A person’s metabolism is the rate at which their body burns calories for energy. The speed of metabolism can depend on age, activity levels, genetics, and other factors. Regular meals, sleep, and exercise may all help support metabolism.

Calories are the way we measure the energy the body expends for movement and various functions such as breathing, digesting food, circulating blood, growing cells, repairing wounds, and even thinking. The rate at which the body burns calories, or energy, is called the metabolic rate.

Scientists and healthcare professionals use various formulae to calculate resting metabolic rate (RMR), also known as resting energy expenditure (REE). RMR and REE refer to the amount of energy a body uses at rest, such as when sleeping or sitting.

Factors such as age, sex, and the activity the person is performing at the time can affect this.

The rate can vary between individuals. A factor that affects the metabolic rate is body composition. The more muscle mass a person has, the higher their metabolic rate.

While a person has no control over the genetic aspects of their metabolism, research shows that some strategies may help speed up the rate at which the body processes calories.

It is worth noting that while speeding up the metabolism may help people burn calories and lose weight, it needs to be part of an overall strategy that includes a healthy and varied diet and regular exercise.

In this article, learn about 12 approaches that may help increase metabolism.

person eating breakfast for regular metabolismShare on Pinterest
Gary Yeowell/Getty Images

A 2022 study notes that the timing of meals can have an effect on metabolism.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises people to eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day to prevent extreme swings in fullness and hunger. The organization also advises a person to be mindful about late-night snacking.

Eating too few calories can cause a person’s metabolism to slow down so the body can conserve energy, notes the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

According to current dietary guidelines, females ages 19–30 years need 1,600–2,400 calories per day, depending on their physical activity levels. Males in the same age range need 2,000–3,000 calories per day.

During pregnancy and nursing, females will need up to 452 additional calories, depending on the trimester or age of the infant while nursing.

Learn more about how many calories a person should eat per day.

Reducing calories does not increase the metabolic rate, but modifying the source of calories a person consumes may be a strategy to increase it. Protein, for example, may be more likely than carbohydrates or fat to promote thermogenesis, the burning of calories in the body.

In a 2019 study, 38 people followed either a high protein diet, with 25% of their calories from protein, or a medium protein diet, with 15% of their energy from protein. Those who consumed a higher proportion of protein burned more energy than those who consumed less.

Green tea contains caffeine and catechin, which is an antioxidant. Older research suggests that both of these compounds can speed up metabolism.

While the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says any increase is likely small, green tea may help manage weight and health in other ways.

For example:

  • Consuming green tea instead of sugary sodas and juices can reduce sugar intake.
  • Drinking green tea throughout the day can help a person stay hydrated.
  • The antioxidants in green tea may help reduce the risk of inflammation, cell damage, heart disease, blood pressure, and cholesterol.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says it is safe to consume up to 8 cups of green tea per day.

People should speak with a doctor before increasing their intake of green tea or consuming it during pregnancy. It may interact with some medications. During pregnancy, it may increase the risk of problems with fetal development due to low folic acid levels.

Learn more about green tea and weight loss.

Lifting weights and performing exercises that use the weight of the body or resistance bands can help build muscle.

Strength training may slightly increase a person’s rate of metabolism while resting, for example, when sleeping or sitting.

A 2022 review suggests a strong link between high muscle mass and metabolic rates. Eating enough calories — especially protein — can contribute to muscle mass.

The authors of a small 2018 study found that combining resistance training with dietary measures led to a slight increase in metabolic rate, but it was not statistically significant. Participants who did only resistance training saw a reduction in fat mass and an increase in lean mass.

HIIT training involves very intense bursts of activity.

Interval training is highly intensive and may be more suitable for people with higher fitness levels than those new to regular exercise.

A small 2020 study found that HIIT can indirectly increase metabolism. Specifically, after HIIT, the body burns fat and uses more energy.

A 2021 study notes that HIIT can burn more calories than usual after exercise in young, aerobically fit women.

Learn more about HIIT exercises.

Staying hydrated is essential for the body to function at its best. Water is necessary for optimal metabolism and may help a person lose weight.

In 2016, researchers assessed the metabolic rate of 13 people who consumed either 250 or 500 milliliters (mL) of water. They found evidence of increased fat oxidation after 500 mL when a person is at rest and concluded that drinking water may affect metabolism. However, they did not find that it increased metabolic rate.

Learn more about how much water a person should drink each day.

The link between stress and the metabolic rate is unclear.

An older 2016 study found that chronic stress levels seem to lead to an increase in appetite, food intake, or weight. The authors conclude that more research is necessary to explain the final effect stress has on metabolism.

Authors of a small 2020 study found no evidence linking resting metabolic rate and anxiety. Still, stress could have an indirect effect by affecting eating patterns and sleep, both of which can alter the rate of metabolism.

Sleep plays an essential role in regulating metabolism, hunger, and appetite.

A 2023 study notes that insufficient sleep or sleep disorders can affect the neuroendocrine system, affecting whole-body metabolism.

People who have less sleep may have a lower metabolic rate, according to research from 2016. The study took place in a sleep laboratory, and participants slept 4 hours per night for 5 nights, followed by 1 night of 12 hours sleep. Their metabolic rate fell after the nights with little sleep but returned to their usual levels after the night of recovery sleep.

The authors believed the body reduces metabolic rate to conserve energy when a person sleeps less. They noted this could lead to weight gain in people who do not get enough sleep.

The need for sleep varies between individuals, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults ages 18–60 have at least 7 hours per night.

Learn more about difficulty sleeping.

Vitamins play an essential role in metabolism.

B vitamins are directly involved in the process by which the body uses food calories for energy.

The results of a 2018 rodent experiment suggested that a low intake of various B vitamins could affect the rate at which the body metabolizes lipids, including cholesterol and triglycerides.

More research may be necessary to understand the relationship between vitamins, metabolism, and weight loss.

Some 2016 research has suggested that eating spices such as chili, which contains capsaicin, can increase metabolic rate, including the rate at which the body burns fat and uses energy.

However, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that while eating hot chilies might temporarily boost metabolic rate, it is unlikely to have a significant effect.

People with low levels of thyroid hormone may have a slower metabolism.

The thyroid hormone stimulates the production of substances that increase oxygen consumption, respiration rate, and body temperature. This involves a higher rate of energy consumption.

Conversely, a person with low thyroid hormones (or hypothyroidism) is likely to have a lower rate of metabolism at rest and may have a higher risk of weight gain.

For those with hypothyroidism, taking medications that increase the levels of thyroid hormone can increase their resting metabolic rate.

Seeking help for hypothyroidism can help speed up metabolic rate and reduce the risk of complications linked to this condition.

Here are some answers to questions people often ask about metabolic rate.

What is metabolic rate?

Metabolic rate refers to the rate at which the body uses energy and burns calories. The resting metabolic rate (RMR), also known as resting energy expenditure (REE), refers to the body’s use of energy in a resting condition, for example, when sitting or sleeping. The body uses most of its energy this way.

What is a high metabolic rate?

Metabolic rates vary widely between individuals, so it is not possible to specify a standard or high metabolic rate. However, the higher the rate, the quicker a person will use the energy they take in from food, which may reduce the risk of weight gain.

What can increase metabolic rate?

Factors that may increase a person’s metabolic rate include consuming an appropriate number of calories, favoring protein over carbohydrates and fat, getting enough sleep, and some types of exercise, such as resistance training.

It is not always possible for a person to change their metabolic rate, but exercise and dietary measures may help.

A higher metabolic rate may help with weight management. However, for those seeking to lose weight, it is better to focus on eating a varied diet with plenty of whole foods and being physically active. While some foods, such as spices, may help boost rates temporarily, they are not a long-term solution.

It is always best for a person to speak with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian before adjusting their diet or making changes to an exercise routine.