Can I boost my metabolism to lose weight?

Answer From Donald Hensrud, M.D.

Trying to boost your metabolism probably won't lead to weight loss. To lose weight, focus on reducing calories and increasing activity.

Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. Even when your body is at rest, you are still using energy for basic functions such as breathing, circulating blood and repairing cells. The energy your body uses for these basic functions is called your basal metabolic rate.

While caffeine has been shown to very slightly increase metabolism, it doesn't appear to have a significant effect on long-term weight loss. Supplements claiming to boost your metabolism may have little or no benefit and may contain substances that have serious side effects.

How much you weigh largely depends on the choices you make about food and how much physical activity you get.

To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you take in. There are several ways to reduce the number of calories you eat, including reducing portion sizes; limiting added sugars and saturated and trans fats; and choosing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats instead of processed foods.

And keep in mind that as you age, you may need to eat fewer calories. This is because the amount of muscle you have tends to decrease as you get older.

Your muscle mass affects how many calories you need because muscle tissue burns calories, even at rest. Having less muscle decreases your calorie needs by decreasing your basal metabolic rate. Having more muscle increases your calorie needs by increasing your basal metabolic rate.

Exercise helps you burn calories and build and maintain muscle mass. Any physical activity is better than none. Start slow and gradually work your way up to incorporating both aerobic exercise and strength training into your routine.

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.

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March 11, 2021 See more Expert Answers