How can I increase my metabolism?

Increasing your metabolism is often a topic of keen interest for anyone looking to lose weight or improve their overall health. Metabolism is a broad term that encompasses the complex processes your body uses to convert food into energy and sustain life. More specifically, when people talk about boosting their metabolism, they usually refer to increasing their metabolic rate—the speed at which they burn calories.

While many famous pieces of advice suggest ways to boost your metabolic rate, not all of them are backed by scientific research. Much of the generic advice you hear may not be as effective as you hope. Here, we’ll explore seven scientifically-backed methods to help you find the best way to influence your metabolism and improve your metabolic health.

The Role of Protein in Metabolism

Including good quality protein in your diet is one effective way to increase your metabolism. When you eat, your body uses energy to digest food. This is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF), accounting for about 10% of your total energy expenditure. However, not all macronutrients are created equal in this regard. Protein has a higher thermic effect compared to carbohydrates and fats. Approximately 20-30% of the energy in protein is used up during digestion, while carbohydrates and fats see only 5-10% and up to 3%, respectively.

While the effect of protein on energy expenditure might be modest, it is significant enough to make a difference. Moreover, protein is essential for overall health. High-quality protein sources include nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, tofu, dairy, eggs, lean meat, and fish. Including these in your diet can help boost your metabolism and support muscle repair and growth, making it easier to sustain a healthy weight.

Gut Health and Metabolism

Your gut microbiome—the collection of microbes living in your digestive tract—plays an essential role in your health and how you process food. ZOE scientists have found that individuals respond differently to the same foods due to the unique composition of their gut microbiome. Blood sugar spikes, for instance, can increase your risk of weight gain, obesity, and other chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes.

Research indicates that specific microbes are linked to a higher risk of fat accumulation around the belly, while others are associated with better metabolic control. Changing your diet to improve your gut health can enhance your metabolic rate. Fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, promote a diverse and healthy gut microbiome. This, in turn, can help regulate your body's response to food, reduce blood sugar spikes, and support better metabolic health.

The Dangers of Ultra-Processed Foods

Highly processed or ultra-processed foods are often low in fiber and high-quality protein but rich in added sugars, salt, unhealthy fats, and chemical additives. These foods are more accessible for your body to digest, meaning they burn fewer calories during digestion and are linked to weight gain and obesity. A study published in Clinical Nutrition journal showed that ultra-processed food consumption is associated with higher calorie intake and weight gain.

Swapping ultra-processed foods for whole foods can be a game-changer for your metabolism. Whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, require more energy to digest and provide your body with essential nutrients. Additionally, whole foods nourish your gut microbiome, improving overall metabolic health. By reducing the intake of ultra-processed foods, you can reap the benefits of a higher thermic effect of food and support your gut health.

Caffeine and Metabolism

The caffeine in green tea and coffee can also help boost your metabolism. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, leading to increased energy expenditure. A comprehensive review in Frontiers in Neuroscience found that caffeine can promote weight loss and reduce body fat. However, it's important to note that caffeine's impact on metabolism is tiny, and relying solely on caffeine for weight loss is not advisable.

Nonetheless, drinking coffee and green tea has additional health benefits. For instance, research by ZOE indicates that coffee drinkers tend to have a more diverse gut microbiome, which lowers the risk of obesity and chronic diseases. Coffee is also high in fiber and polyphenols, an antioxidant that feeds your gut microbes and supports overall health.

The Importance of Sleep

Getting adequate sleep is crucial for maintaining metabolic health. While it’s common knowledge that we should aim for eight hours of sleep a night, timing is also essential. Research from ZOE found that going to bed earlier can prevent unhealthy blood sugar spikes the following morning, improve metabolic control, and reduce the likelihood of feeling hungry shortly after eating.

Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to a myriad of health issues, including weight gain, obesity, and impaired metabolic function. Prioritizing your sleep can profoundly affect how your body processes food and regulates hunger. If you struggle to get enough sleep, consider making minor changes to your routine, such as reducing screen time before bed, creating a relaxing sleep environment, and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.

The Role of Exercise

Exercise is a well-known factor in weight management and overall health. While opinions differ on the most effective exercise for boosting metabolism, some evidence suggests that resistance and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can increase your metabolic rate and promote calorie burning. An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that resistance training could improve resting metabolic rate.

Exercise has numerous other benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, better sleep, and enhanced mental well-being. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Beyond structured exercise, increasing your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)—the energy expended for activities other than eating and sleeping, like fidgeting, standing, and moving around—can also help boost your metabolism.

Avoiding Crash Diets

Rapid weight loss or crash dieting can have a detrimental effect on your metabolic rate. When you lose weight too quickly, your metabolic rate drops, making it harder to lose weight. This slowing of the metabolism can persist for years, requiring you to eat significantly less to keep your new weight.

Gradual weight loss is more sustainable and less likely to result in a significant drop in metabolic rate. Instead of focusing on calorie counting, consider adopting a personalized nutrition approach. According to unpublished research by ZOE, following a customized nutrition program led to an average weight loss of 9.4 pounds after three months, with around 80% of participants reporting they didn’t feel hungry and had more energy.


Boosting your metabolism involves a multifaceted approach that includes diet, exercise, sleep, and overall lifestyle changes. While there is no magic pill for increasing your metabolic rate, incorporating these seven strategies can help you find what works best for your body. By including high-quality protein in your diet, nourishing your gut microbiome, avoiding ultra-processed foods, consuming caffeine in moderation, prioritizing sleep, engaging in regular exercise, and avoiding crash diets, you can support your metabolic health and improve your overall well-being.

Remember that everyone’s response to food and lifestyle changes is unique. Suppose you’re interested in understanding more about your metabolic control. In that case, tools like ZOE’s at-home testing kit can provide valuable insights into your blood sugar and blood fat responses, as well as your gut microbiome. Using the latest science, personalized nutrition programs can help you identify the best foods and lifestyle choices for your body.

For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for guidelines on physical activity or explore studies on the effects of caffeine on metabolism. By making incremental changes and staying informed, you can take control of your metabolic health and achieve lasting results.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.