We all know people who eat six to seven times a day and never gain a pound. And if you don't fit this category, your metabolism isn't entirely to blame.
"Your metabolism is determined by multiple factors, including genes, sex, age, hormone levels, body size and composition and activity levels, " says Haley Barton, nutritionist at Nutrition Savvy, based in Vancouver B.C. "The only factor that you have complete control over is your activity levels," she says.
Your metabolism makes up an entire range of biological processes that happen internally, including the breakdown of foods you eat, along with taking these foods and transforming them into energy, according to the Mayo Clinic.
"Your metabolic rate reflects how much energy your body requires to carry out its basic functions like breathing, maintaining circulation, secretion of hormones and more," Barton tells the Huffington Post Canada. Women, for example, have a lower metabolic rate than men.
So does this mean avoiding fatty foods will change our metabolic rate? Yes, eating healthy and avoiding excessive sugar and fats is good for your overall body, but Barton says, food itself has little effect on how your metabolic rates actually work.
"Particular foods do not slow down metabolism per se, but eating refined grains and sugar will lead to a spike in your blood sugar," she says. Instead, foods like chili peppers, green tea and salmon have all been shown to change the rate of how much energy our bodies can produce.
LOOK: 10 natural ways to boost your metabolism:
WHY IT WORKS: Green tea contains a type of antioxidant called catechins, which have been shown in studies to reduce body weight and waist circumference, says Haley Barton, family nutritionist of Nutrition Savvy, based in Vancouver B.C. Green tea is also packed with cancer-fighting compounds that can benefit anyone’s diet, at any age.
WHY IT WORKS: Chili peppers contain bioactive chemicals called capsinoids, Barton says. Studies have shown that the consumption of capsinoids increased energy expenditure (the amount of heat you produce internally and your external physical activity level) by 50 calories a day. Adding a bit of spice to your meals can also help reduce belly fat and appetite.
Coffee (Caffeinated Or Decaffeinated):
WHY IT WORKS: Small amounts of caffeine have been shown to boost your metabolism through stimulation of your central nervous system, Barton adds. But make sure you're drinking the right amount. A cup of coffee (with about 150 mg of caffeine) is often enough to benefit from metabolic effects. Too much coffee, she adds, can lead to trouble sleeping, upset stomachs or irregular heartbeats.
WHY IT WORKS: The body experiences a significant elevation in metabolic rate right after eating a meal, called the “thermic effect of food," Barton says. In other words, our bodies need extra energy to digest, absorb and transport all the nutrients after consuming proteins. When you eat protein, Barton adds, it needs the most time to metabolize (at least 20 to 30 per cent of your body's energy). Eating fish, lean meats, eggs and plant protein like beans and soy will keep your metabolism accelerated for hours after your meal.
WHY IT WORKS: Iron is an essential mineral that helps transport oxygen to tissues throughout the body, Barton says. Iron also helps our bodies make energy — low iron levels can lead to fatigue, loss of appetite, anemia (not enough red blood cells) and slow down your metabolism. Foods rich in iron include oysters, mussels, beef, lamb, fish and poultry. Plant sources of iron include pumpkin seeds, lentils, tofu, chickpeas and other beans.
WHY IT WORKS: A study conducted last year showed that those with low vitamin D levels gained more weight, according to CNN.com. Barton adds there is still uncertainty as to how vitamin D contributes to weight management; however, studies have suggested low vitamin D levels may lead to fat accumulation. Looking for natural ways to get vitamin D? Get outside or eat some salmon.
WHY IT WORKS: The worst thing you can do to your metabolism is starve yourself. "Consuming a very low-calorie diet that robs your body of enough energy to satisfy its basic functions will plunge your metabolism into slow motion," she says. Ensure you're consuming at least 1,200 calories per day for women and 1,500 for men to meet your basic metabolic needs, she adds.
WHY IT WORKS: Although research has given mixed results, one study showed that elderly women who ate two to three meals per day were generally more overweight or obese compared to those who ate four to five meals or snacks per day. Consuming regular meals and healthy snacks can support your metabolism throughout the day.
Get Enough Sleep:
WHY IT WORKS: We get it, you're busy. But how often do you put sleep on your 'to do' list? Studies show that chronic lack of sleep can slow the metabolism, increase appetite and increase risks of obesity and weight gain, Barton says. Aim to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night so you wake up feeling refreshed, replenished and ready for the day ahead.
WHY IT WORKS: "Exercise is by far the safest and most effective way to boost your metabolism," Barton says. Exercise not only raises our metabolic rate, but as you exercise, it also keeps your resting energy expenditure high during the recovery period. Try at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day, as well as two strength training sessions a week to keep your metabolism up.