Metabolism is the set of life-sustaining chemical transformations within the cells of living organisms. It’s such a big concept that it’s understandable to feel as if it’s beyond your control. Not true! There are a bunch of quick and easy diet and lifestyle changes you can make to boost your metabolism, make your body run more efficiently, and reach your weight-loss and fitness goals faster. Here are some tips:
If you want to weigh less, you’ve got to eat less, right? Well, if you take in too few calories, it can cause your body to lose muscle mass, which will decrease the rate of your metabolism. Plus, when you skimp on calories, your body slows the rate at which is burns calories to conserve the fuel it’s got. Under-fueling is just as risky as over-fueling. In an attempt for quick, noticeable weight loss, many people wrongfully believe that eating as few calories as possible is the best solution. Not only can this lead to numerous nutritional deficiencies as the body is getting less food overall, it can actually have the opposite effect on weight loss.
Drink Green Tea
If you always opt for coffee over tea, you could be missing out on a major metabolism boost. In a recent 12-week study, participants who drank 4-5 cups of green tea daily, then did a 25-minute workout, lost an average of two more pounds and more belly fat than the non tea-drinking exercisers. What’s its magic? The brew contains catechins, a type of antioxidant that triggers the release of fat from fat cells and helps speed the liver’s capacity for turning fat into energy.
Kick Things Up A Notch
When it comes to the best workouts for weight loss, neither weights nor cardio can completely move the needle on their own. Interval training is the best way to shed pounds, increase your metabolism, improve your cholesterol profile, and improve insulin sensitivity. At the gym, sign up for a HIIT class, or turn your favorite aerobic exercise, (running, biking, even walking) into an interval workout by adding periods of intense speed (start with 30 to 60 seconds) followed by periods of rest (normal speed) for the same amount of time. Do this six to 10 times to complete a fat-slashing workout. As you get better, slowly increase the amount of time of increased intensity.
Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Our bodies need dietary fat, particularly healthy oils, in order to lose weight and function properly. The right kinds of fats and oils help quash hunger, maximize your metabolism, and speed nutrients through your body. Healthy monounsaturated fats like olive oil can actually help the body to burn calories. Extra virgin olive oil may also increase blood levels of serotonin, a hormone associated with satiety. Plus, olive oil is also loaded with polyphenols, antioxidants that help battle many diseases such as cancer, osteoporosis and brain deterioration.
Put On Some Muscle
Even when you’re at rest, your body is constantly burning calories. In fact, 75% of the calories that you burn each day are being used up just keeping you alive. “Resting metabolic rate” is much higher in people with more muscle, because every pound of muscle uses about 6 calories a day just to sustain itself. If you can pack on just five pounds of muscle and sustain it, you’ll burn the caloric equivalent of three pounds of fat over the course of a year.
Have Egg Yolk
Although it’s true that egg whites are low in calories, fat free and contain most of the protein found in an egg, eating the entire egg is beneficial to your metabolism. The yolk contains many metabolism-stoking nutrients, including fat-soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids and, most significantly, choline, a powerful compound that attacks the gene mechanism that triggers your body to store fat around your liver. Worried about cholesterol? New studies have found that moderate consumption of two whole eggs per day has no negative effect of a person’s lipid (fat) profile and may actually improve it.
Eat Carbs At Night
The theory makes sense: Your body burns carbs for energy, but if you eat them before you go to sleep, your body just stores them as fat. But the pastanomics of weight loss aren’t so simple. One study in the European Journal of Nutrition put two groups of men on identical weight loss diets. The only difference? Half of the group ate their carbs throughout the day while the second group reserved carbohydrates for nighttime. The result? The nighttime carb group showed a significantly higher diet-induced thermogenesis (meaning they burned more calories digesting their food the next day). Moreover, the daytime-carb group showed increased blood sugar levels. Another study in the journal Obesity saw similar results. Nighttime carb eaters lost 27 percent more body fat, and felt 13.7 percent fuller, than those on the standard diet.
Eat Enough Protein Daily
The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, no matter what you’re doing. Hitting the gym helps you build muscle to begin with, but eating protein keeps it from breaking down and slowing your metabolic rate as a result. Protein needs differ by individual, but typically consuming 0.8 to one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day should be sufficient enough to fuel weight loss. For a 130-pound (58 kilogram) person, that would equal between 46 and 58 grams of protein. Research has found that because protein is more difficult for the body to break down and digest than other nutrients, it can increase post-meal calorie burn by as much as 35 percent. Aim to incorporate some protein into every meal and snack throughout the day.
Choose Whole Grains
It takes the body extra effort to break down whole grains than more refined and processed grains, like the flour ordinarily used to make bread and pasta. You can help keep your metabolic rate elevated by consuming foods that the body has to work harder to digest. Your go-tos are whole foods that are also rich in fiber. We’re talking brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, sprouted grain breads etc.
Stand At Work 3 Hours A Day
Ideally, we sleep about eight hours for every 24. Most people spend another seven to ten hours sitting at their desk. That means most of us spend the overwhelming majority of our time sedentary. Our bodies weren’t designed for this level of inactivity, most of humans’ evolutionary history involved being active, searching for food and fuel. One way to burn more calories daily is to stand more and sit less. A British study has found that standing at work burns 50 more calories per hour than sitting. If that doesn’t sound like a lot, consider this: If you stand for just three hours of your day, in one year you’d expend more than 30,000 extra calories, which amounts to about 8 lbs of fat!
Recent studies have shown that garlic supports blood-sugar metabolism and helps control lipid (fat) levels in the blood. Adding garlic to foods that are rich in fats and carbohydrates may keep those substances from doing the damage they’re known to do. What’s more, eating garlic can help boost your immune system, help ward off heart disease, fight inflammation and lower blood pressure, to name a few.
Skip The Diet Soda
Yeah, yeah, it has zero calories, but drinking diet soda may yet play havoc with your goal of having a flat belly. Research published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism shows that artificially sweetened beverages may screw up the body’s normal metabolic response to sugar, actually increasing appetite! Increasingly, diet drinks are being linked with weight gain, metabolic syndrome and a host of other ills. Best to give them a wide berth. But if you really crave something sweet…
Nibble On Chocolate
In a study by Swiss and German researchers, lucky participants ate about 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate daily for two weeks. Ultimately, these chocolate nibblers had lower stress-hormone levels and a more regulated metabolism than a control group. Scientists speculate that chemicals in cocoa, such as flavonoids, play a role in regulating metabolism by alleviating stress that can cause your fat-burning engines to go on the fritz. Should you think this is a license to go wild, take heed: We’re talking small amounts of high-quality dark chocolate. Researchers say 1.5 ounces is enough.
Drink Oolong Tea
This antioxidant-rich traditional Chinese tea not only helps keep cholesterol levels in check and aids digestion, it can also help rev up your metabolism. Like green tea, oolong is packed with catechins, which boost weight loss efforts by improving the body’s ability to metabolize fat. A study in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine found that participants who regularly sipped oolong tea lost six pounds over the course of the six-week time period. That’s a pound a week!
A 2003 study demonstrated that a low calorie diet that is rich in almonds could help increase weight loss. Not only do the good monounsaturated fats in almonds have an effect on insulin levels, say scientists, but also give dieters a full feeling, meaning that they are less likely to overeat. So stock your pantry with almonds, walnuts and other nuts for weight loss.
Eat Whole Foods
The smoothie revolution is here, and lots of people are swilling down bushels of leafy greens. Believe it or not, there’s a downside to this ingenious delivery method. A big part of the body’s job, breaking down food so that the body can absorb nutrients, has been outsourced to our Nutribullets and Vitamixes. That means that the body is expending much less energy than it would if we were eating kale, spinach and bananas in their solid form. Smoothies are great for weight loss, but by prioritizing lean meats, fish, fibrous vegetables and fruit, you are driving up TEF (Thermic Effect of Food) and expending more calories on digestion.
There are plenty of fish in the sea, but salmon may be the best one for your metabolism. That’s because most cases of underactive thyroid are due to inflammation of the gland, and salmon boasts significant anti-inflammatory properties thanks to its rich omega-3 fatty acid content. In fact, one study that looked at the effects of weight loss and seafood consumption showed salmon to be the most effective at reducing inflammation, better than cod, fish oil and a no-fish diet. The fishy fatty acids may also signal thyroid cells in the liver to burn more fat.
An Apple A Day
Eating an apple each day can help prevent metabolic syndrome, a disorder associated with abdominal fat, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. They’ll keep the doctor away and your muffin tops at bay because apples are a low-calorie, nutrient dense source of fiber, which studies have proven to be integral to reducing visceral fat. For every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber eaten per day, visceral fat can be reduced by 3.7 percent over five years!
Start Your Day With Lean Protein
Contrary to popular belief, researchers now say breakfast doesn’t kickstart the metabolism and may not be the most important meal of the day. A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition had more than 300 overweight participants consume diets that included either eating or skipping breakfast. At the end of 16 weeks, dieters who ate breakfast lost no more weight than the breakfast skippers. And a second study in the same journal found eating breakfast had zero impact on resting metabolism. Breakfast is an ideal place to squeeze protein, fiber and other nutrients into your day, but if the choice is a doughnut or nothing, opt for the nothing. Start your day with lean protein, which burns twice as many calories during digestion as fat or carbs. But don’t stress about squeezing it in before 9 am.
While drinking in moderation every so often won’t do too much harm to your waistline, making it a habit can slow down your metabolic rate. Why? When your body has a cocktail to break down, it takes precedence over any food that you’ve already eaten that’s waiting to be digested. This slows down the entire metabolic process. In fact, some researchers claim boozing can decrease the body’s fat-burning ability by up to 73 percent! On the occasions that you decided to indulge, stick to low-calorie drinks. Alternate your alcohol with water to slow your pace, and cut yourself off after two drinks. Avoid ordering high-cal bar food like fries and burgers. An important note: Wine in moderation can have numerous benefits, including weight loss!
Snack On Yogurt
Probiotics in products like yogurt and fermented foods like pickles and sauerkraut help good bacteria in the gut process food more efficiently. Not only is yogurt a great source of protein and calcium, studies have shown that eating it as part of a reduced-calorie diet can increase metabolism. And you can incorporate it into dishes throughout the day.
It’s like butter that grows on trees. But instead of cholesterol, trans and saturated fats in butter, avocado contains metabolism-enhancing monounsaturated fat. But that’s not all. Each one is also packed with fiber and free-radical-killing antioxidants. Free radicals are destructive rogue oxygen molecules, natural byproducts of metabolism, that trigger various chain reactions in the body that destroy cells and DNA, causing all kinds of health problems.
Antioxidants in fresh fruits and vegetables can help neutralize some free radicals, but they can’t reach the mitochondria, base camp for the free radical army. And that’s a problem; when your mitochondria aren’t working properly, your metabolism runs less efficiently. Enter: Avocado. New research conducted in Mexico found that monounsaturated-rich oil pressed from the fruit can help mitochondria survive attack. Researchers say the results jive with low-disease rates in Mediterranean countries where olive oil, nutritionally similar to the avocado, is a diet staple.
You might want to think twice before ditching dairy if you’re trying to lose weight, despite what your Paleo-preaching CrossFit friends tell you. Cheese is a satisfying, portable and inexpensive food that’s packed with calcium, vitamin D and protein. Calcium can also promote weight loss because it helps maintain muscle mass, which boosts and helps maintain metabolism, helping you burn calories more efficiently throughout the day. That doesn’t mean you can help yourself to a cheese-drenched casserole, though. Work cheese into fiber-rich snacks to make them more satiating.
Calcium and vitamin C team up well to boost metabolism. Broccoli contains both nutrients, not to mention the kind of fiber that’s been shown to increase TEF (the Thermic Effect of Food, or your metabolic rate after eating). What’s more: Broccoli contains a compound that works on a genetic level to effectively “switch off” cancer genes, leading to the targeted death of cancer cells and slowing of disease progression. One study found men who ate three or more half-cup servings of broccoli per week had a 41 percent decreased risk for prostate cancer compared to men who ate fewer than one serving per week!
It’s no joke: genuine laughter may cause a 10-20 percent increase in basal energy expenditure and resting heart-rate, according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity. That means a 10-15 minute giggle fest could burn up 40 to 170 calories. Let us hear you lol!
Drink More Water
Weight loss doesn’t get easier than this: Simply drinking more water may increase the rate at which healthy people burn calories, according to a study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. After drinking approximately 17 ounces of water (about 2 tall glasses), participants’ metabolic rates increased by 30 percent. The researchers estimate that increasing water intake by 1.5 liters a day (about 6 cups) would burn an extra 17,400 calories over the course of the year, a weight loss of approximately five pounds!
In addition to green tea, coffee is one of the best drinks for weight loss because it boosts your metabolism. The average metabolic rate of people who drank caffeinated coffee was 16 percent higher than that of those who drank decaf, according to a study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior. A cup of black coffee is a good choice for a pre-workout beverage, too: Researchers found that cyclists who took a caffeine supplement were able to ride about a mile farther than those who took a placebo. Make yours a venti and skip the sweeteners.
Eat Lean Meat
Deficiencies in the mineral iron can slow metabolism. Know what’s got plenty of it? Lean meat. Eating three to four daily servings of iron-rich foods will help keep your inner furnace burning. Fortified cereals, dried fruit and dark leafy greens will get you some of the way to meeting your iron goals, but lean meat, with its muscle-building protein content, will be doubly useful in revving up your metabolism.
Give Up Sugary Drinks
Caffeine may provide a bit of a boost to the metabolism, especially when ingested before exercise, but no amount of metabolic boost can burn off the empty calories that energy drinks supply. According to one study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a typical energy drink serves up a quarter cup of sugar, calories that hit your body all at once and trigger fat storage. If you want to burn calories, try the brand-new miracle beverage known as…tap water. According to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, after drinking two tall glasses of water (17 ounces), participants’ metabolic rates increased by 30 percent.
Stress can actually cause the body to metabolize food more slowly. To make matters worse, the food we crave when we’re stressed out tends to be fatty and full of sugar. Researchers say that the combination of high-cal cravings and a stress-induced, snail-paced metabolic rate can result in significant weight gain. To keep your metabolism running strong, fight stress with laughter. Research shows that smiling and laughing causes levels of stress hormones to diminish.
Drink Water When You Wake Up
One of the best and cheapest ways to give your metabolism a jolt is to drink water shortly after waking. Why? During sleep, your body’s metabolic function slowed, and unless you woke up in the middle of the night to swig some water, it didn’t receive any fluids. Try completely rehydrating before stressing your body with any other food or drink.
Go To Bed Earlier
Stephen Colbert’s doing great, but now it’s time to DVR him and start getting to bed earlier. A study in Finland looked at sets of identical twins and discovered that in each set of siblings, the twin who slept less had more visceral fat. If you do nothing else differently, just getting an extra half hour of shuteye will make all the difference. If you’re chronically sleep deprived, don’t be surprised if you gain a few pounds without eating a morsel of extra food.
A lack of sleep can cause several metabolic problems, it can cause you to burn fewer calories, lack appetite control and experience an increase in cortisol levels, which stores fat. Lack of sufficient sleep, which experts say is 7 to 9 hours a night for most people, also leads to impaired glucose tolerance, a.k.a. your body’s ability to utilize sugar for fuel.