Does Intense Exercise Increase Your Metabolism? – Everything You Need to Know

We’ve all heard that working out is a way to boost your metabolism easily. If you train hard, you can even gain a fast metabolism. Is any of that true? Does exercise increase our metabolism? 

image of a person with weight in hand, exercising.
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Let’s find out. Here is everything you need to know about exercising, metabolism, and the answer to your questions now! Find out the benefits of exercise, what influences metabolism, and much more.

What Is Metabolism?

Your metabolism is the total sum of complex chemical reactions in the body and within each cell that turn food and drinks into energy to keep us alive. This energy is then used for all life processes in the body, fueling you, and allowing you to repair, grow, and thrive.

Many things that happen to us in our body count in metabolism, from growing hair and nails to making new cells, to converting food into energy. The sum of all the energy that these processes use is measured in calories.

Our basal metabolic rate is the number of calories you burn as your body performs basic tasks to keep you alive. These functions include breathing, having a heartbeat, repairing cells, growing hair, and blinking. Basal metabolic rate is also called resting metabolic rate, the amount of calories burned if you relax and stay in bed all day. 

What is Exercise?

Exercise is any physical activity, that exerts the body with movement. It gets your heartbeat racing, blood pumping, and respiration up. It includes activities such as walking, running, lifting weights, playing sports, and many more. In short, exercise tends to increase fitness and overall wellness.

In fact, exercising regularly is one of the best things you can do for your health. It boosts mood, improves sleep, and raises overall health by decreasing your chances of heart disease and other illnesses. 

That’s nice and all, but so, can we use exercise to speed up our metabolism so that we burn more energy at rest? 

Does Exercise Increase Metabolism?

Usually, the activity of exercise is a small percent of our daily calories burned. Contrary to popular belief, however, exercise won’t really increase basal metabolic rate in the way you think. In fact, there may even be downsides to exercising for the metabolism rate. If we work out intensely for long periods of time, we may burn more calories at the beginning, however, as our bodies continue to undergo intense exercise, our metabolism will find ways to save energy.

Fast vs. Slow Metabolism

There is actually no link between thin people and fast metabolism and larger people do not necessarily have a slow metabolism. People who are bigger actually tend to have a faster metabolism than people who are smaller. This simply means they burn more calories because larger bodies have more cells. Therefore, the cells are performing more functions and processes to sustain the bodies.

Differences between the metabolism of two individuals of the same body size do exist, but it is usually about 300 calories.

Factors that Influence Metabolism

How fast or slow our metabolism is related to genetics, body size, and age. You have a different metabolism as you age from infant to toddler to adolescent. It stabilizes adulthood until about age 60, when it changes again. The metabolic rate is meant to manage our energy, not manage our weight.

Other factors include an overactive thyroid, which is called hyperthyroidism. This increases your metabolism to a degree that you cannot put on weight. On the opposite side, hypothyroidism means there is too little thyroid activity, leading to an increase in excess storage of body fat, causing weight gain.

Tips to Actually Improve Metabolism

Here are ways to affect the metabolism and boost it in a sustainable, safe way.

Take Care of Gut Health 

The gut microbiome and metabolism are linked closely. In procedures where the microbiota of one family member is transplanted into another, the person who receives the transplant tends to match the donor’s metabolism. Metabolic reactions take place in the gut microbiome, meaning a healthy gut can influence metabolism for the better.

Build Muscle

One form of exercise that may indeed raise metabolic rate is resistance training or weight lifting exercises. This is because the body requires more energy to keep muscles intact, repair them, and fuel them during weight lifting.


Sleep also influences metabolism greatly. While you sleep, your metabolic rate drops by about 15%. This may be counterintuitive, but quality sleep in the long run actually improves your metabolism and body reactions. One study found that an increase from 6 hours to 8 hours reduced visceral fat by about 1 inch. This is the fat around the organs that causes health issues.

Up Protein Intake 

Protein is filling, vital for building muscle, and great for metabolism. If you’re looking to work your metabolism more, protein is what you need. It takes a lot of energy to digest protein and break it down, leading to an increase in chemical reactions after consuming it. Plus, it will help keep you fuller for longer.

The Takeaway

While some exercise can increase calories burned, your metabolism is made to turn food and drinks into energy. Increasing metabolism, therefore, cannot be summed up by increasing energy used in physical activity. In some cases, too much exercise can actually cause your metabolism to conserve more energy. Some things that do affect metabolism are sleep quality, protein intake, muscle development, and gut health, so try to look at those factors first. In any case, metabolism is also influenced by age, gender, weight, and genetics, so it is a complex process that is not just defined by exercise.

Remember that health starts from within, so eat nutritious food, exercise at least 3 times a week, and take care of your mental wellbeing. Remember to take care of gut health as well! The microbiota affects the entire body, like your metabolism, the muscles, the immune system, digestion, and more! Get all the resources you need about microbiota health for free here!

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