Can I boost my metabolism to lose weight?

Answers from Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

Trying to boost your metabolism probably won't lead to weight loss, at least not to the degree that changing your diet and lifestyle habits will.

For example, caffeine has been shown to very slightly increase metabolism, but it doesn't appear to have a significant effect on long-term weight loss. Likewise, supplements claiming to boost your metabolism may have little or no benefit and may contain substances that can have serious health effects or may be banned.

How much you weigh really depends on the number of calories you eat and how much physical activity you get.

To lose weight, focus on the factors you have control over. These can help you manage your weight and may improve your metabolism.

  • Calories. To lose weight, reduce the number of calories in your diet. And keep in mind that as you age, you may need even fewer calories. This is because the amount of muscle tends to decrease as you get older, leading to an overall increase in fat. Fat tissue burns fewer calories than does muscle.
  • Activity. Aerobic exercise helps you burn calories, and strengthening exercises (resistance training) can help you build and maintain muscle mass. Having more muscle causes you to burn more calories even while at rest (your resting metabolic rate). Keep in mind that building more muscle to burn calories is much more difficult than burning calories through aerobic activities.

Only rarely is excessive weight gain caused by a medical problem that slows metabolism, such as Cushing's syndrome or an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism).

If you're concerned about your weight or you think your metabolism is too slow, talk with your doctor. Your doctor can check for medical causes and help you adopt healthy lifestyle changes to aid your weight loss.

Dec. 07, 2015 See more Expert Answers