Metabolism: Little Things Mean a Lot

My metabolic rate is low and has been for most of my adult life. I’m perfectly happy sitting in front of a computer for hours. But according to the experts, this is asking for trouble. It is an especially bad idea for anyone with Type 2 diabetes.

Fidgety people make me nervous. They tap a foot, play with their fingers, bounce their knees. Now I’m told those who fidget have a higher metabolism, meaning they burn calories at a higher rate.


Trying to become fidgety does not work for me, so when I come across articles about raising metabolism in other ways, my interest is caught.

As I understand it, a higher metabolic rate is desirable if you want to lose weight. This means that if you are sedentary, as I am, you will have to make an effort to change. You will need all the help you can get to increase your metabolic rate.

Here is a short list of little things you can do, small changes that will speed up that sluggish metabolism and make losing weight a little easier. Each of these ideas has been proven to help, but it is important to remember that everyone is different. Some approaches will work better for you than others.

The easiest thing to change is how much water you drink. You may have to make a real effort to drink more water if you are not used to doing this. But studies show that drinking a pint of water helps briefly increase metabolism, burning about an extra 25 calories.

I keep a glass of water on the desk beside me and even use sticky notes to remind myself to drink. If you are not used to drinking water, it is easy to think you are hungry when you are really thirsty. Before grabbing a snack or eating a meal, drink some water first.

It also helps to eat snacks that have water in them, like fruits and vegetables, instead of dry things like crackers and chips. It is another way to get your eight glasses a day.

Another way to get water is through green tea. This beverage also contains antioxidants called “catechins.” These natural compounds can raise your metabolism for hours after drinking green tea. This drink increases the number of calories burned during exercise, and sipping some throughout the day has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and burn off fat in some studies.

Black coffee also provides a short-term rise in metabolic rate. Drinking small amounts every few hours has helped some people lose weight, perhaps because the caffeine stimulates metabolism.

It also has some antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, but it seems that the caffeine is the fat-burner in coffee. This beverage has also been shown to reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers in regular drinkers.

So go ahead and drink some coffee, but leave out the sugar and cream, which negate its good effects by adding calories into your diet.

Speaking of calories, you can use what you know about them to help raise your metabolism. First, eating smaller amounts more often may keep your metabolism in gear. Between large meals eaten twice a day your metabolism slows down, but small snacks every three or four hours have the opposite effect.

Your body burns more than twice as many calories digesting protein as it does fat and carbs. So those snacks need to include lean protein. Some examples: lean beef, turkey, chicken, fish, nuts, beans, eggs, tofu, and low-fat dairy products.

Sprinkling red pepper flakes in salads, soups, and sauces can also speed up your metabolism. Believe it or not, various spices have this effect. As an added bonus, they are also antioxidant-rich.

It may be tempting at times to cut way back on calories in an attempt to lose weight, but it is a huge mistake to eat too few. Generally, fewer than 1,570 calories a day for men and 1,200 calories a day for women is considered a starvation diet.

Although you lose weight in the short term, this kind of diet slows your metabolism, and you lose muscle mass. You do not want either of these things to happen. Both make it harder to keep off the weight you lose.

Higher muscle mass can help lower your insulin needs. So please do not starve to lose weight. I am still living with the consequences of a fasting diet I went on 30 years ago. It worked in the short term, but I certainly regret it now.

Many people add muscle by strength exercises using resistance or weight training. A few minutes of this can raise metabolism better than a longer duration of aerobic exercise like walking.

Muscles burn about 6 calories per pound while fat burns roughly 2 calories per pound. So the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism. Mixing strength exercise a couple of days a week into your walking routine might be the secret to improving your ability to lose weight.

Speaking of exercise, this small change can improve your metabolism: Stand up. Get up to talk on the phone. Set a timer and walk five minutes for every hour at the computer.

Stop the movie in the middle and walk around a bit. Use any interruption to get out of the chair and move. Walk around the block or your yard.

I hope you find something in this list that helps you increase your metabolism, because these small changes can make a big difference in your energy level and your outcomes with Type 2 diabetes.

What are ketones and how do they matter to you? Bookmark and tune in tomorrow to find out from nurse David Spero.