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11 Foods That Increase Metabolism and Burn Fat (Revealed)

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: August 31, 2022

For a long time, I knew proteins as the knight in shining armor when it comes to metabolism-boosting foods that support fat burning.

But one conversation with a renowned nutritionist changed my perception.

The nutritionist mentioned a variety of foods and drinks like chili pepper that improve gut health, carry fat-burning benefits, and help individuals lose weight and change their body composition.

With her help, I decided to do comprehensive research on foods that boost metabolism as well as those that don't.

Here’s what I found.

Quick Summary

  • Drinking coffee, tea, and cold water boosts metabolism and promotes weight loss.
  • Alcohol, sugary drinks, and refined grains are examples of foods and drinks that slow down your metabolism.
  • Fatigue, severe migraines, and headaches are signs of slow metabolism.

How Does Eating Certain Foods Help Boost Your Metabolism?

A person holding up a salad bowl and a fork

Eating foods that boost your metabolism helps improve your metabolic rate and makes it easier to lose body fat and prevent gaining weight.

And in case you’re wondering, metabolic rate is the rate at which your body burns calories [1].

Foods like protein and healthy fats promote satiety. Meaning you’re less likely to eat much afterward, which is an advantage for your weight loss ambitions [2].

We’ll get to see examples of these foods shortly.

While no food significantly affects metabolism for long periods, experts agree that there are foods that certainly rev up your metabolism.

At the same time, there are others that you should avoid altogether if your goal is to improve your metabolism. We’ll also look at that later in this article.

For now, let's take a quick dive into what affects metabolism.

What Affects It?

A person eating health foods

Muscle mass, age, and gender affect metabolism. More muscle mass means a faster metabolism and an increase in the resting metabolic rate.

That's because it takes more energy to maintain and build lean muscle [3].

Age is a major factor when it comes to your metabolic health.

See, as you get older, you lose muscle, thereby slowing metabolism. Muscle is a major factor when it comes to metabolism, as you will see.

Males have a faster metabolism than females. Guess why? You’re right. Because males generally have more lean muscle mass than females.

They also have large bones and less body fat which are critical metabolism factors [4].

Genes decide your muscle size and body’s ability to bulk lean muscle mass [5]. So they also play a role in metabolism

Other factors that affect metabolism include physical activities like walking, running, and playing. These activities aid the body in burning extra calories.

What Are the Signs of Slow Metabolism?

A person holding her stomach

Signs of slow metabolism include feeling fatigued even after a good night's sleep, having severe migraines, continuous headaches, thin hair, dry skin, and brittle nails.

Most of these issues are caused by an inactive thyroid gland, a critical organ that produces triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), hormones that control metabolism [6].

Even with frequent physical activity and a healthy diet, you may still gain weight if your metabolism is slow.

The most probable cause of this is hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism is when there’s insufficient thyroid hormone in your bloodstream, resulting in slow metabolism.

Another common sign is constipation which is the apparent result of your body taking its time to process food.

And when the problem gets into your mind, it impacts your mood and may result in depression [7].

If you’re experiencing these signs, you can still reverse your fate. This takes us to our next topic.

11 Foods That Boost Metabolism

A person holding a paper bag full of food

If you’re looking to increase your metabolism to lose weight, fill your kitchen with these 11 foods that promote fat loss:

1. Protein-Rich Foods

High protein meals for muscle gain are the go-to foods when it comes to boosting metabolism. To boost metabolism, make sure to include foods such as eggs, meat, dairy, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Why proteins? Because the human body needs more energy to digest foods rich in protein. Proteins like lean meat, dairy, eggs, and fish generally have a high thermic effect on food (TEF).

A high TEF means that your body burns more calories when digesting proteins than, say, carbs.

Studies show that proteins increase TEF significantly compared to other foods. Statistically, proteins boost metabolic rate by 15-30%, fats by 0-3%, and carbs by 5-10% [8].

In addition, proteins keep you satisfied for longer and prevent overeating [9].

Related: High Protein Vegetables for Bodybuilding

2. Mineral-Rich Foods

Mineral iron and selenium-rich foods such as meat, legumes, seafood, nuts, and seeds are essential for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, which, as we’ve seen, regulates metabolism [10].

Needless to say, a diet low in iron or selenium reduces the thyroid’s ability, therefore slowing down metabolism.

3. Chili Peppers

A person holding up a chili pepper

Spices that help lose belly fat like chili peppers have capsaicin, a mineral that boosts metabolism by increasing the rate of calories your body burns.

Experts studying the subject found that capsaicin enhances metabolism [11].

What's more? Capsaicin also has appetite-reducing properties.

The same was proven by a study that subjected over 200 people to the chemical. The results showed a significant reduction in the consumption of calories [12].

4. Coffee

Caffeine is another metabolism booster. This can be backed by multiple studies that discovered that people who consume three cups of coffee burn an extra 100 calories daily [13].

Studies also show that caffeine aids in fat loss by boosting performance and endurance during a strength training exercise. However, this may vary depending on age and body weight [14].

5. Tea

Tea contains catechins, a health-boosting compound that works hand in hand with caffeine to increase your metabolic rate, thus boosting metabolism to promote weight loss.

Our research also found that green tea and oolong are particularly helpful in increasing fat oxidation, which helps burn more calories when exercising. But this may also vary from person to person [15].

Related Articles:

6. Beans and Legumes

A person holding up beans in a jar

Beans and legumes such as peas, chickpeas, lentils, and even peanuts are protein-high plant foods

. And as we’ve seen, foods rich in protein have a high TEF. In addition, proteins make your body burn more fat to digest.

7. Ginger

Ginger is a spice with metabolism-boosting abilities.

A study investigating its properties found drinking hot water containing ginger powder could burn up to 43 calories more than hot water alone.

Moreover, the hot water ginger was found to enhance satiety [16].

I incorporated this as part of my diet and have evaluated the best ginger supplements on the market that you might want to try.

8. Apple Cider Vinegar

Researchers who ran tests on animals found the effects of apple cider vinegar helpful in enhancing fat burning for energy [17].

Although there are no similar studies with humans as the subjects, experts claim a human-animal equivalence.

There are additional claims that apple cider also enhances satiety [18].

9. Water

A person drinking water near the window

Multiple studies claim drinking water boosts metabolism by 24-30% [19].

According to the experts, about 40% of the increase can be attributed to the calories needed to heat water to body temperatures in what is known as water-induced thermogenesis [20].

That said, the effect only lasts 40-90 minutes. In addition, it may vary from one person to another.

10. Avocado

Avocado is rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated healthy fats. Not only does eating avocado for weight loss good, but it also promotes satiety.

A 2013 study found that half an avocado at lunch was enough to aid overweight people in feeling satisfied. It also reduced their desire to eat more in the following hours [21].

11. Dark Leafy Green Vegetables

Kale, spinach, and other leafy green vegetables boost metabolism because their iron-rich content is essential for growth, development, and metabolism [22].

In addition, greens have healthy amounts of magnesium and other minerals that support metabolism [23].

Related: Best Metabolism Booster Pills

5 Foods That Slow It Down

Close up shot of sugary fruit drinks

As much as there are foods that boost metabolism, there are others that slow it down. Below are the foods to avoid:

1. Refined Grains

Avoid refined grains found in packaged and processed foods. Avoid white bread, rice, and pasta.

You see, refined grains lack fiber, contain empty calories, cause blood sugar spikes and hinder weight loss [24].

In addition, they are not filling, and you end up taking in more calories, making you feel tired and sluggish.

A study published in 2011 associated weight gain with refined grains [25].

2. Sugary Beverages

Sweet beverages also slow down your metabolism. That includes anything with added sugars and high in calories.

Fruit juice also falls into this category because it has many calories.

Consuming a high sugar concentration increases blood sugar and stimulates hunger shortly after drinking. To make it even worse, the fiber content in fruit juice is stripped off.

A 2017 study found that consuming high protein meals accompanied by sugar-sweetened drinks not only hurts your energy balance but also reduces fat metabolism and results in the accumulation of fat [26].

3. Alcohol

A person pouring alcohol into a glass

Alcohol is another lousy actor when it comes to your metabolism. First of all, it comes loaded with calories. And when you take it, you tend to make poor food choices.

Alcohol also harms blood sugar levels. It leaves you craving sugary foods after a few glasses. What's more? You wake up the next day exhausted and unmotivated to work out.

A 2015 study on alcohol and fat loss found links between heavy and binge drinking and an increased risk of obesity and risk of contracting cardiovascular disease [27].

4. Granola

Some sources purport granola as healthy; most granolas have high sugar, fat, and calorie content and cause spikes in blood sugar. Plus, the consumer ends up feeling hungrier.

But that doesn't mean you can't find healthy granola. If you must take granola, look for one with 100% whole grain and a limited amount of dry fruit and nuts. Stay away from granola with added sugar and oil.

“Granola is one of those mythical health foods that have a lot of calories and can have a lot of sugar,”

-Lisa Moskovitz, CEO, New York Nutrition Group.

5. Soybean Oil

According to a 2016 study, the rising cases of obesity in America can be tied to soybean oil’s increase in American foods over the past century [28].

Soybean oil is high in calories and omega-6 fatty acids, which promote weight gain and inflammation. Omega 6 fatty acids are responsible for insulin and leptin resistance [29].

Instead of soybean oil, use olive oil, flaxseed oil, or fatty fish like salmon. Also, avoid processed foods altogether because they contain soybean oils.

FAQs

What Drinks Increase Metabolism?

Drinks like water, green tea, coffee, and high-protein beverages increase metabolism.  They promote satiety, and people who drink them end up consuming fewer calories.

Other drinks include apple cider vinegar, vegetable juice, and ginger tea.

Does Cold Water Increase Metabolism?

Yes, cold water increases metabolism. Recent studies have revealed that drinking half a liter of water increases metabolism by 10-30% for an hour.

Additional research proved that cold water's calorie-burning effect was even more remarkable since the body uses energy to heat it to average body temperature [30].

Does Lemon Water Burn Fat?

Yes, lemon water promotes fat burning. It boosts metabolism, promotes fullness, supports hydration, and helps in weight management.

How Can I Speed Up My Metabolism?

To improve your metabolism, you need to eat more high-protein foods. But that doesn't mean sitting on your couch all day.

Live an active lifestyle to speed up fat burning and reduce your body mass index.

For faster results, I recommend trying fat burner supplements.

They will save you a lot of trouble when kickstarting your journey towards a healthy weight: 

I've been recommending them to my clients for quite some time now, and the results are overwhelmingly positive.


References:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/metabolism/art-20046508
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23107521/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3661116/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136178/
  5. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081127204342
  6. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12120-hypothyroidism
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6325749/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4258944/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26791555
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4044302/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5426284/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24246368
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21366839
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23573201
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20142827
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3408800/
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26176799
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23979220
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21750519
  20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24179891/
  21. https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-12-155
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8386848/
  23. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/
  24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4095661/
  25. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1014296
  26. https://bmcnutr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40795-017-0170-2
  27. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13679-014-0129-4/fulltext.html
  28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4808858/
  29. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4808858/
  30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3809630/

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