Search
Close this search box.

Natural Ways to Boost Metabolism

In this article:

Understanding how to boost metabolism is a hot topic. As we age, we inevitably start seeing the spare tire around our waist expand. Wading through the internet on how to burn fat, understanding our metabolic rate while building muscle, and finding what burns calories while boosting metabolism can be mind-boggling and often fruitless.

Common Questions About Burning Fat and Fat Metabolism

Patients come to our practice asking “Should I exercise more, try low-calorie diets and intermittent fasting, or eat more calories with meal timing?” “How do I lose weight and build muscle mass while eating a balanced diet?” “Does high-intensity exercise and lifting weights work better than cardio—or is it all about calorie expenditure?”

Then there’s metabolic health, blood glucose levels, weight management for diabetes prevention, longevity, and just plain feeling good. In this article, we show you how to boost metabolism and achieve long-term benefits with a healthy body composition.

The Science of Obesity

Research suggests that from 2017 to 2020, 41.9% of U.S. adults were considered obese. Obesity is associated with increased cancer risk, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes—all among the leading causes of death in the United States.1Adult Obesity Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last reviewed May 17, 2022. Accessed September 15, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult/html,2Obesity and Cancer Risk. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last reviewed July 13, 2022. Accessed September 15, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/obesity/index.htm

Maintaining a healthy body composition reduces the risk of many chronic conditions. There’s no perfect shape or beauty standard; body composition is a medical description, not a specific look. Think of it as finding a healthy metabolic balance rather than following a specific weight loss plan. Supporting metabolism, muscle mass, and body fat composition comes with long-term health benefits.

Experience the benefits of personalized natural healthcare with a trusted, licensed naturopathic doctor in your area.
Find a Naturopathic Doctor
Experience the benefits of personalized natural healthcare with a trusted, licensed naturopathic doctor in your area.
Find an ND

Eating Habits and Metabolism

Americans are eating more—and more often—than ever before. In the 1970s, it was typical to have three meals a day without snacks. By 2004, people were averaging five meals a day.3Gill S, Panda S. A smartphone app reveals erratic diurnal eating patterns in humans that can be modulated for health benefits. Cell Metab. 2015;22(5):789-798. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2015.09.005 To make matters worse, we now eat later into the night, consume more processed foods, and maintain more sedentary lifestyles. These factors can contribute to a slower metabolism and weight gain. Data also shows a correlation between U.S. eating habits and the rise in diabetes and heart disease.

Natural Ways to Boost Metabolism

You can boost metabolism naturally with a balanced diet of healthy carbohydrates, lean protein, and good fats. Eating fresh, whole foods like beans, fish, some grains, and occasional meat and poultry gives your body what it recognizes on a base level. Choose fruits and vegetables that look the same on your plate as they do on the plant, tree, or vine. In general, food should be minimally processed. Supporting gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and neurologic health will lead to better metabolic function in terms of blood sugar, lean muscle mass, hunger signaling, and, ultimately, resting metabolic rate.

Macronutrients

Assortment of fresh, whole foods on wooden coaster

Macronutrients—protein, carbohydrates, and fat—are the body’s primary building blocks. Any diet that excludes one of these for longer than a short period will backfire on your metabolism. The Atkins diet, for example, encourages fat and protein over carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, grains). Although it may produce results in the short term, dieters eventually hit a wall. The result is high cholesterol, inflammation, and a potential yo–yo effect on weight.

Low-fat diets of the 1980s were high in sugar and lacking in protein. People still put on unwanted weight, failed to burn extra calories, and ran up their risk for diabetes. No amount of aerobic exercise can fix the wrong diet. The body will rebel whenever you remove a base macro—protein, fat, or carbohydrate.

Metabolism-Boosting Foods

The first step is eating a healthy, whole-food diet with lots of variety and a good balance of macronutrients. Next is maximizing foods that boost your metabolism naturally. Wild-caught fish (salmon, sardines, tuna) is rich in lean protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids our bodies need to support heart health and metabolism. High-fiber beans, legumes, and vegetables slow the digestion of sugars consumed with them, stabilize blood sugar, and feed gut microbes that keep us fuller longer. Adding some heat to your diet also helps—spicy peppers and food aid digestion and increase the body’s temperature, more efficiently burning calories. Lastly, drink plenty of water and a cup or two of green tea daily to help the system process, metabolize, and detox.

What Is Intermittent Fasting or Meal Timing?

Yellow alarm clock with plated salad

The practice of fasting dates back thousands of years. Many fasts were observed for religious or cultural reasons. For metabolic nutritional purposes, disregard prolonged fasting states (>24 hours) and strict water fasts. Talk to your medical provider about fasting or intermittent fasting regimens first to ensure you’re a good candidate and have no medical contraindications.

Intermittent fasting is a popular weight loss and management strategy because of its simplicity. This type of fasting entails switching between eating and not eating on a recurring schedule. For some, that schedule is the classic 16:8 or 14:10. Translated, this means a 16-hour fast with an 8-hour eating window or a 14-hour fast with a 10-hour eating window. Alternate day fasting is 1:1—one day fasting, one day eating. Other variations exist, but these are the most common intermittent fasting methods.

Advantages of Intermittent Fasting

Research shows intermittent fasting leads to lower calorie consumption, preservation of lean body mass, and fat loss—all key for weight management. More important, patients may see improvements in insulin sensitivity as well as satiety and hunger signals. From cell repair and neurological protection to anti-cancer and immune support, the potential health benefits are substantial.4de Cabo R, Mattson MP. Effects of intermittent fasting on health, aging, and disease [published correction appears in N Engl J Med. 2020 Jan 16;382(3):298] [published correction appears in N Engl J Med. 2020 Mar 5;382(10):978]. N Engl J Med. 2019;381(26):2541-2551. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMra1905136,5Gudden J, Arias Vasquez A, Bloemendaal M. The effects of intermittent fasting on brain and cognitive function. Nutrients. 2021;13(9):3166. Published 2021 Sep 10. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13093166 Animal studies have shown intermittent fasting may increase longevity and reduce inflammation.

A fasting state supports tissue repair, energy production, and metabolic signaling—natural processes that help preserve lean body mass. On the other hand, a simple low-calorie diet may result in muscle loss and weight loss plateaus.6Varady KA. Intermittent versus daily calorie restriction: which diet regimen is more effective for weight loss? Obes Rev. 2011;12(7):e593-e601. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00873.x

The other advantage of intermittent fasting is that it’s relatively easy. Pick your fasting window and stick to it! For the traditional 16:8 method, close the kitchen at 8 p.m. and fast until noon the next day. Alternatively, close the kitchen at 7 p.m. and fast until 11 a.m.

Exercise—Last but Not Least

Supporting muscle mass to burn calories and fat is vital as you age. Muscles use more energy—or calories—than other body tissues, so staying strong is crucial.

A healthy exercise routine also incorporates cardiovascular or aerobic activity. Many experts recommend High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, to quickly boost metabolism.7HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). The Nutrition Source. Published November 10, 2021. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/high-intensity-interval-training/#:~:text=HIIT%20can%20help%20to%20decrease Bursts of weight-bearing activities (lunges, squats, burpees, and mountain climbers) help build big muscle groups to support metabolism. Even better, these exercises regulate stress hormones like cortisol, which slows metabolism and adds to belly fat that accumulates with age and stress!

Metabolism-Boosting Takeaways

Boosting metabolism starts with nutrition, exercise, and better overall health. Whether that means focusing on movement or what to eat and when, good metabolic health is within reach.

Footnotes

This article is provided by

The Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of natural medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing healthcare systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of evidence-based natural medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

About The Author(s)

Author

Mona Fahoum, ND

Dr. Mona Fahoum, owner of Meridian Medicine and Essential Wellness, specializes in preventive care, women’s health, and hormones. She’s a Bastyr University graduate with an advanced certification in Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement. In addition to her clinics, she’s the Clinical Services Director at the Bastyr Center and has been adjunct faculty at Bastyr University. She’s a past WANP president and consults for Symphony Natural Health, focusing on women’s health.

Explore Lifestyle & Nutrition & Weight Management Articles

Explore

Get Involved!