Getting those engines running is one of the key elements to losing weight. Metabolism boosters work to increase the energy your body uses so you burn more calories. Clinical research proves some metabolism boosters work, but others do not. We dug through tons of scientific studies, medical journals and expert opinions to find out what you should know. Every dieter has a right to information and we’ve accepted the task of delivering just that.
What is a Metabolism Booster?
The name metabolism booster is pretty self explanatory. Any supplement that helps boost metabolism can be considered a metabolism booster. There are also some foods that fall into that category.
Metabolism Boosting Supplements
With thousands (maybe tens of thousands) of supplements on the market, how are you supposed to tell the effective metabolism boosters from the ineffective ones? Science does a great job of steering you in the right direction. Some clinically proven metabolism boosters include caffeine, green tea, capsaicin, zinc and selenium.
Caffeine is the holy grail of metabolism boosters. It works by increasing energy output. You don’t need much, as research by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows. “Caffeine was thermogenic in the given dose and caused no haemodynamic side effects.”
Green Tea (Catechins)
Green tea provides both caffeine and catechins. Research from the journal Physiology and Behavior says these two are the perfect combination for weight-loss. “Taken together, these functional ingredients have the potential to produce significant effects on metabolic targets such as thermogenesis, and fat oxidation.”
The thing that makes hot peppers hot may be just the thing you need to lose more weight. The journal Appetite offers, “While capsaicinoids are not a magic bullet for weight-loss, the evidence is that they could play a beneficial role, as part of a weight management program.”
In a surprising twist, the mineral zinc may be all you need to boost metabolism. Zinc works by supporting thyroid function. The International Journal of Trichology offers up results from a study that show, “zinc deficiency may have contributed significantly to the development of hypothyroidism.” The thyroid controls metabolism, so if yours is sluggish, zinc could help.
Along the same lines as zinc, selenium supports thyroid function. Biological Trace Element Research was surprised by just how much selenium is found in the thyroid. “The surprisingly high concentration of selenium in apparently normal thyroids indicates that selenium has important functions in this organ.”
Metabolism Boosters You May Want to Skip
Just as there are proven metabolism boosters, there are those proven to be ineffective. Some of the more common are l-carnitine, conjugated linoleic acid, resveratrol and acai.
The University of Maryland Medical Center says, “Although L-carnitine has been marketed as a weight-loss supplement, scientific evidence is lacking.” Without research there’s no reason to believe this claimed metabolism booster really helps with weight-loss.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
There’s been a lot of hype around CLA, but no science is there to support any weight-loss claims. Cindy Moore, MS, RD questions whether or not taking supplemental CLA is worth your time or money. “CLA is found naturally in certain foods [like beef, lamb, and dairy products]. Do we really need to take a supplement?”
Just because resveratrol showed promise as a weight-loss option in rats doesn’t mean it works on humans. According to Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, “Very few published human studies have explored the ability of resveratrol to achieve the physiological benefits that have been observed in laboratory models, although many clinical trials have recently been initiated.”
The use of acai as a metabolism booster is all about the marketing. There is no clinical evidence this fruit extract has any effect on weight-loss and Phytochemistry Letters is a little concerned. “Strategies need to be developed in order to prioritise lesser studied ‘novel’ herbal, medicines or nutraceuticals generally distributed/popularised via the Internet and to assess the benefits and risks of such products which also allows for the evaluation of the claims made.”
Metabolism Boosters That Could be Dangerous
Just because a safe metabolism booster may speed up heart rate it doesn’t mean all supplements that do so are safe. There are some dangerous options on the market including synephrine, ephedra and 2, 4-dinitrophenol (DNP).
The Boulders Ambulatory Surgery Center explains the potential issues with synephrine clearly. “The drug synephrine is known to produce many unpleasant and possibly dangerous side effects, including headache, agitation, rapid heart rate, and heart palpitations. In some people, it can cause angina pectoris, kidney damage, increased pressure in the eye, and reduced blood circulation to the heart and the extremities.”
There are many trusted sources of information that offer up lists of reasons to skip ephedra as a metabolism booster, but we felt a piece written by James S. Gordon, M.D. put it best after ephedra was banned. “The ban is necessary because ephedra, used as an aid to weight-loss and energy enhancement, has been implicated in the cardiac deaths of scores, perhaps hundreds, of mostly young Americans, and in the ‘adverse events’ – strokes, heart attacks, fainting and anxiety – of many more. It is necessary because the companies that have profited hugely from manufacturing these supplements have long ignored or rationalized these dreadful consequences.”
2, 4 Dinitrophenol (DNP)
DNP was banned by the FDA in 1938, so why is it listed as a potentially dangerous metabolism booster? The ingredient is commonly used as a pesticide, but it was once touted as a “weight-loss miracle.” Desperate dieters, in an attempt to shed those unwanted pounds, buy the chemical over the internet.
All it takes is a simple search for DNP to find story after story of young men and women who’ve died from using DNP. The chemical does force fat burn, but the increase in metabolism can reach dangerous levels and your body literally cooks inside – leading to death.
Foods as a Metabolism Booster
There are metabolism boosters in pill form that work to help you lose weight faster, but there are also some foods to add to your diet that can have just the same effect. Try foods like strawberries, raspberries, chili peppers, dark chocolate and protein.
According to fitness expert Jillian Michaels, “These juicy red berries contain anthocyanins, which some studies have found stop individual fat cells from getting larger, while also encouraging them to release adiponectin, a hormone that helps reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar, and reverse leptin and insulin resistance. Certain polyphenols found in raspberries and strawberries block the digestive enzyme activity of specific starches and fats, reducing your body’s absorption of them.”
Chili peppers contain capsaicinoids, which is a source of capsaicin. They have been shown to offer “multiple pharmacological and physiological effects”, including anti-obesity and weight-loss,” according to the European Journal of Pharmacology.
Consuming just 40g of dark chocolate daily, for a minimum of two weeks, can increase metabolism to help you lose weight. That’s one sweet option for weight-loss.
The Journal of the American Medical Association tells dieters the clinical effects of protein as a metabolism booster. “Resting energy expenditure…and body protein…increased significantly with the normal and high protein diets.” All you need is about 0.8g of protein per 2.2 pounds of body weight. If a woman weighs 175 pounds, that equals about 64g of protein. Some nutrition experts suggest you can go a little higher. In this case, the same women could consume 80-100g of protein daily.
What’s the Final Say on Metabolism Boosters?
Making a few simple changes to your life can cause a significant shift in metabolism that could help increase weight-loss. Start with a healthy diet that packs in enough protein, fresh fruits (especially berries) and a little dark chocolate. Combine that with a clinically proven metabolism booster in pill form and you’ve got everything you need on your side.