will maintain an energy balance and maintain your weight.

When calories in are less than calories out, you will be in a negative energy balance and lose weight.

The “calories out” part of the equation is heavily influenced by your metabolism, so if you can eat foods that boost your metabolism, it will be easier to achieve a negative energy balance and lose weight.

What Is Metabolism And How Does It Work?

Broadly speaking, metabolism is the collection of processes that happen in your body to turn the calories from food and drink into energy for bodily functions

Metabolism involves either breaking things down (catabolism), such as digesting proteins to get to the amino acids that make them up, or building things up (anabolism), such as building new muscle tissue from those amino acids in response to working out.

There are four main components of metabolism that contribute to “calories out”:

  • Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR): the number of calories you burn at rest just to perform bodily functions, like breathing
  • Thermic Effect Of Food (TEF): the number of calories you burn digesting food
  • Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): the number of calories you burn doing daily activities (i.e. washing dishes) and from movement like fidgeting
  • Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT): the number of calories you burn from exercise

The Impact Of Diet On Metabolism

There are two main ways that diet impacts metabolism.

The first is through the “thermic effect of food” (TEF) because the process of chewing, swallowing, and digesting food takes energy (burns calories) in and of itself. Certain foods take more energy than others to digest and therefore have a higher TEF. 

For example:

Eating a small handful of raw almonds requires more chewing, and then more work to break down the nuts into their constituent fat, protein, and carbohydrates in your gut compared to a spoonful of almond butter. 

With almond butter, it’s already been ground up by a machine, so your body has less work to do to convert the calories in the almond butter into calories it can use for energy.

Both the raw almonds and the almond butter could contain 100 calories worth of stored food energy; however, if the raw almonds take 20 calories worth of effort to digest then the net impact is only 80 calories, whereas the almond butter might only take 5 calories worth of effort, yielding 95 calories in.

The second way diet impacts metabolism is by providing energy for your body throughout the day. 

When your body is adequately nourished, you are more likely to increase your non-exercise activity (NEAT) and exercise activity (EAT) because you will have more energy.  This will increase your total daily calories burned (calories out).

Eating a poor-quality diet is more likely to make you feel sluggish, so you naturally won’t move around as much and you won’t have the nutrients you need to push yourself hard in a workout even if you want to. This will decrease the total calories burned.

The Impact Of Metabolism On Weight Loss

As I mentioned earlier, weight loss is a matter of energy balance. When the total calories in from food and drink matches the total calories out from bodily processes and activities, you are said to be in balance and your weight won’t change.

When you take in more calories than you need to meet your energy requirements for the day, your body is forced to store the excess calories by creating more tissue (fat and/or muscle).  This is known as a calorie surplus.  

If you are doing challenging resistance training, some of these excess calories will go toward building and repairing muscle tissue; however, if you’re not active, or only doing light workouts, then the excess calories will be stored as body fat, instead. In either case (muscle or fat), your bodyweight will increase.

When you take in fewer calories than you need to meet your energy requirements for the day, your body is forced to break down bodily tissue (either fat or muscle) to use the stored calories for energy. This is known as a calorie deficit, and it results in weight loss.

When you have a high metabolic rate (a faster metabolism), it means that you will need to ingest more calories simply to maintain your weight. This means that you will be able to eat more food than someone with the same weight who has a low metabolic rate (a “slow” metabolism). 

For example, if you have a fast metabolism, you might need 2,500 calories per day to maintain your weight. Someone else of the same body weight but with a slower metabolism might only need 2,000 calories to maintain their weight. You will be able to lose weight eating 2,000 calories per day, but they will need to eat fewer than 2,000 calories to lose weight.

But, in either case, weight loss IS possible, as long as intake is lower than output; it just means that the person with the faster metabolism will likely have an easier time losing weight than the person with the slower metabolism.

Since most of us like food and enjoy eating, it can be beneficial to find ways to increase metabolism so that we can eat more and still lose weight.

The Top 7 Foods for Boosting Metabolism

the top 7 foods for boosting metabolism

As I explained above, minimally processed whole foods contribute to metabolism by increasing the number of calories you burn to digest them, and they also provide more nutrients than refined foods to give you more energy for your workouts and daily activities.

But, the following foods are specific whole foods and beverages that have been researched to provide an extra boost to metabolism:

1. Lean Proteins

Consuming whole food sources of lean protein such as lean meat, chicken, fish, and plant-based sources like legumes can help boost your metabolism by increasing muscle mass when you are following an appropriately challenging resistance training program.

Muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue, meaning that individuals with more muscle mass have a higher resting metabolic rate (they burn more calories even when they are just sitting around).  

So, consuming lean protein sources can help increase muscle mass and improve overall metabolic rate. Active individuals should aim to eat 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, per day.

For example, a person who weighs 150 lbs would aim to eat 120 to 150 grams of protein per day.

Additionally, protein is the hardest nutrient for the body to break down so it has the highest TEF as it requires more energy to digest than any other nutrient. Therefore, having more protein throughout the day burns more calories.

2. Whole Grains

Whole grains are a rich source of fiber, which has been shown to increase metabolic rate. Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that is not digested by the body, meaning that it passes through the digestive system without contributing to caloric intake. 

In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that consuming a diet high in whole grains increased metabolic rate and fat oxidation (burning of fat for energy). 

Incorporating whole grains such as oats, quinoa, and brown rice into your diet can help boost your metabolic rate.  

The recommended daily intake of whole grains is at least three ounces of whole grains for women, and four ounces for men. This is the equivalent of eating 1 ½ to 2 cups of brown rice or oatmeal each day.

3. Berries

Berries such as blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are rich in antioxidants and have been shown to boost metabolism

In a study published in the Journal of Functional Foods, researchers found that consuming blueberries (50 grams of blueberries per day for six weeks – this is about one-third cup of blueberries) increased metabolic rate and fat oxidation. 

Berries can be enjoyed as a snack or incorporated into recipes like smoothies or muffins for added health benefits.

4. Chili Peppers

Chili peppers contain a compound called capsaicin, which has been shown to increase metabolic rate by stimulating the nervous system

This particular study demonstrated that capsaicin has anti-obesity properties like reducing appetite. Just 6 mg of capsaicin per day for 12 weeks increased energy expenditure and fat oxidation (burning fat for energy), leading to 2 lbs of weight loss with no other changes in diet.  

The hotter (spicier) a pepper, the more capsaicin it contains; just a quarter gram of dried habanero pepper provides 7 mg of capsaicin.    

Adding chili peppers to your meals or incorporating them into recipes (like this Habanero Chili) can help increase your metabolic rate and help you lose weight.

5. Spices

Spices such as black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric have also been shown to boost metabolism and help with satiety so that you feel full and are less likely to overeat. 

Some spices even block the formation of new fat cells, which helps prevent weight gain in the first place. 

Just a small sprinkle (¼ to 1 tsp) of each spice is all you need to reap the benefits.

6. Coffee

Coffee lovers, rejoice!  The caffeine in coffee has been shown to increase metabolic rate.  Researchers found that consuming caffeine significantly increased metabolic rate and fat oxidation (fat burning).

Results were seen with 1.8 mg of caffeine per pound of body weight. This would be 272 mg for a person weighing 150 lbs, or about 3 cups of coffee.

Just be sure to limit caffeine intake to the early part of the day so as not to disrupt sleep. Sleep is another key component for weight loss, which I’ll discuss later in the article.

Do not exceed the daily safe limit for caffeine of 400 mg per day.

7. Green Tea

Green tea is a popular beverage that is known for its health benefits and fat-burning properties., which is why green tea extract is a common ingredient in fat-burning supplements

One of the active compounds in green tea, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), has been shown to increase metabolic rate by increasing the activity of the sympathetic nervous system (the part of your nervous system linked to being active – for example, it increases breathing rate and heart rate).

The amount of EGCG in one cup of green tea will depend on how strongly it is brewed, but the average cup has about 110 mg of EGCG

Studies indicating the benefits of green tea usually have participants consuming 200-300 mg of EGCG, so you would need about 2-3 cups of green tea per day to achieve the recommended dose. 

Keep in mind that green tea also contains caffeine (~30 mg per cup), so you will need to factor it into your daily caffeine intake to ensure you’re not exceeding the upper limit (400 mg).

Sample Meal Plan For A Metabolism-Boosting Diet

The following meal plan contains all seven metabolism-boosting foods and beverages listed above and includes the full recommended daily serving(s) for each item.

  • Breakfast: 2 eggs (any style) with hot chili sauce or freshly chopped chili peppers, 1 bowl of oatmeal (½ cup whole grain rolled oats) with ⅓ cup of blueberries and ½ tsp of cinnamon, and 1 cup of coffee.
  • Snack: ¾ cup plain yogurt with fresh berries and 1 cup of coffee.
  • Lunch: ½ cup cooked whole grain brown rice and ½ cup drained and rinsed chickpeas with 4 oz (112 grams) of cooked chicken breast with ½ tsp dried cumin powder, and 1 whole bell pepper sliced and sauteed with 1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger, and 1 cup of green tea.
  • Snack: 1 protein shake (1 scoop of protein powder mixed with 2 cups of water), 1 slice of whole-grain toast spread with 1 tbsp (15 grams) of natural almond butter and sliced apple, and 1 cup of green tea.
  • Supper: 1 bowl of Habanero chili, steamed broccoli with freshly cracked ground black pepper, 1 whole grain dinner bun with butter, and 1 cup of green tea.

Other Factors That Affect Metabolism

In addition to metabolism-boosting foods, healthy weight loss also requires regular exercise, adequate sleep & hydration, and stress management.

  • Sleep: sleep quality and quantity both contribute to weight loss. In this study, better subjective sleep quality and sleeping more than 7 hours per night increased the likelihood of weight-loss success by 33%.  

    Set consistent bedtime and wake-up times that are at least 7 hours apart to give you time to sleep for at least 7 hours, and have a regular wind-down schedule in a cool, darkened room to assist with sleep quality.

About The Author

Lauren Graham

Lauren Graham is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She focuses on helping busy professionals balance healthy eating and purposeful movement.  Lauren has a background in competitive swimming and is currently competing as a CrossFit athlete.  She has a passion for training, teaching, and writing. 

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