Can Certain Foods Boost Your Metabolism?

Christy Brissette, MSc, RD of 80 Twenty Nutrition
For Gabriella’s Kitchen skinnypasta

Fettuccine Al Limone

Are there really foods that can boost your metabolism? You’ve probably heard the suggestion that eating specific foods to boost your calorie-burning potential at rest. Can you really speed up your metabolism and burn more calories just by eating certain foods? Here’s your answer!

Metabolism is the process where your body turns fuel (calories) into energy. That energy is used for everything from blinking to running a marathon. Having a “fast metabolism” means you’re someone who burns through energy quickly and uses up more calories to perform an action, while someone with a “slow metabolism” doesn’t require as many calories to do the same job. That means it’s easier for someone with a slower metabolism to end up with excess calories they don’t use up by the end of the day. Over time, those extra calories can result in gaining weight.

Lean muscle mass burns more calories per hour than fat mass. So when it comes to boosting metabolism, gaining lean muscle is your goal, and protein is your best friend. Protein supports muscle growth and recovery and takes more energy to metabolize than any other macronutrient – so you use up more calories digesting high protein foods like GK pasta, than lower protein foods, like regular pasta.

Protein also helps fill you up so you don’t feel unsatisfied and end up eating excess calories. Each 100g serving of GK HIGH PROTEIN pasta provides 21 grams of protein to keep you full and help you maintain a healthy metabolism.

What about other metabolism-boosting foods? There’s some evidence to back up the hype of hot peppers and green tea, but don’t count on them to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to burning calories.

Studies have shown that capsaicin, the component that makes hot peppers spicy, can temporarily spike your metabolism. Before you start adding hot peppers to all your meals, keep in mind that the effects don’t last long after you finish eating. Adding some spicy heat to your food might give you a little metabolic boost, but likely not enough for you to see significant weight loss. The effect is estimated to be about 100 extra calories burned. That’s just 1 fruit or a tablespoon of olive oil, not a whole milkshake!

Green tea is also advertised to have metabolism-boosting effects because of its high content of EGCG, an antioxidant compound. Some evidence shows that 24-hr energy expenditure (the measure of calories your body burns in a day) increases with the consumption of EGCG and with the combination of EGCG and caffeine in green tea. But you’d need to regularly drink 5-6 cups of green tea per day to reap the benefits, and other studies have found that drinking green tea doesn’t lead to significant weight loss. The final word on green tea: there’s no guarantee it’ll speed up your metabolism enough for you to see results. You’re going to need more than a quick fix food or beverage to meet your goals.

Even though some foods might raise your calorie burning potential a bit, they won’t make up for overeating or a diet full of junk food. Rather than honing in on a few ingredients with lots of hype but minimal effects, your best bet is to pay more attention to your overall diet.

Make sure you’re eating enough and getting a balance of foods rich in carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats at each meal and snack. Undereating or severely restricting your calories is guaranteed to slow down your metabolism. It’s your body’s way of making sure you have enough energy to keep going. When you aren’t eating enough, your body will start to use your muscle as fuel instead of your fat, making it more difficult for you to lose weight in the future. That’s why a small calorie reduction or “slow and steady” weight loss is the most sustainable and healthy approach.

Focus on getting adequate protein to help retain the lean muscle you have and support your hard work doing weight-bearing exercise. Remember that protein also has the bonus of metabolism-boosting effects and helps you stay full longer.

At each of your meals and snacks, include foods rich in fiber such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. This will also help you feel more satisfied for fewer calories, keep your digestive system working well, and these foods are loaded with phytochemicals and other powerful nutrients.

And don’t forget to include heart-healthy fats in your meals. Fat is another key component in satiety, or feeling satisfied after your meals. Try having your skinnypasta with a drizzle of olive oil with sauteed garlic, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms for a satisfying and nutrient-packed meal.

Regular exercise also helps you maintain lean muscle mass and, over time, can help increase the number of calories your body burns naturally (aka boost your metabolism!). Work on getting a solid foundation of a healthy eating plan and regular exercise for a healthy metabolism. This is going to work wonders compared to relying on specific foods to boost your metabolism.