What Foods Increase Metabolism?


What foods increase metabolism and burn fat? How does diet/dietary factors and foods effect metabolism?

It would be convenient if supplements and other products that promise to increase metabolism really did the job. Unfortunately they do not work. No patch, pill or potion will magically increase your metabolism enough to help you lose weight. For a quick metabolic boost, you’re better off putting your exercise routine into overdrive. That said, how much you eat (or don’t eat) as well as other dietary factors may influence your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), but not enough to make a significant difference or one that will lead to pounds lost on your bathroom scale.

How does energy (calorie) intake influence metabolism?

How much you eat (or don’t eat) tends to have a greater influence on your metabolism than what you eat. Whenever to decrease your calorie level to below what your body needs to sustain its basic physiologic functions, your metabolism decreases.  This is your body’s way of being efficient or conserving energy when/if there is a food shortage. The more drastically you slash your calorie intake, the lower your RMR/BMR will drop. A very low-calorie diet, or one that provides < 800 calories daily, may cause a 10% (or more) decrease in your metabolic rate. This happens quickly, usually within 48 hours of beginning a very low-calorie diet. Even for weight loss, the average woman should never consume fewer than 1,200 calories daily (most women, especially exercisers, need more calories).

Do eating hot chili peppers increase metabolism and aid in weight loss?


Some early research studies (1990s) showed that consuming a compound (known as capsaicin) found in hot peppers such as cayenne and jalapeños stimulated metabolism by increasing the body’s release of stress hormones like adrenaline as well as increasing body temperature. However, according to recent studies, including one published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in November 2010, the ‘thermogenic’ effect of capsaicin supplementation had a minimal effect on metabolic rate, increasing daily caloric expenditure by an average of 50 calories. This is considered insignificant and within the normal daily variability range. However, most experts, such as James Hill, Ph.D., director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado in Denver, eating spicy foods has too small and short-lived of an effect on RMR to actually result in pounds lost.

I’ve heard that drinking coffee (due to its caffeine content) increases metabolism. Is that true?


Like capsaicin, caffeine intake may slightly increase resting metabolic rate. This increase is small. Drinking two strong cups of coffee may raise RMR an average of 12% (translates to about 21 calories/ day) over the three hours post-consumption. However, the metabolic effects of drinking more than that probably don’t outweigh the detrimental effects of loading up with caffeine. Consuming caffeine, capsaicin and green tea in specific amounts may aid in weight loss/maintenance. According to a review published by the International Journal of Obesity in 2010, these compounds are referred to as ‘thermogenic ingredients’ because they produce heat through metabolic stimulation. They can potentially increase energy expenditure by 4 to 5% and fat oxidation by 10 to 16%, possibly counteracting the decrease in metabolic rate that occurs during dieting. There is promising research on these substances, particularly regarding green tea extract taken with caffeine and its effect on enhancing fat oxidation.

What about protein? Will consuming a higher-protein diet raise metabolism?


It is a misconception that protein increases your metabolic rate. Increasing your protein intake can aid in weight loss, as higher protein meals tend to leave you more satiated (a feeling of fullness) and less likely to snack. Your metabolic rate rises a bit after eating any meal but may increase a bit more after eating protein because digesting it requires a few extra calories. However, instead of following a drastic, low-carb, high protein diet try something simple, like swapping carb-loaded cookies with low-fat Greek yogurt. Other options include pairing low-fat cottage cheese with fruit.


  • JE Galgani and E Ravussin. ‘’Effect of dihydrocapsiate on resting metabolic rate in humans.’’ Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Nov; 92(5):1089-93. Abstract available: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20826626
  • R Hursel et al. “Thermogenic ingredients and body weight regulation.” Int J Obes. 2010 Apr;34(4):659-69. Abstract Available: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20142827
  • Whitman, Stacy “The Truth about Metabolism.” Shape. September 2003


3 thoughts on “What Foods Increase Metabolism?”

  • To increase your metabolic rate you have to eat 5-6 small meals a day and missing one meal especially breakfast is a big no-no. Also take a bike ride as often as you can.

  • I have been drinking green tea for about six months now, and I am definitely getting smaller around the middle. Glad you cleared up the coffee/spicy food/protein confusion on how it affects metabolism.

  • Thanks for the informative post. I’m going to start drinking green tea. I’ve heard so much about its benefits.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *