Can you get a faster metabolism?

woman drinking a green juice
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re on a weight loss journey, you may wonder, “can you get a faster metabolism?”. You might already be using the best exercise machines to lose weight, such as a treadmill, cycling bike or a rower, knowing these brilliant pieces of kit can help you torch some calories – and fast. But, along with exercise and your diet, could there be another tried and tested way to aid your weight loss and boost your body’s metabolism to burn fat quicker?

To learn more about whether you can get a faster metabolism, how your metabolism works and whether eating certain types of food can help you speed it up, we’ve looked at the current research surrounding the issue. We’ve also spoken to certified dietician, Theresa Gentile, a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (opens in new tab). Here’s what our expert and science had to say.

What is metabolism?

The term ‘metabolism’ can broadly be defined as the biochemical process in your body that converts what you eat and drink into energy.

Whether you’re sleeping, breathing, pumping blood around your body or repairing your cells, this internal metabolic process takes place around the clock. While doing so, your body burns a number of calories. This is called your basal or resting metabolic rate – otherwise described as the amount of energy your body needs to stay alive and function.

Scientists at Harvard Health (opens in new tab) believe your basal metabolic rate depends on a few things including your age and genetics. This is one of the reasons why some bodies naturally have a ‘fast metabolism’ which burns more calories at rest, while some people have a ‘slower metabolism’, where fewer calories are burned at rest.

However, your body is not always in this state. Therefore it needs energy for when it’s performing activities too, such as exercise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (opens in new tab), your daily calorie expenditure comes from all the activities you perform in a day, in addition to your basal metabolic rate. 

Can you get a ‘faster’ metabolism?

According to scientists, there are ways in which you can boost your metabolism — or utilize more energy.

Eating a diet rich of fiber and protein

The benefits of fibrous foods such as root vegetables and protein sources like eggs have long been known. According to Gentile, eating a good amount of them could also speed up your metabolism.

“Fiber and protein can slightly increase metabolism as they increase the body's need for energy to digest these nutrients,” Gentile says. “Protein, especially, can induce a higher rate of diet-induced thermogenesis.”

theresa gentile rd
Theresa Gentile, MS, RDN, CDN

Gentile is the coordinator of the home enteral nutrition program at Maimonides Medical Center. She owns a nutrition consulting practice where she focuses on cardiac health and weight management by improving women's metabolism. Gentile previously served as an adjunct faculty member at CUNY Brooklyn College. 

Science agrees. In a clinical trial (opens in new tab) which looked at the effect of fat-reduced diets on energy expenditure, the results showed participants whose diets consisted of 29% of their calories as protein had higher resting metabolic rates than those who gained 11% of their calories as protein.

“A high protein diet has also been associated with a 24-hour increase in energy expenditure,” Gentile adds.

Drinking more water

It's possible that drinking water can have an effect on your metabolism. One study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (opens in new tab), found that drinking two liters of water per day could augment energy expenditure. And another, published in the International Journal of Obesity (opens in new tab), showed a 25% increase in resting energy expenditure in children who drank water before bed.

“Some studies have shown an increase in resting energy expenditure (REE) up to 25 to 30% for up to 40 minutes post-ingestion,” Gentile tells Live Science. “It is suggested that water may increase REE by activating the sympathetic nervous system, acting as a natural appetite suppressant, and by preventing dehydration, which slows digestion and energy burning.”

A woman runner drinking from a water bottle while running outdoors

(Image credit: Getty)

Turn up the heat

Like your food spicy? A study published in BMC Obesity (opens in new tab) found adding capsaicinoids (which are found in hot chili peppers) into your diet can slightly increase your metabolic rate.

While a second study in Chemical Sense (opens in new tab) found that “capsaicin and capsiate both augment energy expenditure and enhance fat oxidation, especially at high doses.”

However, Gentile is doubtful about the effectiveness of this route: “The results are nominal and the amount in actual chilli peppers is not enough to elicit an effect.”

Trying a HIIT workout

It’s not just through certain types of food that we can speed up our metabolism. There’s some evidence to suggest that a fast and sweaty HIIT workout can give your metabolism a quick boost too.

One study (opens in new tab) found that a 30 minute HIIT workout could increase your metabolism after exercise more so than any other form of exercise including a high-intensity interval run or resistance training. 

Five Ideas for Fun Cardio HIIT Workouts: woman running on treadmill in a gym

(Image credit: Getty)

Adding catechin-enriched green tea into your diet

According to research (opens in new tab), green tea catechin extract may increase energy expenditure and fat metabolism at rest and during exercise. However, the literature is inconclusive.

And as Gentile points out: “The amount, though, is nominal and the amounts used in studies cannot be achieved by drinking green tea, alone. Caffeine in coffee, tea, and green tea may increase metabolism by a moderate amount, but likely negligible for the average person consuming these beverages throughout the day.”

Can you slow down your metabolism?

Are there any sure-fire ways to slow-down your metabolism? Gentile believes so. She says: “Very low-calorie diets can be a sure-fire way to slow down your metabolism. Severely limiting calories tricks the body into thinking there's a famine with a need to conserve energy. When this happens, the body's resting metabolic rate will decrease to save energy in the event there is a famine.

“Our bodies are programmed for survival and by not fuelling it, the body adapts to the restricted calorie intake, using fewer calories to perform its tasks.”

So if you’re focused on trying to get a faster metabolism, low-calorie diets aren’t the way forward. 

This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to offer medical advice.

Becks is a freelance journalist and writer writing for a range of titles including Stylist, The Independent and LiveScience covering lifestyle topics such as health and fitness, homes and food. She also ghostwrites for a number of Physiotherapists and Osteopaths. When she’s not reading or writing, you’ll find her in the gym, learning new techniques and perfecting her form.