In the nutrition world, many foods and beverages supposedly increase metabolism — the reactions within the body that provide energy. In this Honest Nutrition feature, we investigate how our diet impacts our metabolism and whether certain foods and beverages really have a significant impact on metabolic rate.
Many factors can affect metabolism, including age, diet, biological sex, physical activity, and health conditions.
The digestion and processing of food, including carbs, proteins, and fats, also require energy. This is known as the
For example, fat takes
A person may think that specific foods and beverages can “rev up” the metabolism, but this is not necessarily true. Some foods take more energy to digest than others, and some foods may slightly increase the basal metabolic rate, but not much.
It is the total dietary intake that matters most.
For example, the TEF, the energy required to digest food, differs depending on the macronutrient content of the meal.
Here is the
- Protein: 10–30% of the energy content of the ingested protein
- Carbs: 5–10% of the ingested carbohydrates
- Fat: 0–3% of the ingested fat
The body uses the most energy to break down and store proteins, which is why it has the highest TEF.
TEF accounts for about
Research has also shown that high protein diets can increase the resting metabolic rate (RMR), the calories burned while at rest.
It is clear that higher protein diets may help people burn more calories on a daily basis, but what about specific foods?
Compounds in chili peppers, green tea, and coffee, for example, may slightly boost metabolism.
Studies show that consuming green tea catechin extract products may increase daily calorie expenditure by as much as
Some studies indicate that EGCG, a catechin found in green tea, has the potential to increase energy expenditure at
Meanwhile, the capsaicin in chili peppers
Along the same lines, one study showed that having a hot beverage containing ginger powder with meals may slightly increase TEF by about
To promote and maintain a healthy body weight, it is essential to focus on the overall quality and macronutrient content of the diet, rather than incorporating or eliminating specific foods.
As mentioned above, research shows that diets rich in protein and whole foods likely increase energy expenditure, compared with diets low in protein and high in ultra-processed foods.
While there is likely no harm in consuming moderate amounts of foods and beverages that are purported to improve metabolism — such as spicy foods, ginger, and green tea — this is unlikely to have a significant effect on energy expenditure or body weight.
A well-rounded diet with plenty of protein and fiber, from vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and beans, for example, will support a healthy metabolism and promote overall health, as well.
Getting enough physical activity and maintaining healthy muscle mass can also help improve the overall energy expenditure.
Resistance training may be especially effective. A 2015 study showed that resistance training for 9 months could boost RMR by as much as
Rather than focusing on specific foods, anyone hoping to boost their metabolism should consider their diet as a whole. A diet rich in protein and unprocessed foods may help increase energy expenditure, which could help maintain a healthy body weight.
Overall, having a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet and plenty of physical activity is the best way to support a healthy metabolism.