Does spicy food boost your metabolism? This is a question that many of us have asked ourselves, especially if you have experienced the rush that comes with eating chili peppers or hot sauce. You feel the heat in your mouth and on your lips, an you may even begin to sweat.
It is natural to think the reaction your body has from ingesting spicy food must be accelerating something. Which leads you to inevitably wondering if it can help you lose weight by speeding up your metabolism.
This article will go over some of the basics about metabolism. We will let you know what you can do to give it a boost, and what impact spicy foods can have on your metabolic rate.
What is Metabolism and how does it work?
What Is Metabolism
“Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. During this complex biochemical process, calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function.” (Mayo Clinic)
What Determines Your Metabolism
As with many parts of our bodies, our genetics can often determine how well our version works. It is possible for you to inherit the predisposition for a slower or faster metabolism.
We have all met that person who can eat and eat and never gain a pound. Often times it is a handicap for them. I have known young men and women that just can’t gain weight no matter how hard they try. I have even seem them turn to body building and drinking protein shakes on top of eating regularly to try to bulk up, and still not see many results.
And then there are other people who have to work their butts off and eat nothing just to lose one pound. I fall more into this category myself. I have to exercise excessively and barely eat anything to lose weight, but on the other hand I can gain weight very easily…sadly, too easily. But that is what my genes gave me, so I have to deal with it.
Just like with many systems and organs in your body, as you get older things begin to slow down. This is also true with your metabolism.
This can make it harder to lose or maintain your weight as you get older. It does not make it impossible, but may require a lot more effort for much smaller results.
Getting good, regular sleep is important to maintaining a healthy metabolism. Sleeping well, and for the correct amount of time, on a regular basis, is important to many working parts of your body. Sleep is how we recharge, and without it we can’t expect our bodies to run efficiently.
You should always do what you can to make sure you have a healthy sleep schedule. If you suffer from insomnia or other issues that make sleeping difficult, you should really consult a physician or herbalist to see what you can do to try to improve it. Not sleeping well can have a huge impact on many aspects of your health.
A common health issue that can directly affect your metabolism is problems with your thyroid. Hypothyroidism can warn you by making you feel tired and causing weight gain for no apparent reason.
There are ways to treat this in many cases. So if you often feel fatigued even though you sleep, and are having weight problems that don’t seem to be because of overeating and lack of exercise, you may want to see your doctor.
The amount of exercise you get on a regular basis has a huge impact on your metabolism. Just like with pretty much every thing in your body, exercise makes you healthier and everything work more efficiently.
Everything else on this list is basically something out of your control, with the possible exception of sleep. However, exercise is important to the activity of your metabolism and needs to be mentioned in this section.
On a side note, exercise can also be a big help for people who struggle with sleeping. Wearing your self out a bit with exercise earlier in the day, can make it easier to go to sleep at night. That would be a double whammy on boosting your metabolism!
How To Speed Up Your Metabolism
Exercise To Increase Your Metabolism
None of us want to hear this, but of course, as we all know, exercise is the best way to increase your metabolism. As humans, it seems, we are always looking for that super secret miracle that makes us burn all those unwanted calories without taking the time or putting forth the effort to exercise.
Although, this miracle of science has not yet come to fruition, we can do things that give some internal help to our outward efforts.
So, for now, keep on keeping on with your exercise routine. We need exercise to burn fat and excess calories. But the more your exercise you do and the more muscle you have does allow you turn burn calories better and faster…which means you can take in more calories than someone who doesn’t exercise and has low muscle mass.
But if you are one of those awesome, dedicated individuals who exercise like you are supposed to, why not make sure you are eating foods that compliment your efforts?
What You Can Eat To Increase Your Metabolism
Most of us don’t eat much caffeine, but we sure do drink a lot of it. We all know caffeine can give you that needed little bump to get you through the day. And with that little bump comes a little boost in your metabolism.
According to a study presented in Physiology & Behavior your metabolism can be increased up to 4% with 100mg of caffeine.
I am sure I don’t have to go into a lot of detail to promote caffeine here. Most of us wouldn’t stop drinking it no matter what anyone said. So, letting you know that it can give you a tiny jump in your metabolic rate probably has you reaching for a cup of coffee right now.
Green Tea is also an excellent alternative to coffee for a caffeine boost. It also has other qualities thought to help burn fat and keep you healthy.
Many fruits have the beneficial substance known as pectin. Pectin can naturally help your thyroid work better by removing toxins that slow your thyroid down. Pectin removes toxins by binding to them and thus allowing toxins to be removed through your digestive and urinary tracts.
It is especially useful in that it can bind to mercury and lead, and these heavy metals work negatively with your thyroid. According to eatthis.com, one study stated that after intake of citrus pectin subjects excreted up to 150% more mercury in their urine within 24 hours of eating the pectin.
Another benefit is that “…pectin binds to cholesterol in the gastrointestinal tract and slows glucose absorption by trapping carbohydrates. Pectin is thus a soluble dietary fiber.” (Wikipedia)
Citrus fruits tend to have the highest concentration of pectin. However, apples are highly recommended because a lot of the pectin resides in the skin of the fruit. Since we don’t typically eat citrus skin, apples can actually be a better source, as long as you eat the skin.
Other fruits and berries also have pectin. Basically, all fruit seems to be a decent source of pectin, especially if you eat the skin. It is the pectin in fruit that makes them bind together for jams and jellies. So, most fruits and berries that you commonly see in jams and jellies would be a source of pectin. Some more than others.
But experts agree that apples and citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, and lemons are the best.
The main reason why pectin is so good for your metabolism is that it helps remove mercury from your system. Your thyroid, which regulates your metabolism runs on iodine, which it can confuse mercury for. So when you get rid of mercury you are allowing your thyroid to use iodine, like it is supposed to, instead of being tricked and clogged up by mercury.
With knowing this, you can also help out your thyroid by adding iodine to your diet. This is especially necessary if you don’t use very much iodized salt in or on your food.
A really great source of iodine is seaweed. So, you can either eat seaweed snacks (which I do not care for), or make sure to treat yourself to some seaweed wrapped sushi at least once a week.
I made some at home not too long ago. It is a fun and inexpensive way to brighten up your day and your health. All you need is the seaweed wraps, some sticky rice, and whatever you like in your sushi.
Last time I used baby shrimps, asparagus, cream cheese, and jalapeno. Delicious! The possibilities are really endless!
Foods rich in calcium are said to help your body break down fats. It is good to keep in mind that taking in natural forms of calcium do a much better job than taking supplements. Of course dairy products are high in calcium, but if you are lactose intolerant like me, you may want to look to other sources of calcium.
The highest non-dairy sources of calcium that I have found are not what I would have expected. Sardines, salmon, and rockfish are oddly high in calcium. Salmon is also an excellent source of Omega-3, which can can give even more help to your metabolism and thyroid, along with other health benefits.
Tofu is actually also really high in calcium, in case you don’t care for the fishy fishes listed above. Collard greens have a lot of calcium too.
Other notable calcium sources include broccoli, broccoli rabe, kale, figs, oranges, almonds, edamame, white beans, and black eyed peas to name a few.
Staying hydrated is very important. Being dehydrated, even a tiny bit, can slow your metabolism. Staying hydrated is very important to many parts of your body. So if you haven’t been convinced to drink your 8 glasses a day yet maybe knowing it helps your metabolism, on top of everything else, will give you that little push to start drinking that oh-so-necessary water.
Drinking water can also help by making your feel fuller, and therefore making eat less. Also sometimes when you think you are hungry, your body is actually dehydrated and needing water, not food. It just sends the wrong signal. So, try water first.
Low levels of iron can also cause your metabolism to slow down. So, make sure to eat iron rich foods such as lentils, beef, liver, sardines, clams, oysters, and spinach. Sardines keep making this list…who knew those little fishes were so good for you!
Zinc and Selenium
Just like iron, these are important to the function of your thyroid, and therefore your metabolism. According to livestrong.com, zinc also “…helps your body make proteins, heal wounds and maintain its immune function, while selenium is an antioxidant that aids in reproduction and thyroid hormone metabolism.”
Some foods high is zinc and selenium include meat, seafood, poultry, nuts, and legumes. The Brazil Nut is actually the best source of selenium that I have found. It has a ridiculous 544 mg in about 7 nuts. Brazil Nuts also have a lot of other essentials nutrients, including high amounts of Calcium, Vitamin E, Phosphorus, Magnesium, and fiber.(USDA)
Since this website is about hot sauce, hot peppers, and all things related, capsaicin gets its own section below…
How Does Spicy Food Boost your Metabolism?
What Capsiacin Can Do…
As you probably know, hot chili peppers contain capsaicin. This is the chemical produced by peppers that makes you feel that loved burning sensation after taking a bite.
Along with the numerous other health benefits of hot peppers and capsaicin, can we add on the benefit of increasing your metabolic rate? Yep, we sure can!
Capsaicin tells your body that something is happening. It triggers a gene in your cells that alerts your body that a heat source is near. This makes your body start working to cool itself.
Body builders and other athletes commonly use thermogenics to create this reaction in your body. They often use much less natural and less healthy ways to do this.There are all kinds of “fat burning” supplements people use to induce this effect. Caffeine and ephedrine are other common additives used by people to speed things up.
Your body kicking into gear to cool off makes your circulatory and respiratory systems get going. Which in turn means you are burning calories to make this happen.
There has been many studies over the years looking at the relationship between spicy foods and increased metabolism. Although there are varying results, reports show that consuming spicy foods or adding hot sauce to your meal may increase your metabolism from 8% even up to 25% of its normal levels.
Of course 8% isn’t a huge number, but it is bigger than the 4% boost from caffeine we discussed above, and in my mind, every little bit helps. Even on the low end of this scale, eight percent may not allow you to see pounds just falling off, but it may cancel out that cookie you snuck in on your afternoon break. And as we all know, if you can do little things here and there, it adds up in the end.
And if studies showing that hot peppers could give a 25% boost are true, then that would definitely make a difference. Another great advantage to the metabolic increase from capsaicin is that the effects have been shown to last up to 3 hours after ingestion (globalhealingcenter.com). Sounds like a good time for an after dinner walk to really burn off some calories!
Another component of how chili peppers can help is that some studies show that capsaicin may give you a drop in appetite. So, if you eat a little less and get a boost in your metabolism, seems like a pretty awesome combination and a great reason to add some spice to your meal.
Which Spicy Foods Are Best?
The are two main answers to this question:
1. The Hotter The Better
Since capsaicin is the reason that chili peppers increase your metabolism, it seems pretty obvious that the more capsaicin the bigger boost you will get. And since capsaicin is what makes peppers hot, the hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it has.
Just a side note to give you a little perspective…pure capsaicin is 16,000,000 Scoville Units (SHU). The hottest pepper in the world comes in a little over 2 million SHU, a typical habanero is about 100,000 to 350,000 SHU, a typical jalapeno, and Tabasco Brand Hot Sauce are both between 2500-5000 SHU.
2. Combine With Foods That Have Other Metabolism Boosting Components
Logic says that if you can combine the metabolic power of hot peppers with other foods that have their own ways of giving a kick to your metabolism, then you would have a perfect food.
So, for this category I would take some cues from the foods that were mentioned above that are good for your metabolism and add some spice.
Some good examples of this would be adding some finely chopped cayenne or jalapenos to some steamed broccoli. Or giving a nice blackened seasoning to your rockfish or salmon fillet.
Cayenne powder, paprika, black or white pepper, garlic, and fresh peppers are all good for you and your metabolism, and would be a great, healthy and flavorful addition to almost any of the foods listed above that have other metabolic boosting properties.
What We Have Learned
There are many factors involved in your metabolic rate. Some of these are out of your control, but there are many ways for you to try to boost your metabolism and keep your thyroid healthy.
It is important to exercise regularly, get enough sleep on a regular basis, and eat foods that promote your thyroid and metabolism.
There are a lot of healthy food options available. You could build a very complete menu around the foods discussed above.
Chili peppers and the capsaicin they produce are one of the best ways to give a boost to your metabolism. Not only can they increase your metabolism between 8 and 25 percent, but the effects also last for three hours after ingestion.
Another really great thing about capsaicin is that you can easily add it to any meal. All you need is a bottle of your favorite hot sauce. Hot sauce comes in all kinds of flavors and heat intensity, that can compliment anything you are eating.
So, even if you don’t eat sushi or kale (or sardines) as often as you should, you can rest a little easier knowing you can at least give yourself a boost with some hot sauce. You can also try to add fresh or dried peppers, or chili powder to as many meals as often as possible. Not only are they good for your metabolism, but they offer a ton of other health benefits too.
If you don’t have much hot sauce experience, you have come to the right place. Every recipe on this site recommends a way to spice it up, generally suggesting a hot sauce that goes really well with that meal. If you have any questions on what hot sauce I would recommend for anything in particular, feel free to ask me. I will get back to you as quickly as possible.
Make sure to check out some of recommendations throughout this site. There are also some reviews on different hot sauces (still more to come), and you can always check out my Hot Sauce Shop. Here I have compiled many of my favorite hot sauces with links to them on amazon.com in case you want to try them out for yourself. It is a good page to get some ideas if nothing else.
If you absolutely cannot handle any spiciness in your food you can still get some capsaicin by using supplements. I will doing a review on capsaicin supplements very soon, so I can recommend the most beneficial brand. Make sure to check back for more information on them soon.
I hope all this information was helpful for you. I wish you and your metabolism the best. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions feel free to leave a comment below, or you can reach me through the contact form.