Marks Daily Apple
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2 Mar

Top 14 Ways to Increase Your Metabolism

Metabolism finalOn a literal level, your metabolic rate describes how much energy you expend to conduct daily physiological functions. This has many practical ramifications, however, because your metabolic rate also influences how you feel, how many calories you burn, how many calories you can eat without gaining weight, your libido, your fertility, your cold tolerance, how much subjective energy you have, how you recover from injuries and stress, how specific foods affect you, and how you perform in the gym. In short, it’s usually a good thing to have a higher metabolic rate.

Here are a few ways to increase your metabolism in a healthy, productive manner.

1. Optimize your thyroid health.

The thyroid is the primary regulator of metabolic rate. To increase the latter, we must support the former.

  • Certain nutrients play huge roles in thyroid function, like iodine (to create thyroid hormone) and selenium (to convert it to the active form). Make sure to eat your seaweed and Brazil nuts.
  • Many thyroid conditions are autoimmune in nature, so focus on avoiding common autoimmune triggers like wheat and other grains, strengthening your gut barrier, and keeping your gut healthy with prebiotics and probiotics.
  • An excessive intake of cruciferous vegetables may have goitrogenic (thyroid-suppressing) effects. Don’t be afraid of broccoli and kale, but don’t eat several pounds a day.
  • If you’re low-carb, note that going too low in calories can depress thyroid function. There’s some evidence this may be adaptive and have beneficial effects on longevity to a point, but you don’t want to depress it so much that you’re cold all the time, constantly exhausted, and can’t seem to lose any weight. If you’re feeling that way on low-carb, up the calories (whether they come from carbs, protein, or fat).

If you’re legitimately hypothyroid, don’t be afraid to treat it. Sometimes supplemental thyroid is the right answer, and it’s less “modern” than you might think; traditional cultures used to supplement with animal thyroid gland.

2. Eat enough calories.

Inadequate calorie intake sends a signal of famine to your body. There are varying degrees, of course—400 calories a day sends a very different signal than 1200 calories a day—but any deficit will be perceived as a stressor, however minor. That’s okay. Stressors are important and part of the benefit comes from our response to them. But in the face of continued and constant low calorie intake the body tends to depress the metabolic rate to match the amount of energy coming in. This slows weight loss, if not halts it altogether, and explains why many people feel tired, cold, and miserable on extended dieting.

3. Mind your leptin.

Leptin is a major determinant of metabolic rate and energy expenditure. Since it’s secreted by body fat and responds to a lesser degree to your carb intake, using a low-carb diet to lose body fat may eventually, paradoxically, work against your metabolism. You can fix this by incorporating carb refeeds once or twice a week where you keep the fat low and carbs high to give lagging leptin levels a boost. Other potential fixes include avoiding grains, whose lectins may interfere with leptin receptors.

4. Sprint.

I always say that sprinting is the single best exercise for leaning out. Compared to resistance training and traditional cardio, sprint intervals increase resting energy expenditure the most. Most of the increased expenditure appears to come from fat oxidation. Best of all, the increased expenditure following sprinting does not lead to increased food intake.

Furthermore, sprinting turns your muscles into glycogen sponges, so the carbs you eat to increase leptin and metabolism will be shunted toward the muscles.

5. Lift heavy things.

Strength training is essential for increasing your metabolic rate for three primary reasons:

  • Lifting heavy things builds muscle. Muscle is costly. It craves energy. It needs energy. It burns energy. It upregulates metabolism simply by virtue of its existence.
  • The immediate act of lifting heavy things is metabolically intensive. Hoisting heavy objects, whether barbell, rock, or bodyweight, requires energy in the moment.
  • Strength training increases resting metabolic rate over the short and long term. A good strength session even upregulates metabolic rate for hours afterward.

6. Eat spicy food.

Capsaicin, the spicy compound in chiles, has thermogenic qualities. It activates metabolically-active brown fat, which could reduce body fat. Combined with exercise, it increases energy expenditure. Combined with food, capsaicin increases the thermic effect of a meal (the amount of energy burnt during digestion). Don’t expect a miracle here. But little changes add up. Besides, spicy food—if you’ve got the taste for it—is delicious.

7. Eat at regular times.

Some people thrive on an erratic eating schedule. For some people, an erratic eating schedule depresses metabolism bccause their bodies “expect” food at specific times. In one study, healthy lean adults experienced a lower thermic effect of food—the extra burst of energy required to process and digest the food we eat—when they ate according to a disordered, erratic schedule. The same effect happened in overweight women trying to lose weight. Reduced thermic effect of food means lower energy expenditure and lower metabolism.

8. Expose yourself to cold.

To stay warm in cold environments, humans do several things that all involve increasing one’s metabolism. We shiver, which burns calories to maintain body temperature. We activate brown fat, a type of body fat that burns energy and increases metabolism rather than stores and blunts it. The more cold adapted you are, the more you rely on brown fat to stay warm.

It’s not necessary to take ice baths. Simply leaving the heat off in the house and going outside in short sleeves during cold weather will increase your energy expenditure.

9. Eat the carbs you earn.

If you have “earned the carbs” through heavy training, choose not to eat them, and continue to perform demanding work in the gym, your metabolic rate will suffer. A CrossFitter isn’t doing him or herself any favors by failing to restock glycogen stores after heavy WODs; this will exacerbate the energy deficit and introduce a metabolism-depressing starvation response.

10. Eat more protein.

Protein has the highest thermic effect of all the macronutrients, meaning it takes the most calories to digest and results in an higher energy expenditure. That it helps build thermogenic tissue—muscle—doesn’t hurt, either.

11. Manage stress.

Acute stress seems to incease metabolic rate, probably by increasing adrenaline and cortisol. But in the context of chronic stress, where cortisol is chronically elevated and less stimulating, metabolic rate may drop. That could explain why women who report experiencing more “stress events” have a lower thermic response to food they eat. That’s chronic stress, and it’s far more damaging than acute stress, which we can and do recover and even benefit from.

12. Stand more than you sit.

Direct comparisons find that people who use standing desks have higher energy expenditures than people who sit.

13. Move frequently throughout the day (fidgeting counts).

Non exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is an undervalued path to increased metabolism. That guy in your office who rocks back and forth in his chair, constantly cranes his neck around to look at everyone else, chews gum incessantly, takes frequent trips to the bathroom, and never seems to sit still may be nursing a crystal meth habit, or he could just be a high-energy guy with an elevated metabolic rate.

14. Drink coffee or tea.

Whether you’re obese or of normal weight, drinking coffee increases your metabolic rate. The increase, mediated primarily by a boost to fat metabolism, is transient, but before you know it’s morning again and you’re ready for another cup (or three).

Tea works, too. It’s got caffeine (albeit not as much as coffee) and, if you’re drinking green tea, specific compounds that promote energy expenditure independent of caffeine.

Those are 14 tried and true ways to increase your metabolism over both the short term and the long term. I’m sure there are others, too. What have you guys got?

Thanks for reading, everyone!

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Or roll away :)

    Groktimus wrote on March 2nd, 2016
    • Has anyone used the portable indirect calorimetery available?- Breezing is the name of the company. I’ve measured my RMR on this device and it consistently runs 500-700 calories higher than the estimated RMR based on my wt & age from a Harris Benedict formula. So I’m 5’2, 120lbs, 38yo and measure 1950RMR. Add some exercise in there and my calorie needs jump to 2600, that’s a lot of food for a little gal. However when I do eat high calorie, it causes weight gain. I can’t seem to change body comp despite cutting calories or exercising more- so just curious if anyone else has had indirect calorimetery metabolic testing that shows a high value and how that effects efforts at trying to lean out.

      Amy wrote on March 2nd, 2016
      • I’m 5’10” Male, 175lbs and 2600 is too much for me.

        Ermias wrote on March 2nd, 2016
      • I can’t say that I have. I suppose it’s priced reasonably for what it claims to do but at $800+ it might be worthwhile for a professional athlete but I don’t see many people buying into it. I could be a great service for a gym to provide across many clients.

        Groktimus Primal wrote on March 3rd, 2016
  2. I belong to this group:

    “If you’re legitimately hypothyroid, don’t be afraid to treat it. Sometimes supplemental thyroid is the right answer”

    I had partial removal of the thyroid many many many moons ago.
    With time I had to start taking synthroid. Works well for me

    I qualify for “legitimately hypothyroid” :-)

    wildgrok wrote on March 2nd, 2016
    • Have you looked into bio-identical thyroid hormones? http://jeffreydachmd.com/importance-of-bioidentical-hormones/

      Eric B wrote on March 2nd, 2016
      • I did some research on alternatives (armour, etc) , read the excellent book on thyroid madness. But in my case synthroid (now levothiroxine) works perfectly.
        But will read carefully the link, VERY INTERESTING – THANKS!!!

        wildgrok wrote on March 3rd, 2016
        • It works perfectly for me too, going on five years now.

          Maybe relevant: my first endocrinologist was vigilant about correcting me if I ever referred to the synthroid as a “drug,” since, as he pointed out, a hormone replacement actually isn’t a drug.

          Anna wrote on March 3rd, 2016
    • Yes, I also take synthroid. Cheap, easily available, has been working for me for 26 years. My thyroid gland died completely, as in zero detectable hormone production, and would not be revived.

      SuzU wrote on March 2nd, 2016
  3. I’m a natural day-long fidget-er (not currently nursing any stimulant habits). It’s good to know my natural pent up energy is going to some good use!

    Chris wrote on March 2nd, 2016
  4. I definitely go by the “eat the carbs you earn” philosophy. When I’ve had a heavy HIIT routine, and I need that extra boost, I don’t begrudge myself some extra carbs. When I’ve been a bit of a bump on a log for the day, that’s a different story…

    Tiffany wrote on March 2nd, 2016
  5. Sprint, baby, sprint! That’s the way to do it. Every time I get a good all-out sprint in, I can feel the afterglow for the rest of the day. I imagine that’s my metabolism humming at full speed.

    Alex wrote on March 2nd, 2016
    • I love to sprint but be aware!!! Sprinting damaged my Achilles’ tendon (Achilles tendinopathy). Now I sprint in the swimming pool.

      Chrissy T wrote on March 3rd, 2016
      • Yes, I took my Hubby on a sprint session with me, 2nd sprint he did, off went his achilles tendon…. still recovering 4 weeks later!!

        Sparrow wrote on March 4th, 2016
        • Ironman addiction trashed both my achilles but gym bike sprints work brilliantly.

          Kelda wrote on March 5th, 2016
        • Did he warm up appropriately?

          Ingrid P wrote on March 14th, 2016
      • That is scary… and I have a lot of friends lately that are straining or even rupturing (requiring surgery!) their achilles tendon. I have heard that some of it may be related to use of certain new antibiotics. Can anyone shed any light on this? Thank you.

        Lora wrote on March 6th, 2016
        • Check out floxiehope.com – cipro is the antibiotic you are referring to.

          framistat wrote on March 11th, 2016
  6. Maybe I need to give some of those freezing cold ice baths at the gym a shot more often. I know immersing yourself in cold is supposed to be good for inflammation/immune stimulation. But the stimulation of brown adipose tissue sounds like a nice bonus.

    Joshua wrote on March 2nd, 2016
  7. So you’re saying I’m doing my body a service every time I order an extra spicy bowl of Thai curry (coconut milk based, of course)? It FEELS good, but I’m glad to know destroying my stomach lining with spice is also giving my metabolism a kick in the process. Hahahah.

    Trina wrote on March 2nd, 2016
  8. I have always been a fidgeter. It is actually hard for me to watch a movie because I just can’t sit for very long. Something else that really boosts my metabolism (at least I think it does) is getting plenty of high quality fat. I lift heavy things and get lots of walking in, but still need to try sprinting! I know my metabolism is good because I have less trouble maintaining my weight at 49 than I did at 29 when I was a vegetarian eating way more carbs.

    Elizabeth wrote on March 2nd, 2016
    • That’s great! I’m in me early 40s, and wish for the same! I went too low carb for too long, which seems to have depressed my metabolism. Now I’ve lowered fat ( had a high fat diet before) and upped Paleo carbs. But I’m still trying to figure out what’s right for my body. What’s the macronutrient composition of your diet like?

      Tenny wrote on March 2nd, 2016
  9. Sprinting is sublime. 15 minutes of intensity for 36 hours of glowing burn. That’s only once every 7-10 days. Most bang for the buck!

    Noconago wrote on March 2nd, 2016
    • I have to agree, sprinting feels great (afterwards, its all hell when your doing it though, if not, your not sprinting flat out). You can almost feel your metabolism cranking after a sprint session.

      Barbarian wrote on March 2nd, 2016
    • Ha. It sounds like a great Ad 😉

      Ingrid P wrote on March 14th, 2016
  10. Sprinting is a great workout, but any ‘all out’ activity (ie. Air bike, rower) will give you similar results.

    “Eating organic grass fed and finished meat from rotational pastured livestock will save your life and the planet!”

    Dan wrote on March 2nd, 2016
    • Sprinting is just shorthand for high intensity interval training in any form. It can be squats, running, rowing, biking, etc. Sprinting is generally considered maintaining a sustained activity at 80% or more of your absolute maximum ability for 30 seconds ( or less). The worlds best sprinters can barely hit 30 seconds of sprinting before tapering off due to fatigue. So if your sprints are a bit over 30 seconds long, you’re not really sprinting but you are still working hard. If you’re doing two minute sprints, then you are definitely not even close to sprinting.

      Clay wrote on March 3rd, 2016
  11. Eating more protein–doesn’t that fly in the face of mTor, or does mTor even enter into it?

    Wenchypoo wrote on March 2nd, 2016
    • I don’t think we have all the facts concerning the effects of protein on mTor pathways. Like many things these days, it’s an alarmist theory (dare I say half-baked?) that is actually scaring people away from eating enough protein to satisfy the needs of their body. Obviously it’s possible to eat way too much protein, or nothing but protein, but most people would develop digestion issues if they ate like that.

      Shary wrote on March 2nd, 2016
  12. Great article! I have a question about carb intake for diabetics. I do not take insulin, so can’t rely on that to keep my BG at healthy levels (4.6 to 5.2 are my targets).

    Any non-insulin T2’s here who take in carbs (more than 30-50 g daily)?

    Barb wrote on March 2nd, 2016
    • My carb intake varies according to my activities. On workout days I’m often in that range, but on more sedentary days, I’m much lower. It’s gotten lower over time though. I found it took quite awhile to become more fat fuel adapted, but it helped a ton with the lingering insulin resistance I had after years of diabetes.
      Hope that helps!
      (Primal Blueprint Expert 336)

      Jody Petronella wrote on March 2nd, 2016
  13. Liquid green tea extract seems to help. Also brown seaweeds (Fucoidan Extract).
    I’m also wondering (just wondering at the moment) whether linoleic acid and pomegranate seed oil are helpful.

    maidel wrote on March 2nd, 2016
  14. I had my thyroid removed completely due to cancer and rely on levothyroxine (Synthroid is one brand)… would the above article apply as long as I’m taking my correct dose (which happens to vary from person to person for various reasons)? I’ve done a fair bit of research but I never come up with much…

    Janie wrote on March 2nd, 2016
    • Check out Chris Kesser site, many pdfs with detailed info on lab results, ranges.

      wildgrok wrote on March 3rd, 2016
  15. Ok i drink coffee, spent december, jan and feb in a house with no heat except in our rooms. Cookilng and doing dishes was fun. I drink coffee and make lacto-fermented radish pickles. Thanks for letting me know Im on track.

    Julie wrote on March 2nd, 2016
  16. Does hard mental work (exercising the brain) increase metabolism and/or consume more calories than a more passive mental state?

    Anders Ingemarson wrote on March 2nd, 2016
    • For me I think it does. I am a Medical Laboratory Technician, start running our morning round testing a bit after 5am, mostly done by 7am at end of shift. A lot of times I feel fuzz-brained as if my glucose is bottoming out. I am mostly standing & walking very short distances (3-10 feet) but on the phone constantly, evaluating sample quality, monitoring what’s been completed, troubleshooting analyzer issues, all sorts of things that require critical thinking.

      Joanna B wrote on March 6th, 2016
  17. I would like to incorporate sprints into my training routine, but I live in New England it is often too cold, too dark or too icy outside to do so.
    I have 2 small children, so I workout in the mornings before they get up or I go to work, so going outside in the dark in 20 degrees is just something I am not willing to do!
    Is there anything else one can do indoors?

    Gina wrote on March 2nd, 2016
    • Gina I also live in New England, if you have the space and overhead clearance try jump rope interval sprints. Skip at double under or high knee jumps at fast pace for 30 seconds interspersed with a couple of minutes of light skipping for a total of 10 to 15 minutes.

      Bob wrote on March 2nd, 2016
    • Gina,
      Do bike sprints on a stationary bike indoors. Schwinn Aerodynes can be found relatively inexpensive at garage sales or eBay.

      David wrote on March 2nd, 2016
    • Put on a heart rate monitor, warm up, do burpees until your HR reaches 90%+ of your calculated heart rate maximum. Stop, walk it off. Repeat.

      Rick wrote on March 3rd, 2016
  18. Great info!, I want to eat more spicy foods, but I have really bad heartburn and what do you think about CLA supplements?, are they good or a waste of money?.

    KELLY wrote on March 2nd, 2016
  19. Both for myself and with clients, I prescribe medicinal-grade herbal formulas and supplements that support metabolism…along with the whole body-mind system. Some of these specifically target thyroid health…others are more focused on fat/carb/protein metabolism in the GI tract. They absolutely support improved outcomes.

    And yet…I still find eating and lifestyle patterns to be the most important factor by far, and love the range of suggestions in this post. Best thing I know to support healthy metabolism: eating a primal diet abundant in animal protein and veggies…with a good dose of healthy fat…and minimal sugars (even the sort found in fruit).

    Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons wrote on March 2nd, 2016
  20. I personally think metabolic dysfunction and weight gain has a lot to do with gut flora. This affects a lot of things, I’m sure Mark’s probiotic is of good quality but I don’t like ordering things no more then I haft to so I just pick up one down at my local health store. It’s called “primal defense” by garden of life, excellent in my opinion. I take one in the mourning about a hour before breakfast and one at night about a hour before bed. I follow a protein and fat dominate primal diet, but I still consume a moderate amount of carbs, on average 120 carbs a day, sometimes slightly more or under and get a 15 minute brisk walk everyday and I haven’t had a weight problem at all. I think CLA in my butteroil supplement and grassfed meat helps keep a proper physic too, I’ve read countless things describing how it keeps undesired weight off.

    barry wrote on March 2nd, 2016
  21. How about deep breathing Mark? Anybody? Breath holds, an deep breathing.. I feel like they can alter the metabolism. After all you can change the state of the nervous system with breathing techniques

    Phil wrote on March 2nd, 2016
  22. Hi. I’m just checking in to say I love your site.mafter being vegan for the past two years, going Paleo about six months ago has done wonders for my weight loss, energy, mental clarity and digestive system (no more bloaty over fibre filled days).

    My goal is to encourage all of my clients to take on a paleo based diet and exercise routine. Do you have any recommneded workouts for women 50+ with potential moderate injuries from past workouts?

    Thanks!
    Cheryl

    Cheryl Ford wrote on March 3rd, 2016
  23. Could not have summarised it better myself. Only thing left out is artificial means which is probably best avoided as not really healthy or sustainable!

    Just had a thought, sleep more might be number 15?

    JJ wrote on March 3rd, 2016
  24. I’d love to learn more about my personal metabolism as I think I do *most* of the things on this list, but probably don’t have a good handle on stress. I’ve read a little bit about tracking basal body temperature to understand metabolism, but would like to know more (how to track, how long to track, etc.) Does anybody have any good resources?

    DarkSideRunner wrote on March 3rd, 2016
  25. Love this. So smart.Thank you for sharing.

    Nicole (Cuckoolemon) wrote on March 3rd, 2016
  26. Love this! The comments about cold and water are especially interesting. I read an article a few years ago where someone was looking at the number of calories that Olympic multi-champion Michael Phelps ate per day and figured out how many calories he was burning in his workouts, and it didn’t add up.

    It turned out that he also had to figure in just the time in the water because of the very thing you’re talking about in #8! And… as you point out, more calories are also burned when you increase your metabolism by being in the cold, so that more calories are burned even when warm and at rest! Love how you can get the ball rolling in your favor!

    Jamie Fellrath wrote on March 3rd, 2016
  27. That saved me reading dozens of articles. Thanks!

    Ptolemy wrote on March 3rd, 2016
  28. I follow flexible dieting wherein I eat clean all day long but for my pre and post workout(I train hard) meals I eat lot of carbs and fats and body loves it.

    It’s the most effective strategy when you adopt fitness as a lifestyle. You never get bored of the foods and the lifestyle. I call it IIFYL (If it fits your lifestyle)

    Shobhit Choudhary wrote on March 3rd, 2016
  29. How come just a generation ago, people weren’t fat? They weren’t all farmers. They didn’t all have highly physical jobs. No, they didn’t all eat very healthy. Granted, they didn’t have fast food, but not all of us eat fast food. They ate desserts. They didn’t exercise regularly either. But you rarely saw an obese person. Most people were thin or average.

    Fast forward to today. We are picking apart everything to figure things out. We eat healthy, we exercise, and we’re still fat…well, not all of you are. But a lot of us cannot change our physiques, no matter what we do. Eat too much, eat too little, eat all day, eat infrequently. Exercise more, exercise less.

    I am wondering if the growth hormones in the meat are the issue. Yeah, you can buy some meat without it. But most says, “No added hormones”. But if the animal had been receiving growth hormones from Day 1, it’s in it’s tissues.

    I see a lot of people on here say they eat carbs, and they are very active, and I’m convinced if you are super-active, you can.

    But I still wonder about the growth hormones in meat.
    Has anyone tried just eating organic eggs, organically raised-no hormones EVER meat, and noticed any difference??

    doublehelix wrote on March 6th, 2016
    • There is no one issue. A generation or two ago there were fewer toxins, vaccines, antibiotics, pesticides. Our gut flora was healthier (the right bacteria keep you thin). Soil was less depleted so food naturally contained more vitamins, minerals. Soy wasn’t added to everything. Flour wasn’t bromated. Synthetic folic acid wasn’t used so widely.

      Just eating hormone-free eggs/meat may not be enough. Hormones may be in your shower and drinking water.

      framistat wrote on March 11th, 2016
  30. Hi ~ After a great pregnancy, I was found with only enough energy to do my chores & take care of my self & my new baby… my Hubby did all of the rest. Later, I was Dx’d w/ Hashimoto’s autoimmune Thyroiditis. Short, I had Low Thyroid & an autoimmune disease. {my mother had had a goiter growing and was Dx’d w/ Hyperthyroid before i was born} So, for years I took Synthroid, & got too much during winter time and not enough during summer time. After that yo-yoing for several years, I began taking Armour thyroid with a second doctor. That only was for approx. a year, while my body adjusted, and my body healed itself. I weaned off of the last of the Armour & have never had to have that supplement again. I test my thyroid every year or 1 1/2 yrs. However, I still need to address the autoimmune issues, the food, the exercise, the mind, and the rest of Life. I need to still take good care of myself. In some ways, I need to be extreme in my self care, as I have 2 autoimmune diseases – thyroid & Celiac Disease. The latter keeps me on my toes. Reading Mark’s articles & info have helped greatly! Thanks so much Mark ~ your heart shines thru your pages. ~ M

    Maria Cecelia wrote on March 6th, 2016
  31. I so wish I could sprint again, but hip arthritis makes running difficult. I def need to work harder on my eating as I can’t keep off the weight as easily without running!

    Kris wrote on March 6th, 2016
  32. How about stair climbing as an alternative to sprinting? Or climbing steep hills?
    Living in a forth story walkup seems to help greatly.

    Walter Bushell wrote on March 11th, 2016

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