Get lean! Five ways to boost your metabolism in 2013

Dr. Natasha Turner explains how to boost your thermogenic rate and burn extra calories.
By Natasha Turner, ND
Woman at the gym lifting weights, exercising Photo: Getty Images

Feeling sluggish after the holidays? Your metabolism might need a boost to help expel those built-up toxins. Get your energy back up with these five tips for boosting your body's thermogenic rate:

1. Choose thermogenic foods While they sound high-tech and scientific, thermic or “thermogenic” foods literally heat you up and speed up your metabolism in what is called thermogenesis. The thermic effect happens as your body burns calories simply by digesting and absorbing the food you've just eaten. The very act of eating stimulates your metabolism and this is especially true when you eat protein, which has the highest thermic effect of any food group.

The typical thermic effect of protein is 20-35 percent of energy consumed whereas for carbs, this number usually falls between five and 15 percent — quite a difference!

Bottom line: If you're looking for ways to boost your level of thermogenesis, opt for cruciferous veggies like broccoli and other greens that burn calories during the digestion process. Spices and condiments like cayenne, mustard and even hot salsa will also keep your metabolism revving.

A recent study also found that ginger enhances the thermic effect of food and promotes feelings of fullness in overweight men. Similarly, eating whole foods encourages a 50 percent higher thermic effect than processed foods, meaning you’ll boost your metabolism by opting for these healthier options.

2. Keep to a regular schedule I’ve mentioned the importance of this before, but it definitely deserves a spot in your New Year’s resolution plan — eating at the same time every day, and in regular intervals, will keep your metabolism running like a well-oiled machine.


In fact, one study found that the thermic effect of food decreased after an irregular meal pattern — even in healthy, lean women.

The great news is that shedding a few pounds will help increase the thermic effect of food (basically how many calories you burn) in processing each meal. Irregular meal frequency has been shown to increase insulin resistance and produce higher fasting lipid (aka cholesterol) profiles.

Bottom line: I recommend eating every 3-4 hours with three meals and two snacks daily.

3. Learn to increase your thermic effect in the gym Another metabolic benefit of protein is that eating it helps to metabolically support active muscle growth, especially if you’re strength training. Essentially this means strength training can increase thermic effect.

A study published in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise Journal found the thermic effect of the same meal was 73 percent greater after even a single bout of resistance training. This certainly helps to illustrate why strength training is so important for optimal calorie burning. Those who do regular cardio, and in turn have a high aerobic capacity (known as VO2 max), burn more calories after eating, particularly after a large meal, than individuals with a low VO2 max.


Bottom line: Keep this in mind – if you have more muscle your resting metabolic rate is higher, which means you burn more calories at rest. So get in your protein and your workouts.

4. Boost your internal thermostat The thyroid controls the metabolic rate of every single cell in the body and also maintains body temperature. Without enough thyroid hormone, all our bodily functions slow down. We feel tired and lethargic, gain weight, experience constipation, feel cold and are prone to depression.

Nutritional deficiencies may prevent the proper function of thyroid hormone in the body. Iodine and tyrosine are necessary for the formation of thyroid hormone, while selenium is necessary for the normal function of it. Many individuals with decreased thyroid hormone levels also have a zinc deficiency. Both low iron and vitamin D will contribute to reduced thyroid levels as well.

Bottom line: Ensure you’re taking a comprehensive multivitamin daily to avoid any deficiencies. You may also want to top up your levels of tyrosine (500-1000 mg/day, however avoid this if you have high blood pressure), vitamin D (4,000-5,000 iu with breakfast) and zinc (15 mg/day), especially in the winter.

Of course, following the above points to eat balanced, high protein meals in regular intervals will also keep things running smoothly.


5. Keep your liver happy While muscle is your primary fat-burning tissue, your liver is the master fat-burning organ. Compromised liver function not only interferes with the body’s ability to burn fat, but it also hinders the elimination of toxins.

Bottom line: To keep your liver healthy be sure to get in eight glasses of water a day (preferably from an alkaline filter) adding freshly squeezed lemon for a cleansing effect and a dash of cayenne pepper for an enhanced thermic effect.

You can also add a liver support product from your health food store that includes any combination of these nutrients: artichoke extract, milk thistle, cysteine, methionine, curcumin and N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC). Since both alcohol and many medications, such as Tylenol, are processed through the liver, keep these to a minimum when possible.

Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Her newest release, The Carb Sensitivity Program, is available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.


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