What’s Powering Your Metabolism?

Here’s what it takes to kick your body into fat-burning mode.

When your body makes and burns energy from food, your metabolism is at work. You also rely on your metabolism to think, breathe, digest food, circulate blood, stay warm in the winter, and stay cool in the summer. Any time you expel energy, you burn calories. That’s why it's a common belief that boosting your metabolism (the rate at which you burn energy) can help you torch more calories and improve your weight loss efforts.

Lots of things can deal a blow to your metabolism, including stress, poor eating habits, lack of exercise, sleep, or water, and even your home’s temperature. The pandemic certainly hasn’t helped, either. A recent OnePoll survey found that 3 out of 4 respondents had gained up to 16 pounds while in self-isolation. This creates a slippery slope—five pounds can easily lead to 10, then 20, snowballing out of control. This is an important issue because what we eat affects how we feel.

The pandemic has stolen routines, security, and a general sense of normalcy from many. The sudden closures of restaurants, bars, and places of employment have prompted significant changes to physical and dietary habits. Spending more time at home has led to overeating (often out of boredom) and stagnant lifestyles.

In turn, this has spurred feelings of isolation and loneliness, which creates a domino effect of stress and all its byproducts: poor sleep, frequent snacking, feelings of depression and anxiety, and finding temporary comfort in sweets, fatty foods, and sugary drinks.

The good news: your metabolism is something you may be able to influence. When your metabolism is supercharged, it helps burn off calories faster. This allows you to fight the effects of pandemic weight

gain, or a sluggish metabolism in general. One supplement that’s earning some attention when it comes to metabolism: Alpha-lipoic Acid, or ALA.

What is ALA?

At the center of weight loss supplements is alpha-lipoic acid, or ALA. This supplement boasts reported benefits ranging from helping with diabetes and HIV, to improving nerve function, to weight loss, and more.

Alpha-lipoic acid is a naturally occurring antioxidant your body produces that helps with energy production and immune function and may also reduce symptoms of peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage caused by diabetes). Many advocates for ALA supplements claim its benefits include weight loss enhancement and increased energy. A few studies have found that ALA may lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes, which allows the body to make better use of its own insulin.

Weight Loss Market at a Glance

The global weight loss supplement market as a whole is expected to grow by $1.33 billion (5% annually) between 2020 and 2024, according to data from Technavio. A big part of this push is demand-driven by the growing obese population.

Research from Global Market Insights shows that alpha-lipoic acid saw a major share of the global dietary supplements segment in 2016, and its growth has been strong ever since. The market share will continue to increase over the next few years, thanks to its widespread usage among consumers looking to maintain a healthy weight. In total, the global market size for ALA is expected to reach $141.4 million by 2026, according to a MarketWatch report, growing 5% year over year due to rising demand and awareness.

Although ALA can be found in red meat, yeast, broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, and potatoes (among other foods), supplements can pack as much as 1,000 times more ALA than food sources. Its biological activity, widespread availability, and superior antioxidant properties further support its place in a competitive supplement market.

Other Sales-Driving Weight Loss Supplements

Though ALA is becoming a superstar in the supplement world, other supporting players are also being scrutinized for their role in improving metabolism. These include:

Milk Thistle

This herbal supplement is a popular detox that’s been used for over 2,000 years as a natural treatment for liver disorders. Studies suggest it may also protect against cognitive decline, enhance breast milk production, treat acne, and improve cancer treatment.


In terms of weight loss, ginseng may put the pep in your step to stay active even when life around you seems dormant. You may be able to work out harder or longer or feel more motivated to exercise.

Green Tea Leaf

Multiple studies support green tea leaf’s effects on helping you burn more calories, even at rest. One study of 60 obese participants found that those who ingested a green tea leaf extract burned 183 more calories per day and lost more than 7 pounds over three months compared to those taking the placebo.

Metabolize Like Your Health Depends on It

Each year, more people are falling into higher BMIs, creating a perfect storm for obesity and related diseases to thrive. For many, it starts with weight gain due to overeating and a lack of physical activity. As your body gets used to a high-calorie diet, all those “snaccidents” turn into normal eating habits. Eventually, too much weight gain can lead to obesity, triggering a series of unwanted side effects and health conditions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Individuals that are obese are at an increased risk for serious health conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. And it may increase your risk of becoming severely ill from the coronavirus.”

Currently, over 73% of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. The obesity rate is up by half since 1999, according to the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, with nearly 10% of individuals being severely obese.

About 11% of the U.S. population (34 million people) has diabetes, more than 21% of which are undiagnosed. Furthermore, prediabetes is estimated to affect 35% of the U.S. population (88 million people) aged 18 years or older.

Working backward, it’s easy to see how weight plays a role in maintaining optimal health. A higher metabolism is an important piece of the puzzle—it can prevent your last meal from getting too comfy in your body. It helps you burn more calories faster no matter what you’re doing, even when you’re resting or doing small activities.

If metabolism is slow, exercise and the right nutrients may be able to kick it into high gear.

Charting a New Course in 2021

If last year’s supplement theme was immunity boosters, this is certainly the year for metabolism support. Many people are eager to return to normalcy, and changing negative eating and exercise habits developed during the pandemic are solid first steps.



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