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How to Eat to Increase Your Metabolism


Learning to eat to increase your metabolism can be a long and complicated journey. At least, that’s what I used to think. It turns out the solution might be a lot more simple than I previously thought.

I’ll admit, I’ve tried a lot of the typical “tricks” to increase my metabolism. You’ve probably heard of them. Eat more protein. Drink tons of water. Fidget a lot. Hit the treadmill. Take hot baths. Eat a lot of cayenne pepper.

Some of these are founded in logic. Others are dead wrong. And some are just plain silly. And frankly, nothing seemed to make an immediate and noteworthy impact for me.

What was missing from my approach was a simple method of monitoring biofeedback and tweaking my diet accordingly. Incredibly simple. Surprisingly effective.

In my last post about how I got rid of my cold hands and feet, I brought up a few basic ideas about increasing your metabolic rate (which conveniently solves cold hands and feet, as well as quite a few other annoying issues associated with a low metabolism). But a few of my readers asked me for more specifics from Eat for Heat. So here I am to dish out some of the more juicy details…

How to Eat to Increase Your Metabolism

The basic idea in Eat for Heat can be summed up in this excellent quote from the book:

“When you are cold, especially in the hands and feet, your urine is clear, the urge to urinate is strong, or you are peeing frequently… YOU NEED TO EAT MORE AND DRINK LESS.

When you are hot, especially in the hands and feet, your urine is dark or you haven’t peed in a really long time… YOU NEED TO EAT LESS AND DRINK MORE.”

So how did I solve my cold hands and feet in one day?

I cut back on my liquids (I was drinking a lot when I wasn’t thirsty), and I chose foods that were dense in calories, salt and carbohydrates. 

For me, this meant some snacks of cheese with honey or dried fruit or a few bites of my coconut oil fudge. I didn’t have to overeat or even significantly change my normal eating habits (for instance, I ate a typical dinner that evening the same as I normally would). However, even with these minor changes, I noticed immediate signs of increasing my metabolism (i.e. toasty hands and feet!).

Although some specific eating strategies are mentioned in the book, Eat for Heat also advocates being flexible and individualizing the strategies according to your biofeedback. Personally, I just took the general idea and adapted it to what I typically eat and what is already in my kitchen. The fact that I could do this and still get phenomenal results is just plain awesome.

Are You Drinking Too Much to Increase Your Metabolism?

If you’re taking in too much fluid, you’ll notice having to urinate with increased frequency (sometimes even every 20-30 minutes) and your urine will be super clear like water. Some health gurus claim this is a good thing, but I don’t buy it. In fact, it could be a sign that you’re losing excess salt and other electrolytes through your urine. This can really stress the body–not a good thing if you want to maintain metabolic balance.

After reading Eat for Heat, I realized that I often experience frequent trips to the bathroom at the same time of day my hands and feet start getting really cold! A very intriguing connection. 

So how much fluid is enough?

As you might guess, it’s all up to the individual. Your need for fluid is based on a lot of variable factors, like your current metabolic rate, the climate you live in, how active you are, etc. This is where all that biofeedback stuff comes in.

I’ve found it very helpful to pay attention to two things: 1) my level of thirst and 2) how warm I feel.

Interestingly, I feel more thirsty when I feel warm and my hands or feet are feeling toasty. The two definitely go hand in hand!

And instead of drowning my thirst in tons of clear water, I try a more subtle approach and drink just a few ounces of liquid at a time. Sometimes I choose plain water, but more often I go with diluted juice with a dash of salt to balance it out. In either case, I have about four fluid ounces at a time and simply drink more as needed. This gives my body time to take it in and give me that valuable biofeedback.

Warming and Cooling Foods: Achieving Metabolic Balance

An important concept in Eat for Heat is that certain foods tend to warm up (increase) the metabolism and others tend to cool it down.

Warming foods are generally calorie-dense foods. They will normally contain more salt, sugar, carbohydrates and saturated fat (the good stuff of course!). Some examples would be cheese, real butter or cream, coconut products (like biofeedback again.

Here is an example:

If you tend to feel sluggish and cold in the mid-afternoon, then this is a good time to try out more warming foods and dial it down on the more cooling foods (probably not a good time to have a bottle of water, for instance).

Or perhaps if you’re too warm in the evenings, that’s a good time for light soups and beverages (like juice or kombucha), with some fruits and veggies as well.

For me, understanding the difference between warming and cooling foods has allowed me much greater control over my metabolic state throughout the day. By listening to my biofeedback, I am able to choose foods that keep me feeling balanced.

If you like this post, you can learn more by reading Matt Stone’s eBook Eat for Heat.

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32 Responses to How to Eat to Increase Your Metabolism

  1. Cath says:

    Fruits are actually ‘warming’ foods as they will increase your metabolism!

    • Fruit can certainly be a healthy part of eating well, plus its high mineral content and natural sugar content support a healthy body. However, because it is not calorie-dense and has a very low sodium content, it should be considered a cooling food. If it’s not balanced with other foods, it’s not likely to increase the metabolism and improve thyroid function. However, when part of a balanced approach, fruit is definitely a beneficial food!

      • I wanted to add that *dried* fruit would be considering “warming” because it’s far more calorie-dense and has a higher calorie to fluid ratio. So how the food is prepared can have an impact, too.

  2. k says:

    thank you for sharing!

  3. Cory-lynn says:

    Thanks for this summary. I wish I would have just read this rather than buy “Eat for Heat”. It was very confusing, and I didn’t want to throw away a nourishing foods for eating Pizza, IceCream etc. I’m glad it can be adapted to your own way of eating. Its still a bit confusing, and Matt’s book is quite “unscientific”, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the right idea. I just think your summary beat his book and made things much more clear :-)

    • So glad I could help! Sometimes it certainly helps to see something written in a different way. That’s why I wanted to share how I used what I learned in Eat for Heat, because while reading it, I really felt it could be quite flexible and adapted to a variety of eating strategies.

      And for the record, I do eat pizza and ice cream at times, sometimes a little and sometimes more than a little! :) But I also make sure to eat other foods I know nourish my body and promote healthy hormonal balance for me. I don’t think a healthy diet has to exclude those foods in totality.

  4. Caramel says:

    I used to feel sleepy,sluggish and cold in the afternoon and found it was bread with the gluten which was the cause.

  5. This is very intriguing. Traditional Chinese Medicine considers warming and cooling foods, I think maybe Ayurveda does as well. Odd, isn’t it, that the Western medical tradition has none of this. I know that many distance runners get themselves into trouble with excessive hydration, and the result, hyponatremia, can be fatal. I’ve been listening to some paleo podcasts recently that mentioned how important it is to get enough salt. When people cut carbohydrates by cutting out packaged, processed foods, they are cutting out a lot of sodium at the same time. If they don’t get in the habit of adding mineral-rich sea salt, they can really shortchange themselves and feel really sluggish. Some have hypothesized that this is the root of the “low carb flu” that some people go through initially. I find a hot cup of bone broth with sea salt to be very warming, and it solves the sodium issue nicely.

    • I do believe salt is an important piece in the puzzle. It’s funny that the modern advice tends to be to exercise excessively, drink tons of water, and avoid salt like the plague. It’s a recipe for disaster in so many ways.

      I’d bet the sodium in good broth–combined with the high quality minerals and protein present in broth–makes it one of the most healing foods on the planet!

      • Mama Murrey says:

        I’ve learned that drinking sea salt water keeps my hands and feet from swelling. I’ve read it’s also good for adrenal fatigue. That book said you can gauge how much salt you need by how it tastes. If the salt water tastes really salty, you don’t need as much, and vice versa. I often put a teaspoon of sea salt into a 12 oz. glass of water and it tastes wonderful! Sometimes it’s barely salty at all, other times the same amount tastes unbearably salty.

        • I agree, salting to taste is probably one of the best ways to get the right amount of sodium. It’s amazing how your taste for salt can differ from day to day. The body really knows what it wants!

  6. Dina-Marie @ Cultured Palate says:

    I have heard of this book but not yet purchased it – thanks for the great summary!

  7. Katy Pritzl says:

    I just downloaded this book two days ago, and read it the whole thing immediately. I was finishing it up, and noticed that I had my usual frozen hands and feet. Every night I am so cold! I also noticed that my urine has been clear for some time. I thought it was a sign of age and getting tired. I grabbed a few crackers and had a couple spoon fulls of ice cream. Within 20 minutes, I was warm! Yesterday I re worked how I plan my meals, added a little salt, and drank less water. I too was a person drinking half my body weight in water. Last night, it was below zero here, and I was warm. Couldn’t believe it! Thanks for the information!

  8. I am a type 1 diabetic, and all of your ‘warm foods’ raise the blood sugar, which produces insulin, which also increases circulation by giving the heart and body lots of energy-hence the warmth. The opposite is true for your ‘cooling foods’, they all will definitely help keep blood sugar low (which if you are like me can be tricky at times-I am ‘brittle’ and can crash easily). I like that you point out to look at your urine-if you look like you’re doing nothing but passing water, your sugar level is probably too high from either something you ate earlier, or not having enough natural insulin production and you should see your doctor. Frequent urination is a very common sign of diabetes, as is thirst, and you should be checked. When my glucose level is too high, I go to the bathroom as often as every fifteen minutes and am terribly thirsty-until I get that insulin! The afterwards, my electrolytes are all out of whack! I’ve had my potassium and salt levels go so low I had to have direct IV of potassium-frankly I’d rather go through childbirth before I’d do that again! That was the most painful thing ever, and they had me on morphine and Staydol! Watch your urine, and take note of your thirst! Thank you for a wonderful column!

    • Great insights, Beth. I was surprised how helpful it has been to keep an eye on urine and thirst levels. It was something I’d hardly considered before, but it turns out to be very valuable biofeedback indeed!

  9. Brittany Ardito says:

    I notice my hands and feet are cold in the evening after dinner when I sit down on the couch to watch tv (without socks of course). But I have been drinking less water and I usually eat warming foods like potato chips (made with avocado oil), popcorn, chocolate and dried fruit, cheese etc. But this hasn’t seemed to get rid of my cold hands and feet :-( I will keep experimenting and see what works for me…

    • Let me know how it goes. For me, eating something salty (or even taking 1/4 tsp salt with some water or juice) is really helpful. But there are definitely other metabolic factors involved besides what we eat, so it’s good to experiment and look into other areas (like reducing stress or getting more sleep) as well.

  10. Karla says:

    My hands and feet are NEVER cold. I’m always sweaty. I have to pee all the time and it’s clear. I live in San Antonio, TX and I’m pre-menopausal. I think that has something to do with it. :-/

    • There are definitely other factors to consider. I’ve heard that a warm climate can mitigate some of the effects of low metabolic function, so that’s something to think about.

  11. Jennifer Ugarte says:

    Thanks for porting this! I’ve actually read through most of this book. I suffer of cold feet and hands, so it’s been fascinating to notice the warming and cooling effect of foods. I notice that when i drink too much water or just eat too many veggies, i’ll feel cold, but when i eat my starch, i start getting toasty. As therapy, do you recommend i eat more starchy vegetables during the day, rather than just post-wod? Per Matt Stone, i should be pounding the junk food right now, but yeah, i won’t!


    • I definitely recommend listening to your body. If you feel better eating more starchy foods throughout the day, then go for it! There’s no reason to restrict them to only after a workout.

  12. zosia says:

    Does “Eat for Heat” provide ANY advice on what foods to eat?
    (Does he talk about white rice in his book?)

    • Yes, Matt does talk about specific foods that can help bring your body into balance. He dedicates a chapter to explaining what a pro-metabolic eating schedule might look like, with examples of what foods might be optimal in different situations. He does talk a little about rice as well.

  13. Nancy says:

    I discovered Matt Stone a few months back and within a few weeks of implementing the info in Eat for Heat AND in Diet Recovery 2, my health is more improved than my many, many years of orthorexic eating which ultimately harmed rather than helped my health. No more constipation. Not as many wakeful wee hours with my mind racing. Much warmer all over. Etc. Also, b/c I have been so totally orthorexic, I needed to do some of the junk eating to heal from some emotional issues I had about food, too. I think his most shocking, non-politically correct info is that clear urine is a bad thing. Thanks for writing this post so I can share it with friends!

    • Glad you liked the post, Nancy! The clear urine thing is definitely the opposite of what I’ve been told, as well. But once I started paying attention to other biofeedback, I realized my negative symptoms often coincided with clear urine.

  14. Linda says:

    Different genetic types need different foods for optimal health. When I did an elimination diet and kept a food diary I found that grains in general make me tired, cold, and ravenous. Eating starches (grains or otherwise) with fats make me absolutely sluggish.

  15. Anne Maguire says:

    Unfortunately the idea from the Eat for Heat book are appropriated (and both badly understood and explained versions)of the energetic theory of food outlined by the 3000 year old traditions of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda.

    So it was a real surprise to read “Eat for Heat is best described as a complementary concept that has yet to be discussed anywhere in the world of health, diet, and nutrition” as it states on the authors intro to his book.

    The bible of holistic dietary principles related to the energetics of food is Healing with Whole Food by Patrick Pitchfod. If you get a chance check it out. It’s one of the best out there and an incredible resource !

    • Thanks for your input! I agree that some of Eat for Heat is similar to what I’ve heard of Chinese medicine, but I really enjoyed hearing the biological explanation for *why* certain foods are warming and cooling, because I’d never heard it explained that way before.

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