Boost Metabolism Without Exercise – Beat the Christmas Bloat!

By Emma Rose | Tuesday 11th December 2018

Last updated on Tuesday 28th July 2020

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Metabolism is essentially the rate at which your body turns food into energy. The higher your resting metabolic rate, the more calories you burn while resting. Over the holiday season, our level of physical activity tends to drop. It’s crucial to keep your metabolism firing if you want to avoid weight gain and maintain good health. We’ll cover some festive-friendly habits that boost metabolism without exercise. We will then touch on some seasonal foods to add to any dish to increase metabolism without exercise.

Festive-Friendly Habits to Boost Metabolism

Doing these simple things won’t interfere with your holiday plans. But they will keep your metabolism firing over the festive period.

1. Drink Water

It might sound like an overused generic health tip. But drinking water is a surprising way to boost metabolism. This is due to water-induced thermogenesis. In essence, this term describes how drinking water raises your metabolic rate. One study showed drinking just 500ml increases metabolism by up to 30% (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2003).

Water is more of a metabolism booster if it’s warm. So let your drink sit on the side for a while you mingle with the family. Or relax with hot herbal tea in front of your favourite Christmas movie.

Water is also a cue to other healthy behaviours. Drinking more water often ties in with better food choices, and overall more health consciousness. Drinking water is not only a great way to increase metabolism without exercise. It might also mean you’re less likely to overindulge on mince pies!

2. Get More Sleep

We’re a sleep-deprived society, often sacrificing those extra hours for getting things done. It’s no different at Christmas. One more present to wrap, one more stocking to fill. Not to mention waiting up for Santa! But there’s no better time to start looking after your sleep than over the holiday period.

To explain how sleep increases metabolism without exercise, let’s first take a look at what happens when you don’t sleep enough. Lack of sleep has a significant effect on hormones leptin and ghrelin. These are involved in regulating your metabolism. Studies show decreased leptin levels and increased ghrelin levels in sleep-deprived people. The alteration in the levels of these hormones results in a less efficient metabolism (Annals.org).

increase metabolism without exercise by sleeping

When you’re sleep deprived, the body slows your metabolic rate. It does this conserve energy resources. Sleep deprivation also leads to seeking out more energy. This means opting for higher-calorie foods, larger portions, and more impulsive eating. These things are already hard to avoid at Christmas!

So, for an effort-free way to increase your metabolism without exercise, ensure your sleep cycle is regular and get your 8 hours. Not only is this a great way to boost metabolism, but it’s also the perfect excuse for a seasonal snooze on the sofa.

3. Eat Regularly

This is to do with the thermic effect of food. This term refers to the fact that your metabolism increases when you eat. The body requires energy for processing your food and converting it to usable energy. So your metabolism fires up to increased levels. Consuming foods that have a high thermic effect will help with weight loss, increased energy and fat burning (International Journal of Obesity, 2010).

The thermic effect of food counts for as much of 10% of your total energy expenditure per day, and this tip is totally festive-friendly. During Christmas, eating is one of the things we do most (along with drinking and being merry of course). With some knowledge of the thermic effect of food, you can use all-day festive nibbling as a metabolism booster.

boost metabolism by eating regularly

So, just eat loads all day, right? Now that would be just too good to be true. There are some things to keep in mind before you reach for the Christmas selection box:

The Thermic Effects of Food: Key Points
  1.  The thermic effect of food is far less of a metabolism booster if you opt for eating junk. Compared to consuming whole fresh foods, processed foods don’t have the same boosting effect on your metabolism. Wholemeal bread, for example, is more fibrous than its white counterpart. The body needs more energy to process fibre, which gives your metabolism a stronger kick.
  2. Different food groups also have different levels of effectiveness. The body needs more energy to break down protein, than carbohydrate or fat. There’s no shortage of protein at Christmas! Meats and fish are great options for a metabolism booster. Opt for lean where you can.
  3. Your metabolism slows down when your body has no reserves energy. This can result in a sluggish metabolic rate. So even if the most squeaky-clean nutritious snacks aren’t available, it’s best to eat something, rather than nothing.

So, boost metabolism by ensuring you eat regularly. Saving yourself for that big meal this evening? It might be much better to keep yourself going by having regular snacks. But while you do, be mindful of what you’re nibbling. Some foods have a much better thermic effect than others.

4. Spend More Time Standing

A surprising way to boost metabolism is to spend more time standing up. Reclining on the couch doesn’t engage much except the muscles used to control the TV remote. But standing requires your body to use a considerable amount more energy. So standing up results in an increased metabolic rate. This can increase your daily energy burn by 174 calories (Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine, 2014).

With the long journeys to see family and binge-watching series on the sofa, this might seem difficult to do over Christmas. But 1-2 hour standing sessions is all it takes. Need the motivation to stand up and mingle with colleagues at your Christmas work do? You now know it’s also a great way to boost metabolism. You could also get involved in the cooking, or doing the dishes. Be the one to stand up and fetch the drinks during the ad break of your favourite movie. There are plenty of ways to stretch your legs over Christmas!

Christmas Ingredients to Increase Metabolism Without Exercise

Now we’ve covered a few ways you can increase metabolism without exercise. But there are also specific foods known to boost metabolism. Let’s look at how you can incorporate these into your meals this Christmas. All of these are festive-friendly, and none involve a diet of only sprouts!

1. Spices

Spices are known for their metabolism boosting properties, and add a lot of festive flavour to your dishes. These are also great for increasing metabolism without exercise.

spices are known to boost your metabolism


Cinnamon is not just for scented candles this Christmas. When you consume it, cinnamon requires your body to use a considerable amount of energy to break it down. It, therefore, has a powerful thermic effect. Your metabolism fires up at an increased rate to process it.

It also has other benefits when it comes to avoiding weight gain. A study featured in the journal of Metabolism tested the effects of cinnamon on metabolism in both mice and humans. They observed that cinnamon oil triggered a thermic effect – fat cells started burning calories. Alongside this, they found that cinnamon oil fired up the activity of proteins, enzymes and genes linked to fat metabolism. (Journal of Metabolism, 2017).

Cinnamon is a signature spice of Christmas. It’s effortless to incorporate into your food, from adding it to warm drinks to sprinkling it into your favourite recipes. Try these ‘clean eating’ cinnamon star cookies for a guilt-free sweet snack this Christmas. Yes, you can treat yourself while also giving your metabolism a kick!


Ginger, another common ingredient on a Christmas menu, contains capsaicin. Capsaicin doubles the amount of energy your body expends for 3 hours after a meal. This makes it a great way to boost metabolism. Ginger can raise your metabolic rate by up to 20% after eating, and also has other powerful health benefits.

An interesting study published by the Journal of Science and Food Agriculture revealed surprising findings when feeding ginger to rats. The rats were given ginger extract daily and over just 30 days, they lost weight. Researchers also found improvements in their blood sugar levels and leptin levels. Leptin is the compound responsible for causing you to feel full, making ginger a natural appetite suppressant.

increase metabolism with lemon and ginger tea

Ginger is also a very festive flavour and is found in many Christmas foods. But it needn’t be a part of a complicated recipe. Combine it with lemon – another metabolism booster – in a warming drink. Just bring a cup of water to the boil, add a small piece of crushed ginger, and wait five minutes. Then, squeeze in half a lemon, mix, and drink! You could even add a pinch of cinnamon for a perfect way to increase metabolism without exercise.

2. Protein

Remember what we covered about the thermic effects of food? Well, protein tops carbohydrates and fats when it comes to its thermic effect. Essentially, this means protein requires more energy expenditure to digest and process than any other food group. Eating a diet high in protein is, therefore, a very effective way to increase metabolism without exercise.

The thermic effect of protein is up to 30%, compared to 5-10% for carbohydrates, and 0-3% for fats. Let’s look at what this percentage means. If you consume 100 calories of protein, the body uses 30% of those calories to digest and metabolise it.

Studies highlight an increased protein intake as a powerful metabolism booster in many ways. It can increase your daily calorie burn by 80 to 100 calories and even raises your metabolic rate while you sleep. In one study, people who were fed more protein than their usual daily intake burned up to 260 extra calories per day. Due to its high thermic effect, ensuring you eat lots of protein over Christmas is a great strategy to boost metabolism.

boost metabolism by eating protein

If there’s one thing Christmas menus are never short of, it’s protein! Think smoked salmon and scrambled egg breakfasts, cold meat platters for lunch, and good old traditional turkey dinners. Load your plate with extra protein to increase metabolism without exercise. Make sure you’re mindful though of the much lower thermic effect of fats (0-3%). Lean protein options, like turkey instead of lamb, go a long way to increase metabolism without exercise.

3. Coconut Oil

This could be the easiest swap you can make over Christmas to increase metabolism without exercise. While we now know that fats have the lowest thermic effect of all the food groups, fat can’t be avoided over Christmas. Who wants dry turkey, or parched roast potatoes?

The good news is that not all fats are equal. Unlike other oils, coconut oil is almost entirely made up of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). These are metabolised differently to other fats. They are sent straight to the liver where the body uses them for energy. The body finds it harder to store medium chain triglycerides as fat.

coconut oil is a metabolism booster

Coconut oil has one of the highest thermic effects of all the fats. One study showed that eating 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil a day can boost metabolism. Their energy expenditure increased, and they also burned up to 120 extra calories per day.

As well as having a powerful thermic effect, there are other weight management benefits to coconut oil. Like protein, MCTs induce that satisfied, full feeling after meals. So, you’ll be less likely to overindulge on the selection box after your Christmas roast. Coconut oil not only increases calories burned but also reduces calories consumed. Double win!

How to Use Coconut Oil in Christmas Recipes

Coconut oil is also extremely versatile. Use it just as you would any other oil. Drizzle over roast potatoes, or use it to baste your turkey. You can also use it to replace to butter in your festive cookie recipes. Some people add it to coffee in the morning. This is a way to increase metabolism without exercise from the moment you wake up.

If you’re looking after your weight over Christmas, there are some things to keep in mind. It’s important to remember you should be using coconut oil to replace other oils – not as an added extra. This is because, just like any fat, coconut oil is dense in calories. Consuming more calories than you’re burning inevitably leads to weight gain. The good thing is, you don’t need a lot of coconut oil to reap the benefits – 1 to 2 tablespoons a day is enough.

Christmas-Friendly Ways Increase Metabolism Without Exercise: A Summary

Keeping your metabolism ticking over during the Christmas period is not impossible! Even with all the lazy days snuggled on the sofa, party snacks galore, and hearty roast dinners. You can raise your metabolic rate to keep your body burning calories all day. Perhaps even more than usual! So make sure you drink plenty of water. Stretch your legs by spending time standing, and look after your sleep. When it comes to cooking, add spices like ginger and cinnamon to your festive recipes. Load up on the protein, and make the strategic swap to coconut oil.

Emma Rose


Mindset Specialist, BSc (Hons)

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