The Daily Beet

07 May Tuesdays With Jeff: Insights Into Your Health: How To Jump-Start Your Metabolism

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This week Jeff is starting a series all about getting healthy this summer! Each week he will have advice, tips and insights into helping you get to your ideal weight! As always, leave a comment to win one of Jeff’s great DVD’s! This week tell us how you like to stay active!


How To Jump-Start Your Metabolism © Jeff Novick, MS, RD

Have you been told your metabolism is slow?  Have you  heard of different “tricks” for jump-starting your metabolism?  Do they really work?  Are they even true?

There really is no such thing as a “slow metabolism” the way most people refer to it with regard to weight. While there are some medical conditions (such as thyroid) that can affect metabolism & weight, these are easily tested for and rectified.

Part of the confusion is due to a misunderstanding of metabolism & what people mean when they discuss it.

Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) is the total amount of calories you burn in a day. Some people often confuse this with “metabolism” (RMR &/or BMR) but they are not the same. TEE is the sum total of your “metabolism”, the thermal effect of food (TEF), activities of daily living (ADL) & physical activity (PA).

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the number of calories you would burn if you did absolutely nothing all day but laid in bed & slept.

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is virtually the same thing as BMR & is often used interchangeably. It is slightly different & is how many calories you would burn if you were awake and did nothing but stayed in bed all day & rested. It is slightly higher than BMR as it includes some activity from being awake.

There is really little anyone can do to change or “jump-start” their RMR or BMR. Most of your BMR/RMR is driven by your vital organs (heart, brain, lungs, kidney, liver, etc.). It is relative to your total mass so usually the more of you there is (ht &/or wt) the higher it is.

The Thermal Effect of Food (TEF) is amount of calories you burn digesting the food you eat. While the macronutrient composition of the diet may affect it slightly, it is safe to estimate it at 10-15% of the calories you consume. Some people mistakenly use TEF to think that eating or eating more will cause them to burn more total calories or raise or “jump-start” their RMR/BMR.  It won’t as TEF is separate from RMR/BMR and is always only a small portion of the total calories needed to be ingested to get the effect. So to burn or “jump-start” your body to burn an extra 300 calories from TEF one would have to eat 3000 more calories. This leaves a net increase of 2700 calories.  Hardly a “jump-start” to net 2700 calories.

Activities of Daily Living (ADL) and/or Physical Activity (PA) is where we have the biggest influence & can make the biggest difference in TEE. So being more active throughout the day & including formal activity &/or exercise is how we can best impact our total energy expenditure.

Sometimes we hear of that lucky person who seems to be able to eat all day and stay thin and believe it is because that person has been blessed with a higher metabolism.  While there are some individual variances in metabolism, it turns out that when researchers look at these “lucky” thin people they find they have higher TEE from a higher ADL & higher PA than heavier people.

They have also found that part of this is from what they now call NEAT or Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.  This is not exactly ADL or PA but is defined as little movements throughout the day such as fidgeting, tapping, standing instead of sitting, crossing one legs, etc.  They have found these can add up and can account for upwards of 300 calories a day or more.

So, there is little we can do to affect our RMR/BMR. However, there is a lot we can do each day to influence our TEE by increasing our ADL & our PA & what is now being called NEAT.

Lastly, we often hear that our metabolisms slow down as we age. While it does somewhat, the majority of this decline is actually not due to a decline in RMR/BMR but to a decline in ADL, PA, & NEAT & also the resulting loss of muscle that accompanies inactivity.

Bottom line…

Stay Active & Keep Moving!

In Health


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Jeff Novick
Jeff Novick

Jeff Novick, MS, RD, LD, LN is truly a unique dietitian and nutritionist. With over 24 years of experience in nutrition, health, fitness and natural living, he offers expert health advice distilled into powerful, easy-to-understand language on a variety of current topics.Novick’s insightful and humorous approach to nutrition and health has helped thousands worldwide make the transition to healthy living. He holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Indiana State University in nutrition, with a minor in exercise science.Novick serves as Vice President for Executive Health Exams International and lectures at the McDougall Program in Santa Rosa, California and at the Engine 2 Immersion program in Austin, Texas. He is also the Director of Nutrition for the Meals for Health program, which is helping empower low-income families to achieve optimal health.For almost a decade, Novick served as the Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Center in Aventura, Florida, and as Vice President of the Board of the Directors for the National Health Association (NHA). He also served as the Director of Health Education for the NHA and as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Health Sciences for Kaplan University.Novick has taught nutrition classes at Indiana State University, Indiana University Medical School, the University of Miami Medical School and the Florida Academy of Family Physicians. He regularly lectures at medical conferences across the country. While in Indiana, he created and taught the Nutrition Education Initiative, a preventive medicine curriculum for medical doctors, residents and medical students. In recognition of this groundbreaking project, Indiana’s governor awarded Novick the Indiana State Public Health Excellence in Health Science Award and Indiana State University awarded him the Graduate-of-the-Last-Decade Award.He has been interviewed by Newsday, Parade, Men’s Health, Shape, Women’s World and has appeared on Fox News, Discovery Health, the Today Show and other media outlets nationwide. He recently appeared in the documentary Processed People and the movie Fatboy, which won the Best Documentary award at the Fort Lauderdale and Queens Film Festivals.

  • Celina
    Posted at 02:29h, 07 May

    Thank you for clarifying this! My husband is constantly told by overweight family members that he is thinner because he “must just have a higher metabolism” or because he “is the youngest and his metabolism hasn’t slowed yet.” Thank you for reiterating and clarifying that these statements are not true. Rather we credit our fitness to regular aerobic activity, walking everywhere we go, and eating a plant-based, low-fat, vegan diet. 🙂

  • Kyle Plattner
    Posted at 06:57h, 07 May

    Take jogs and walks together with my wife. We get to spend quality time and stay active. Not sure which does more for my health.

  • Beverly Perry
    Posted at 10:39h, 07 May

    I do a lot of walking as I have for around 12 years. I also do some yoga and stretching to keep things moving. I lost weight after starting to walk and continue to keep the weight down. Since living on engine 2 my weight seems to be staying pretty steady and I lost around 10 pounds, which was what I needed to do.

  • Tracy D
    Posted at 11:06h, 07 May

    I notice that when I am more active (AKA, running errands instead of watching TV) I tend to A) have more energy and B) that pesky pound or two seem to run away. Totally like today’s blog, it verifies many assumptions I’ve had & invalidated a lot of my extended families assumption of our familie’s metabolism!!!
    I’m very today–I’m getting my blood work this week & my physical next week. I look forward to my PCP saying “no more diabetes drugs for you” as I’ve been plant strong for a while now, exercising regularly & have dropped a pant size.

  • Laura Henderson
    Posted at 11:12h, 07 May

    I just signed up for my first yoga class!

  • Maria Brestan Morrison
    Posted at 11:13h, 07 May

    My metabolism is all over the place. I was hypothyroid as a teenager than hyperthyroid as an adult and now my thyroid doesn’t work at all (thanks to radioactive iodine). About a year after ingesting radioactive junk I decided to become healthier. I went Vegan a year ago and while I still ‘indulge’ on occasion I am feeling so much better than I ever have. I can’t believe the crap I used to put into my body. With two small kids I want to make sure I am around for a loooonnnnngggg time!

  • Karen Mickelson Bogarin
    Posted at 11:13h, 07 May

    Very informative, as always. Thank you for making it understandable.

  • Ruth Mizell Dunn
    Posted at 11:25h, 07 May

    Certainly cleared up some questions I had. Thank you.

  • Luann
    Posted at 11:38h, 07 May

    Our lake’s just gotten warm enough to swim! I also love to cross-country ski on the lake & ride my bike. Some days it’s just hauling groceries & laundry up our 40+ stairs from the lake

  • Rileen
    Posted at 11:45h, 07 May

    I love walking, so I’m shooting for a minimum of 10,000 steps a day as my main way of staying active, and adding other activities on a day to day basis.

  • Sue Huber
    Posted at 11:46h, 07 May

    Thanks for the education on this. I didn’t know the details …..

  • Joan
    Posted at 11:50h, 07 May

    I always learn so much from Tuesdays with Jeff! I’ve been hypothyroid for 25 years and during that time my weight has gone up and down… once you are on meds, your weight fluctuations are related to what goes in your mouth…and how much activity you have…since I was laid off last year my weight has creeped up, and I am trying to watch my food intake, live plant strong and up my exercise…..not always 100% successful, but I won’t stop trying!

  • Melissa
    Posted at 11:55h, 07 May

    Stay active for sure.

  • Elaine Porter
    Posted at 12:02h, 07 May

    Great article. I am moving more and it feels good.

  • Deb Stein
    Posted at 12:06h, 07 May

    love this , This is an artical will share, and for those who say why bother can’t excersise this is something to keep them motivated
    thank you ,

  • Kathryn Polster
    Posted at 12:14h, 07 May

    I’ve been walking to work which is only a 15 minute walk each way, but I’ve noticed a difference in the scale. Small things add up!

  • Angela English
    Posted at 12:15h, 07 May

    I enjoy hiking with my dog.

  • Stacy
    Posted at 12:19h, 07 May

    Good summary, thanks!

  • StephenMarkTurner
    Posted at 12:20h, 07 May

    Thanks Jeff! I appreciated the refresher on the energy jargon acronyms (EJA’s?). If you have taken any thermo courses you will probably have MER’s and TER’s bouncing around as well, so it can get confusing. The notion of eating in order to diet (via TEF) is worse than the idea of opening your fridge door to cool your kitchen :-).

  • Jennie
    Posted at 12:24h, 07 May

    Running after 4 kids!!! Although now that they’re older, they have many activities that require driving and I’m spending a lot of time sitting behind the wheel 🙁

  • Ann S
    Posted at 12:28h, 07 May

    I take the stairs instead of the elevator!

  • Susan H
    Posted at 12:48h, 07 May

    I use fitness DVDs to keep active and keep things interesting.

  • Vicki
    Posted at 13:02h, 07 May

    Warm weather, here in the upper midwest, comes slow and leaves fast. Walking, getting fresh air and sun shine is the best way to move no matter what the weather is. I walk to the store, bike when weather is dry and always take the stairs.

  • Pam Sorooshian
    Posted at 13:18h, 07 May

    Thanks for this. Interesting info about metabolism – I’ve heard things about not taking a hot shower after exercise to keep your metabolism up. Is there anything to that?

    • Jeff Novick
      Posted at 15:02h, 07 May

      Not really. As with many of the things we hear about that may influence metabolism, the impact of them is minimal at best. Jeff

  • Aaron Coleman
    Posted at 13:24h, 07 May

    So then how do we explain and very skinny person who does not exercise, sits at a desk for 10 hours a day and eats the standard american diet.

    • Jeff Novick
      Posted at 15:01h, 07 May

      Someone could still be very active the other others away from the desk and the Standard American Diet can be consumed in smaller amounts. However, studies have been done on these people and it turns out that when we closely look at calories in and out, it all makes sense. As I mentioned in the article…

      “Sometimes we hear of that lucky person who seems to be able to eat
      all day and stay thin and believe it is because that person has been
      blessed with a higher metabolism. While there are some individual
      variances in metabolism, it turns out that when researchers look at
      these “lucky” thin people they find they have higher TEE from a higher
      ADL & higher PA than heavier people.

      They have also found that part of this is from what they now call
      NEAT or Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. This is not exactly ADL or
      PA but is defined as little movements throughout the day such as
      fidgeting, tapping, standing instead of sitting, crossing one legs,
      etc. They have found these can add up and can account for upwards of
      300 calories a day or more.”


  • Veggie Michelle
    Posted at 13:29h, 07 May

    Good basic info we should all know

  • Tiana D
    Posted at 13:48h, 07 May

    I love swimming at the gym. And hiking all ice Monterey.

  • Terri Jones Cole
    Posted at 13:57h, 07 May

    Walking is my exercise of choice. I would rather be outside, but I’m overweight and arthritic, so I use a treadmill to reduce some of the impact on my joints.

  • Kristen Herrera
    Posted at 14:05h, 07 May

    Lately I’ve been making a conscious effort to get up and move every hour at work. Either walk or do the stairs in addition my regular planned workouts.

  • John
    Posted at 14:13h, 07 May

    Exercise regularly with your dog…good for both!

  • Roger
    Posted at 14:16h, 07 May

    So here’s where I get confused. You state that the macro nutrient composition of food can affect TEF slightly–it sounds like in the range of 5%. If I eat 300 calories of refined flour or sugar, as opposed to 300 calories of a whole grain, does the body spend about the same amount of calories burning both foods? Am I to assume the body might need 30 calories to burn sugar and 45 calories to burn the whole grain. I think I eat a lot of food following this lifestyle. I don’t count calories any more, but I feel like I can eat as much as I want without worrying. Is that simply an issue of calories, or am I able to consume more calories because I am eating the right kinds of foods? Is maintaining weight just an issue of calorie consumption, with the kind of food making a minor difference in the amount of energy required to digest the food? Or does eating 300 calories of a whole grain have less impact on weight than 300 calories of a sugar?

    • Jeff Novick
      Posted at 14:56h, 07 May

      In the coming weeks, we will look at calories, counting calories and what we will see is that calories do matter but calorie density matters more and that is where eating the right foods, as you are doing, matters more. In response to your question, the TEF for sugar and whole grain is about the same, but there is a minor difference which is due to the fiber. 🙂

  • Rob
    Posted at 14:43h, 07 May

    Boosting your physical activity can benefit you two ways – one is direct calorie burn, the other is it keeps you busy and away from snacking.

  • Alisa
    Posted at 14:55h, 07 May

    I go to the gym each weekday morning before work and use the elliptical or treadmill. I also try to do some strength training in the evenings.

  • Carla Wolowski
    Posted at 15:05h, 07 May

    Thanks for the ever-insightful blog posts. I can’t wait to see you at Farms 2 Forks!

  • LeslieAins
    Posted at 15:12h, 07 May

    Riding my bike is my exercise of choice. I try to add activity by walking whenever I have extra time such as when I get to school a little early.

  • Sally D.
    Posted at 15:23h, 07 May

    Such good information! It really bothers me to hear people use “slow metabolism” as an excuse to be overweight. Thanks for shining a light.

  • Marilyn
    Posted at 15:59h, 07 May

    High fiber foods uses more energy to digest.

  • Yvonne Gaskin
    Posted at 16:30h, 07 May

    So can you workout too much and slow your metabolism? i just started these classes at Orange Theory Fitness and I love them. I typically burn 500-600 calories a class and they say you will burn another 200 calories over the 24 hrs after class. It’s a ton of fun so I go 5-6 times a week. I used to just walk 1- 1/2 mils a day and it seemed like I dropped weight faster. My diet is plant based of course and hasn’t really changed except I stopped eating refined flour (bread and tortillas etc) and am following your calorie density guidelines to the “T” (salads at least 1/2 plate and in some instances more). So… will your body slow your metabolism if you exercise too much? It doesn’t seem like a lot of exercise but alot more than I normally do 🙂

    • Jeff Novick
      Posted at 17:13h, 07 May

      No, this is another myth we will be addressing. 🙂

  • Candyce Loescher
    Posted at 16:52h, 07 May

    Jeff, thanks for the good information. I’m still working to get more daily exercise into my days.

  • plainoldsarah
    Posted at 17:28h, 07 May

    Shoot, now I better go for a walk. Thanks for the motivation to close the laptop.

  • Katie Broughton
    Posted at 18:03h, 07 May

    am I right in thinking that plant-based eaters use more calories to keep themselves warm therefore increasing their TEF?

    • Jeff Novick
      Posted at 18:33h, 07 May

      TEF is the impact of digesting food so you would be talking about your RMR and while again, there is some truth to these issues, it is not a major factor. However, lower fat diets due tend to raise TEF slightly as fat causes the least impact on TEF. 🙂

  • shamanayah
    Posted at 18:04h, 07 May

    Time to cross the legs. LOL

  • Jennie S.
    Posted at 18:13h, 07 May

    This is great information! Thanks Jeff! Now I must run, literally!!

  • Karen
    Posted at 18:25h, 07 May

    Hi Jeff, A question…what about the effect of hormones? I’ve read that female hormones are skewed to try to get calories to be stored as fat, particularly when someone is stressed. What about the effects of insulin resistance and leptin resistance, and metabolic syndrome? I hope you will address these in upcoming posts. I’ve read that when someone’s hormones are communicating correctly, the body will naturally be in balance. It will take whatever calories it needs to burn and control hunger cues to accomplish this. When the communication channels are not working properly, the cues aren’t there and someone can constantly feel hungry.

    For exercise, I like walking and cycling. I also do yoga and in the summer when the pool is open, I swim.


    • Jeff Novick
      Posted at 18:31h, 07 May

      All of those issues do not have an major impact on metabolism either. Remember, the majority of your metabolism is driven by your vital organs and that is not impacted by hormones. In addition, the are you have the most control over, are daily activities, exercise and NEAT, all of which are also not impacted by hormones. Now, in regard to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, following the principles and guidelines I recommend has been shown to completely reverse those in as little as 12 days, so again, not an issue. Eating a low calorie dense, high satiety diet, allows someone to eat whenever hungry, till they are comfortably full and still lose weight.

      Even in regard to menopause, the biggest influence is still in our hands.

      Turns out that menopausal women tend to exercise less and, there is also some loss of muscle mass which naturally diminishes with age. However, most of the decrease as we age is in TEE and not in RMR as most of the loss of muscle and the decline in TEE is from a decline in the amount and type of exercise. This does not have to happen.

      While there were some early studies in the early 90’s that said it was not diet and exercise, these were based on self reported and observational data. Closer looks now tell us (again) that there are changes in activity levels, types of activity and diet that account for most all the changes in weight.


  • Ann Bright Jenson
    Posted at 18:39h, 07 May

    Lol…my toe is tapping as I read this.

  • Melody
    Posted at 18:43h, 07 May

    Swimming is my activity of choice. The Vitamin D is an added benefit.

  • Michael
    Posted at 18:43h, 07 May

    I try to fit as much activity as possible into my days, and make it to
    the gym for resistance training about three time a week. I have a
    tendency to overdo exercise, but I try to keep myself in check. Thanks for keeping us informed, Jeff!

  • ShannonD
    Posted at 18:45h, 07 May

    I stay active by walking daily, yoga two times per week and weight lifting at least 3 times per week. I’m working on getting rid of my type 2 diabetes, again….

  • Bob
    Posted at 18:45h, 07 May

    Morning walks are my way of staying active.

  • Melissa
    Posted at 19:02h, 07 May

    Yoga for me! Thanks, Jeff!

  • Tim
    Posted at 19:02h, 07 May

    Hockey, both on the ice and the street.

  • Tania Thompson
    Posted at 20:12h, 07 May

    You might deal with this later…but when you say to “stay active and keep moving” – how hard do we need to exercise? No doubt it’s different for every person, but is running around and chasing a toddler going to cut it? Or does it require the “standard” 3 times per week for a minimum 30 minutes of elevated heart rate (like we’ve all heard in the past). Thanks for all of info!

  • Kim
    Posted at 20:26h, 07 May

    I go to the gym and workout (cardio) 5-7 times a week for about 35 minutes. I also do some ab exercises daily. I like to hike on the weekends if its nice and kayak when possible. Also love walking the dogs!

  • Jane Smith
    Posted at 20:46h, 07 May

    I run 2 miles with my dogs every morning, but I consider that my dog’s exercise. I go to the gym 5 days a week and do 30 min cardio followed by 10-15 min resistance training. I also take the stairs at work instead of the elevator.

  • Amy Pelo
    Posted at 21:00h, 07 May

    I do crossfit several times a week. I love getting stronger while I’m getting leaner.

  • Denise
    Posted at 21:06h, 07 May

    I’ve heard you say this before and took your advice to heart. I’m at the gym everyday, minimum 1 hour weekdays and 2 hours weekend days…during the week I walk 2 miles at lunch time and I just got a sit/stand desk so know I stand and fidget more :-). Sadly I don’t have a dog so I walk the husband – we walk between 5-7 miles each weekend day. This might sound like a lot, but I eat a lot of plants!

  • Carrie Kleyn
    Posted at 22:37h, 07 May

    I love all of this information, it is nice to keep the thought of exercise fresh in my mind. I am having a hard time fitting in an exercise routine. I get up in the morning to go to work (Whole foods) at 3:30 am, drive 45 min. start at 5 am. I stand all day( min. 8 hrs), running around the store, lifting, bending etc..then drive home another 45 min., work in my veg. garden, fix dinner and lunches for the next day and head to bed by 8:30p. I am 61 yrs old, when I fall into bed I pass out instantly! I feel sooooo guilty because I have not gone out for a walk or to the gym. Any ideas of what and when to add to my day? Oh, I will add that on my 2 days off I do go for a 45 min. walk or to the gym.

    • mmjcr
      Posted at 15:00h, 11 May

      let me see if i understand this correctly, you get up at 330am, go to work, run around for 8 hours, then come home and work on your garden, then fix dinner and after that go to bed, to start all over again. im just tired of just reading all that you do. for a 61 years old person, you should feel very proud of all of what you accomplish in a single day. i say you do enough exercise during your work week, that you should just relax on your days off. honestly!

  • Julie Lindstrom
    Posted at 00:27h, 08 May

    Thank you for this information! I know that not only do I need to keep moving, but keep eating (the good stuff of coursej). I tend to skip meals when I get busy and I think that throws off my metabolism.

  • Angie
    Posted at 04:36h, 08 May

    Thank you for the reminder. In our current culture of screens and automobiles, it seems we need it more often. When I’m home all day, I try to incorporate a little extra activity by climbing the stairs for a few minutes every hour.

  • Gail P
    Posted at 08:06h, 08 May

    This is so exciting. Jeff has great information and delivers it in a fun and memorable way. Sure hope to win!!

  • Anu Chathampally
    Posted at 09:41h, 08 May

    I find running and walking my dog helps as well as upping raw plant-based food.

  • Greg
    Posted at 14:58h, 08 May

    Jeff – what about those who are unable to exercise like ones with disabilities, pre-exsisting conditions – etc., would they be able to drop lb.’s…maybe not as fast as those on a plant based diet / lifestyle? Curious.

  • Yvonne Gaskin
    Posted at 15:07h, 08 May

    My favorite workout – Orange Theory Fitness – challenging workout, accommodates multiple levels and a ton of fun!

  • Tom Dylan
    Posted at 15:58h, 12 May

    I joined the YMCA and started swimming laps. It has been a big step for me after leading a relatively sedentary life for many years.
    I believe the recipes on your Fast Food DVDS have a higher than average TEF. I eat a lot, but I don’t keep a lot! :-).
    Thanks for the great work you do.

  • stevesancarlos
    Posted at 00:50h, 14 May

    I find that when I yell at people and slap them around a bit, that this helps keep me thin. Road rage is also a huge aid in keeping me lean.

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