Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of energy (measured in calories) that a body needs each day to perform basic life functions such as the beating of the heart, breathing and maintaining body temperature. BMR does not include the energy required to digest and metabolize food (approximately 10% of total calorie intake but largely dependent upon food source) or to perform any physical activities. Since BMR determines calorie expenditure when the body is at rest, many people hope that increasing BMR will increase weight loss without any increase in physical activity.
BMR is influenced by a multitude of factors. Some of these factors, such as age, gender, and genetics cannot be changed. Other factors, like hormone changes, thyroid disorders, and prescribed medications can only be altered under the close supervision of a skilled doctor.
However, there are plenty of other factors affecting BMR that can be manipulated to boost metabolism. The top 10 most effective ways to boost metabolism and/or total daily calorie expenditure include:
- Increase muscle mass. One pound of fat burns only two calories per day while one pound of muscle burns 50 calories a day (source). Incorporate resistance training two or three times a week to build muscle.
- Never skip breakfast. Eat within the first 30 minutes after waking up to jump start your metabolism for the day.
- Eat six small meals at regular intervals throughout the day. Skipping meals or fasting will slow down metabolism. Compare BMR to a campfire. If the fire is started early in the morning and regularly fed small stacks of kindle throughout the day, it will burn steadily all day long. If instead, the fire is starved during the day, the embers will merely smolder using very little energy. Consuming a large meal at dinner is like dumping a truckload of logs on the smoldering embers all at once. Instead of creating a blazing fire, the flame is smothered by the heavy load which limits the oxygen flow needed to fuel the flame. A person will burn more calories and feel sustained energy throughout the day if the body is fed small meals frequently. Conversely, fasting during the day and feasting at the end of the day significantly reduces energy usage.
- Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of ice water a day. The body burns calories digesting water. Drinking ice water burns five additional calories per glass than water at room temperature because the body must heat up the water to body temperature before utilizing it. Since water has zero calories, water is a negative net calorie beverage. Refer to “World’s easiest health and beauty tip” for practical suggestions for incorporating more water into your daily regimen.
- Get sufficient amounts of sleep to feel well rested. Human growth hormone works on cells to increase metabolism during deep sleep. Sleep deprivation disrupts the balance between the leptin and grehlin hormones which increases food cravings and reduces the body’s natural fullness cues. To avoid overeating and to regulate metabolism, be sure to get enough sleep. Refer to “Top 10 ways to get more restful sleep” for helpful tips.
- Stay active and exercise frequently. Not only does the body burn calories rapidly during exercise, but the body also continues to burn calories at a higher rate for up to two hours following exercise. This “after burn” is considerably higher for interval and resistance training than for steady cardio exercise.
- Drink green tea. Green tea is loaded with healthful flavonoids and antioxidants which help fight many chronic diseases. Recent studies have shown that green tea also increases fat oxidation and thermogenesis which in turn, increases calorie expenditure by up to 4.5%. Green tea is a stimulant, however, so avoid drinking tea close to bedtime. See #5.
- Eat grapefruit and other high fiber fruits. Grapefruit reduces the insulin in the body that promotes fat storage. The body must work harder to break down high fiber foods and therefore, burns more calories digesting them.
- Eat spicy foods. Hot peppers like jalapeños or cayenne peppers rev up metabolism and may cause the body to sweat. Cinnamon, curry, and garlic also boost metabolism.
- Eat minimally processed foods that are high in protein and/or essential fatty acids. The amino acids found in protein take more time and require more energy expenditure to digest. All natural yogurt (preferably Greek yogurt), turkey, fish, and chicken are ideal protein sources. Almonds, which contain both protein and essential fatty acids, are especially effective metabolism boosters, but they should be eaten in moderation since their high fat content makes them high in calories.
Disclaimer: Potential fat loss achieved through a focus on raising BMR alone is marginal compared to the potential fat loss achieved by focusing on a healthy diet, increasing exercise, and striving to keep energy output greater than input.