Eating to boost your metabolism and help you lose weight?

The health pages of magazines and newspapers are full of claims that eating a particular food will boost your metabolism and help you to lose weight. It is common to hear people blame having a slow metabolism for putting on weight. But what is metabolism and can eating certain foods really help our bodies burn calories more quickly?

What is metabolism?

Metabolism describes the continuous chemical processes inside the body that keeps us alive. It includes activities such as breathing, repairing cells and digesting food.

These chemical processes require energy. The minimum amount of energy your body requires to carry out these chemical processes is called the basal metabolic rate (BMR).

The BMR accounts for approximately 70% of your body’s daily energy requirements depending on your age and lifestyle. BMR decreases with age as muscle mass is lost from the body. The other 30% of our energy expenditure is due to the exercise we expend over and above our BMR.

Do overweight people have a slow metabolism?

Overweight people may have a faster metabolism than thinner people because a larger body requires more energy to keep it running. Some very low energy diets can reduce BMR which makes it harder to lose weight.

Can eating certain foods increase metabolic rate?

There is evidence that certain foods can boost metabolism to some extent. However, there are no foods that when eaten in excess help you to lose weight. Their boost to metabolism is just not big enough to do that.

Which foods affect metabolism?

Chilli can affect metabolism just after a meal due to the hot capsaicin molecules it contains which can make you sweat but it is not possible to eat enough chilli for it to have a marked effect on how much energy your body uses. Green tea has also been shown to boost metabolism but its effect is minimum. The caffeine in coffee increases metabolism slightly, but large amounts of caffeine stimulate the cardiovascular system and can lead to palpitations. It would never be advisable to increase caffeine consumption to aid weight loss.

What does speed up metabolism?

You have little control over the speed of your metabolism however you can control how many calories you burn through the exercise you do.

Exercise and strength training

The most effective ways of burning calories is by increasing the amount of aerobic exercise you do. Exercise like jogging, swimming and walking fast all increase energy expenditure and the number of calories you burn. Thirty minutes of activity that makes you breathless can burn as much as 250 calories.

Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue so increasing your muscle mass will help you to manage your weight. Lifting weights, high intensity bouts of exercise and even heavy gardening can help build muscle and increase energy expenditure.

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