Are there certain foods that really speed up the metabolism and does it matter?

In the world of nutrition, many foods and drinks are believed to increase metabolism – the reactions in the body that provide energy. In this article on Honest Nutrition, we study the impact of our diet on our metabolism and whether certain foods and drinks really have a significant impact on the metabolic rate.

Metabolism is the sum of the reactions in our cells that provide energy for functions such as movement, growth and development.

Many factors can affect metabolism, including age, diet, biological sex, physical activity, and health issues.

Basal metabolic rate is the energy required to maintain essential body functions, such as breathing, while at rest. It’s the biggest contributor to calories burned daily – also known as total energy expenditure.

Digestion and processing of food, including carbohydrates, proteins and fats, also requires energy. This is known as the thermal effect of food (TEF). Some foods require more energy to break down than others, which can increase metabolism slightly.

For example, fat takes less energy to digest as proteins and carbohydrates. Proteins have the highest TEF of the three macronutrients.

A person may think that specific foods and drinks can “speed up” the metabolism, but this is not necessarily true. Some foods require more energy to digest than others, and some foods may increase your basal metabolic rate slightly, but not by much.

It is the total food intake that matters most.

For example, TEF, the energy needed to digest food, differs depending on the macronutrient content of the meal.

here is energy needed to digest macronutrients:

  • Protein: 10 to 30% of the energy content of the protein ingested
  • Carbohydrates: 5 to 10% of the carbohydrates ingested
  • Fat: 0 to 3% of the fat ingested

The body uses the most energy to break down and store protein, which is why it has the highest TEF.

The TEF represents approximately ten% of total daily energy expenditure. For this reason, eating a diet high in protein can help us burn more calories in general.

Too, studies show that highly processed meals take less energy to digest than whole foods. This is probably due to the lower amounts of fiber and protein in highly refined foods.

Research has also shown that high protein diets can increase resting metabolic rate (RMR), calories burned while resting.

A 2015 study found that in people with high calorie diets, consuming a high amount of protein significantly increased 24-hour resting energy expenditure, compared to a low amount of protein.

A Study 2021 determined that a high protein diet, consisting of 40% protein, produced a higher total energy expenditure and increased fat burning, compared to a control diet containing 15% protein.

Other studies also showed that high protein diets increase daily energy expenditure, compared to low protein diets.

It’s clear that high protein diets can help people burn more calories every day, but what about specific foods?

The compounds in chili peppers, green tea, and coffee, for example, can slightly boost metabolism.

Caffeine may increase energy expenditure, so drink caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and green tea, can increase metabolism by a small amount.

Studies show that consuming products made from green tea catechin extracts can increase daily calorie expenditure by up to 260 calories when combined with resistance exercise. It’s important to note that most of the research in this area involves large doses of green tea extract supplements, and the results may not apply to people who simply drink green tea.

Some studies indicate that EGCG, a catechin found in green tea, has the potential to increase energy expenditure at 300 milligrams (mg) doses. For reference, green tea contains approximately 71 mg EGCG per serving of 100 milliliters.

Meanwhile, the capsaicin in chili peppers can increase metabolic rate when taken in concentrated supplements. But the amount of this compound in a typical dish containing chili peppers is unlikely to significantly affect the metabolism.

On a related note, one study found that having a hot drink containing ginger powder with meals may slightly increase the TEF by about 43 calories per day. But it would have no significant effect on overall energy expenditure or weight loss.

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 high in protein and whole foods likely increase energy expenditure, compared to diets low in protein and high in ultra-processed foods.

While there is probably nothing wrong with consuming moderate amounts of foods and drinks believed to improve metabolism, such as spicy foods, ginger, and green tea, it is unlikely to have a significant effect. on energy expenditure or body weight.

Eating a well-balanced diet with lots of protein and fiber, from vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and beans, for example, will support a healthy metabolism and also promote overall health.

Getting enough physical activity and maintaining healthy muscle mass can also help improve overall energy expenditure.

Resistance training can be particularly effective. A 2015 study showed that resistance training for 9 months could increase RMR by up to 5% in healthy adults. And a 2020 review found that resistance exercise increased RMR, leading to an average increase in calories of about 96 calories per day, compared to a control group.

Rather than focusing on specific foods, anyone looking to boost their metabolism should consider their diet as a whole. Eating a diet high in protein and unprocessed foods can 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.

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