Does Exercise Increase Metabolism? – Science Backed Research Says Yes
Lots of people think that exercising can help speed up their metabolism. And while this statement is kind of true, it still isn’t as simple as or as straight-forward as some people might put it.
So, does exercise increase metabolism?
Keep reading to find out!
Quick Learning Lesson: Metabolism vs. Metabolic Rate
A simple search on the internet will show you how much people mistake one for another; however, it can also show you the differences between them both.
For one, metabolism is a biological process that’s crucial to maintaining life. In layman terms, metabolism is all the reactions involved in turning foods we consume into energy. The process is usually divided into anabolism and catabolism.
Your resting metabolic rate, however, is the amount of energy your body burns throughout the day while you’re resting, lying down, etc. The average resting metabolic rate for adults is somewhere between 1000 and 2000 calories per day.
The metabolic rate number usually doesn’t change much regardless of what you do in your day. And while a workout definitely makes you burn more energy (yes, even simple jumping jacks do burn a lot of calories), it really doesn’t affect your resting metabolic rate in any significant way.
Does Exercise Increase Metabolism?
Exercise does increase metabolism, but there are several underlying factors at play.
Strength Training and Metabolic Rate
It is believed that strength training, in addition to helping you build muscle, can boost your metabolism.
There are more reasons than you might think to lift weights, including but not limited to: building strong muscles, preventing injury, improving your bones’ density, lowering the risk for type 2 diabetes, etc.
However, what I’m focusing on today is the claim that strength training will increase your metabolism.
While there is no denial that continuous strength training does indeed play a part in increasing your metabolic rate, you still have to keep in mind that such process relies on many different factors. Unfortunately, some of these factors are determined by elements that are beyond your control, such as your gender, genetics, age, and more.
Moreover, a research paper (1) that was published in the medical journal PLOS ONE, concluded that there is a heavy correlation between the size of your internal organs and your metabolic rate.
The study also confirmed that around 43 percent of the differences between the metabolic rates of different people could be credited to organ size.
There is also the factor of your total body mass since the more cells you have, the more calories your body will be burning at any given time.
You can think of it this way: you need less juice to charge your phone than your tablet or laptop, for example.
Furthermore, taller people have a larger bone structure, which usually means that they have a higher basal metabolic rate (BMR) than shorter people. And while you can mess with your body mass by adding or losing a few pounds (you could add healthy weight with either calisthenics or strenght training, or cut eating sugar and check your diet for weight loss), you can’t alter your height or your bone structure.
In conclusion, your BMR is heavily determined by your genetics, which cannot be altered (for the most part).
So, Does Strength Training Have No Effect on Metabolism?
Whether you go with dumbbell-only workouts, military press, seated tricep press, or hitting hard in the smith machine, strength training does have an effect on metabolism. For instance, it is estimated that each pound of muscle burns around six calories per day at rest (2). For reference, one pound of fat burns around two calories per day at rest.
Some quick math will show you that if someone loses ten pounds of fat and replaces them with pure muscle (which is pretty much the idea behind running for weight gain), they’ll burn 40 extra calories each day. And while this number doesn’t seem that high, it still can make a major difference over time.
However, you should always keep in mind that these numbers don’t represent everyone since we heavily differ.
Moreover, more muscle leads to longer and more intense workouts. This increases how many calories you can burn on a daily basis. When people talk about increasing their metabolism, they’re usually referring to wanting to burn more calories.
So, it’s a simpler situation than some might think at this point. The more muscle you get on your body, the more calories you’ll end up burning per workout.
Now, besides muscle mass, there’s another factor that may affect your metabolism, which is Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC).
Strength Training and Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)
After each strength-training session, your metabolism stays elevated at a certain point; this is the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, more commonly known as the afterburner effect.
Studies show that strength training sessions cause more stress to the body than other kinds of exercise (such as when doing cardio after workout). One element of your strength exercise that has a massive impact on EPOC is the intensity.
In other words, doing deadlifts, squats, bench presses using heavy weights is going to be more effective than triceps pushdowns with light weights, for example.
So, does EPOC have a great impact?
Well, one study (3) of a number of young women noticed that the basal metabolic rate increased by 4.2% for 16 hours following a 1h40min training session. In simpler terms, they get to burn an average of 60 extra calories.
When you think about it, 60 calories aren’t really that much of an increase; however, the calories that you burn through EPOC can build up over time thanks to the fact that EPOC can last anywhere from twelve hours to a few days. In other words, if you’re the kind of person who lifts weights three or four times a week, you’ll have a much higher EPOC than usual.
The exact EPOC boost that you get from strength training depends on numerous factors: what weights you use, which exercises you perform, how many sets, how much rest, etc. And, of course, as is the case with almost anything in your body, genetics do play a role.
All in All
Strength training is a crucial thing to do for numerous reasons, but if your main goal is to increase your metabolic rate, then keep in mind that it’s important to have realistic expectations. What I mean by this is that while it is true that strength training will make a difference, it still won’t be that drastic or noticeable.
Can Cardio Boost Metabolism?
Like I’ve mentioned before, most workouts do affect your metabolism in some way or another. And the moment you stop working out, your body continues to burn calories at a slightly high rate. However, that number eventually comes down, quicker than most people think.
Even if you drastically improve your fitness levels over time and increase the intensity of your workouts, your metabolism will hardly change. One of the main reasons why there is such a lack of change is the fact that cardio workouts focus on burning energy and, subsequently, fat.
A 2012 study (4) published had numerous subjects go on a diet and lose weight. After a while, most subjects noticed a reduction in their resting metabolic rate. In other words, losing weight seems to directly reduce your metabolism, which means that cardio workouts (be it a lengthy run on your treadmill, or hitting 1000 jumping jacks a day) could, in fact, be lowering your metabolism.
Cardio and Excess Postexercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)
It seems that cardio doesn’t have much of an impact on your overall metabolic rate, unlike lifting weights, which could technically bump up your metabolism since it adds muscle to your body. So if you are thinking about starting an intense cardio routine like the one punch man workout just to boost your metabolism, think again – you need to build muscle.
However, research has proven that cardio workouts can indeed increase your metabolism for a while after working out due to the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which I explained earlier.
Depending on the intensity of your workout, your recovery time can be as little as two hours or as long as two days. Your body tends to consume more oxygen than usual during this period, which is an indication of a higher than usual metabolism rate.
Scientists see this EPOC period as something completely different from your regular resting metabolic rate, and for that, they don’t regard it as an increase in your actual metabolism.
Weight Training Vs. Cardio: Which One is Better for Metabolism?
- First off, both cardio and weights will help you become healthier and more fit when done properly.
- Second, a cardio workout generally burns more calories than a weight-training workout like the alternating dumbbell press workout, for instance.
- Thirdly, your metabolism might stay elevated for a longer period of time when doing weight than cardio.
To conclude, the best exercise program that one can do to improve their body composition and temporarily boost their metabolism is a combination of both cardio and weights.
Best Exercises to Boost Metabolism
Here’s a list of what I consider to be the eight best exercises that you can do to give a small boost to your metabolism.
Planks (And Its Variants)
Planks are a relatively easy exercise to pull off, and they can be done almost anywhere. They come in numerous different variations that you can continuously switch between in order to avoid muscle memory. Additionally, planks are a great way to build up your endurance and get some muscle mass.
If you are a beginner you might want to start with push-ups instead of planks, that way you build some muscles first and you can do planks with no problems.
Swimming is perhaps the most optimal way to burn as many calories as possible in as little time as possible. Almost every muscle group in your body will be used in order to keep up the motion and stay afloat. In addition to burning a lot of fat, swimming also has the added benefit of reduced injury risks.
Some people think that stretching your body makes you taller, and since you are stretching your body while swimming then some say it will actually make you taller; this is up for debate and a lot of factors go into determining a person’s height but nonetheless swimming has a lot of benefits to offer.
Lunges are amongst what I like to call “deceptive exercises,” which are basically ones that look easy but will have a toll on you only after a few reps. After all, there is a cap on how many lunges you can do in a day.
They’re an amazing leg exercise and are the perfect substitute for squat racks or barbells. They’ll help you build your glutes and quads, considered by many to be the most important muscle group in the body.
Incorporating dips into your workout is the one of the many ways of ensuring that you don’t miss your upper body. They’re the perfect exercise for circuit or interval training, and will help you build your hands-they make for a great long head bicep exercise, or when you want to train your shoulders after chest day. Besides, you get to burn lots of energy in the process.
Squats are one of the important exercises that you can perform as you’ll be focusing on building bigger quads and glutes as well as burning a very large amount of energy in the process. I recommend that you mix it up by trying dumbbell or kettlebell squats too.
I really like doing squats, I try to squat daily as much as I can, I even did the 1000 squat a day challenge, it was kinda fun but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, you should gauge your fitness level before trying a challenge like that.
Sprints, yes, even a solid run on an incline treadmill makes for a peak high-intensity interval training. They require your body to function in an explosive way that’ll expend more energy than most other exercises.
Mountain climbers are a great exercise to get your heart rate up while working the midriff. Keeping a steady position throughout your upper body while driving your knees underneath you in and out requires a lot of strength and stability.
Make sure to keep your hips at shoulder level when driving your knees underneath you to make the exercise as effective as possible.
Last but not least, you should always try doing burpees a day and similar workouts, which will give your metabolism a steady boost. They’re a great exercise to pull off because they combine elements of weightlifting exercises with cardio, making them a perfect combo for building muscle and burning calories.
Boosting Metabolism Without Exercise
I can’t deny that making fitness part of your routine is quite important for both your health and overall wellbeing, but sometimes working out on a daily basis simply won’t work out (no pun intended).
However, rest assured as there are many other things that you can do to give that boost that your metabolism might need:
- Get a standing desk
- Get a good amount of sleep and set a proper sleeping schedule
- Do some intermittent fasting
- Wake up earlier than usual
- Drink two glasses of water as soon as you wake up
- Drink green tea
- Use coconut oil when cooking
- Eat a lot of grapefruit
- Eat high-fiber foods
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