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Diet & Lifestyle

How to Naturally Influence Metabolism

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When you think of metabolism you may think of converting the food we eat into energy. While this is true, metabolism is more complex than just energy production. It’s the basis for life. The fact is, without optimal cellular metabolism, we would not be able to think, move, or even breathe.

A broad metabolism definition is that it is the sum of biochemical processes in living organisms to maintain life. Metabolism works 24/7 featuring 16,000 metabolites and more than 8,700 reactions along three key metabolic pathways: (1)

  1. Anabolism joins molecules together
  2. Catabolism breaks molecules apart
  3. Waste disposal eliminates toxins and waste material

What is a metabolic pathway? It is a series of chemical reactions that take place inside the cell. The function of these pathways determines metabolic rate and can help reduce the risk of metabolic disorders.

Metabolic syndrome

Of all the metabolic disorders, metabolic syndrome is the most common and troubling. What is metabolic syndrome? It is a constellation of metabolic disorders characterized by abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, all of which can lead to type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and/or other negative health consequences. (2)

Weight gain and lack of physical activity combine to increase the risk of metabolic syndrome. The fact is, the foods we eat and a sedentary lifestyle can slow basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy needed to keep the body functioning properly. (3) The key is to find ways to speed up a sluggish metabolism. And that requires a closer look at diet and exercise.

Metabolic conditioning

Exercise is the best way to boost metabolism. Just as we condition our muscles with exercise, we can also condition our metabolism. What is metabolic conditioning? It’s a popular trend in the exercise industry that is designed to burn as many calories as possible during and after the workout routine. It often includes high-intensity, total body, circuit-type workouts.

man sitting and stretching his arms and legs

Exercise is the best way to boost metabolic conditioning.

Also referred to as high-intensity functional training (HIFT) or high-intensity interval training (HIIT), these workouts are specifically designed to increase metabolism. (4) Keep in mind, if you are not into high-intensity workouts, other exercise routines and regular physical activity in general also increase metabolism.

Metabolism-boosting foods

In addition to exercise, nutrition can positively—or negatively—impact metabolism. For example, a high-protein diet has been shown to increase thermogenesis, which also boosts whole-body metabolism. (5) That’s why the high-protein, low-carb diet strategy is often utilized to lose weight because it can increase metabolism. The most popular high-protein, high-fat, low-carb diet presently being studied is the ketogenic diet.

Intermittent fasting can also increase metabolism. (6) There are several different types of intermittent fasts including a time-restricted overnight fast, alternate day fasting, or 5:2 fasting where a limited number of calories are consumed for two days out of the week. In addition to weight loss, these types of fasts can have other health benefits including improved glucose management and decreased inflammation and oxidative stress. (7)

While intermittent fasting resets metabolism and encourages weight loss, calorie restriction, in general, can help improve mitochondrial function, insulin sensitivity, and cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. (8)

woman measuring her insulin levels

Intermittent fasting can help reset metabolism and encourage the improvement of insulin sensitivity.

Supplements can also play a role in boosting metabolism. B vitamins, in particular, can help enhance metabolism. Even marginal deficiencies of key micronutrients like B vitamins can disrupt energy metabolism. (9) Green tea has also been shown to increase metabolism and contribute to healthy weight loss. (10)

Mediterranean diet for metabolism

There are so many health advantages to eating a Mediterranean diet that it’s not surprising that this diet also helps support a healthy metabolism. Research has demonstrated that the Mediterranean diet regulates healthy glucose and lipid metabolism, which are two key factors with metabolic syndrome. (11) The Mediterranean eating pattern is also associated with a protective effect, specifically against metabolic syndrome. (12)

woman on her phone about to eat a salad

The Mediterranean diet is an excellent option for a healthy metabolism.

The bottom line

We now know how to boost metabolism and why that may be necessary. Through a combination of diet, exercise, and dietary supplements we can increase metabolism to not only lose weight but also gain better overall health.

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  1. DeBerardinis RJ, Thompson CB. Cellular metabolism and disease: what do metabolic outliers teach us? Cell. 2012;148(6):1132-1144.
  2. Saklayen MG. The global epidemic of metabolic syndrome. Current Hypertension Reports. 2018;20(2):12.
  3. Sabounchi NS, Rahmandad H, Ammerman A. Best fitting prediction equations for basal metabolic rate: informing obesity interventions in diverse populations. International Journal of Obesity. 2013;37(10):1364-1370.
  4. Feito Y, Heinrich KM, Butcher SJ, Poston W. High-intensity functional training (HIFT): definition and research implications for improved fitness. Sports. 2018;6(3):76.
  5. Pesta DH, Samuel VT. A high-protein diet for reducing body fat: mechanisms and possible caveats. Nutrition & Metabolism. 2014;11:53.
  6. Patterson RE, Sears DD. Metabolic effects of intermittent fasting. Annual Review of Nutrition. 2017;37:371-393.
  7. Ahmed A, Saeed F, Arshad M, et al. Impact of intermittent fasting on human health: an extended review of metabolic cascades. International Journal of Food Properties. 2018;21(1).
  8. Anton SD, Moehl K, Wonahoo WT, et al. Flipping the metabolic switch: understanding and applying health benefits of fasting. Obesity. 2018;26(2):254-268.
  9. Huskisson E, Maggini S, Ruf M. The role of vitamins and minerals in energy metabolism and well-being. The Journal of International Medical Research. 2007;35:277-289.
  10. Mousavi A, Vafa M, Neyestani T, et al. The effects of green tea consumption on metabolic and anthropometric indices in patients with Type 2 diabetes. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. 2013; 18(12):1080-1086.
  11. Tuttolomondo A, Simonetta I, Daidone M, et al. Metabolic and vascular effect of the Mediterranean diet. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2019;20(19):4716.
  12. Finicelli M, Squillaro T, Di Cristo F, et al. Metabolic syndrome, Mediterranean diet, and polyphenols: evidence and perspective. Journal of Cellular Physiology. 2019;234(5):5807-5826.

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