Is it Possible to Lose Weight by Speeding Up Your Metabolism?
A lot of people talk about controlling their metabolism, speeding it up, etc. I mean, we have all seen those “boost your metabolism” or “lift heavy to boost increase your metabolism” articles, but can you actually speed up your metabolism?
What is Metabolism?
First, we need to understand what it is. For simplicity, your basal metabolic rate or BMR, is the number of calories your body uses to keep you alive. Your BMR is comprised of your bodily functions like digestion, breathing, blood flow, brain function, liver function, your muscle mass etc. The food you consume is used in every cell of your body to keep it living and thriving.
How Does Your Body Burn Calories?
To keep it simple, there are 3 things that contribute to how many calories you burn per day (Total Energy Expenditure). First, is your BMR which we just covered. Your BMR accounts for 60% - 75% of your total energy expenditure. Most of what you are burning comes from just living!
Second, is the energy expended from physical activity. This is either through working out or your NEAT. Your NEAT is the energy we expend from all the physical activity we do that isn’t working out. The more you move throughout the day the higher your NEAT will be. Your physical activity accounts for around 10% - 30% of your total energy expenditure, depending on how much you move.
Third, is the energy expended from breaking down the food you consume (digestion), which accounts for around 10% of your total energy expenditure.
This is why exercise typically contributes to very small changes in weight. Most of the energy your body expends is dictated by your BMR, which is mostly out of your control. That is why fueling your body with the proper amount of calories is so important.
Can You Actually Speed Up Your Metabolism?
When articles talk about manipulating the speed of your metabolism they are mostly talking about adding muscle and consuming metabolism boosting foods. Let’s break this down.
Will adding muscle increase metabolism?
When you add more muscle to your frame it will boost your BMR and you will have a higher resting metabolism. This contributes to the fact that men can consume more calories than us women. Most men naturally have more muscle mass. But for most people, this is kind of impractical for the following reasons.
When you add muscle mass, you naturally will become more hungry, so you will have to fight the urge to consume more food. Essentially, you will be in the exact same situation you currently are in today, but with more muscle.
Secondly, the amount of muscle you would actually physically add to your body is pretty insignificant in relation to how much it would boost your metabolism.
Can you speed up your metabolism with food?
Many claim that you can boost metabolism by consuming coffee and spicy foods, and you definitely can… but again it’s pretty insignificant. Let’s break it down.
Caffeine- according to a study, they administered 100mg of caffeine (about the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee) and it increased the BMR of human volunteers by 3-4%. They were impressed, so they then gave the participants 100 mg of caffeine, every 2 hours, over a 12 hour period (that is 6 cups of coffee in 12 hours).
That increased the total energy expenditure of the people by 8-11%. Kind of impressive on paper, if you don’t mind drinking 6 cups of coffee a day.
So we started thinking and let’s see how it works out for one of our athletes at Mpowher. The athlete we picked to use has around a 2000 cal daily energy expenditure.
By drinking 1 cup of coffee (4% increase) she burns an extra 80 calories…. About a cup of blueberries. We are not going to even go over the 6 cups of coffee example, because if you are comfortable consuming that much caffeine, there might be bigger problems.
There is one use for coffee though that can help you lose weight… and it has nothing to do with metabolism or caffeine.
Will any of this lead to weight loss?
You can slightly increase your metabolism and manipulate it in the ways those other articles say, but overall the effects are pretty minimal… especially when the goal is to lose weight. That is why many people become frustrated when we fall for these quick “metabolism boosting” tips. You are putting forth effort into something that has an extremely small outcome… aka you’re wasting your time. Keep in mind, blogs and websites promote and exaggerate information like that to sell products and get views.
While exercise does contribute to weight loss and there are so many reasons to work out, weight loss is most significantly impacted by the food you consume. Best case scenario is to consistently workout and eat the appropriate amount of calories.
Our conclusion, is to use the time where you were planning out how to drink 6 cups of coffee and instead…. eat one less oreo. Same results and 1/16th of the effort.