Long-term stress can make you fat, studies have found. "When you're chronically stressed, your body is flooded with stress hormones, which stimulate fat cells deep in the abdomen to increase in size and encourage fat storage," says Peeke. "I call this toxic weight, because fat deep within your belly is more likely to increase your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer." And stress hormones spark your appetite, making you likely to overeat.
Move more and faster. Research shows high intensity interval training (where you go all out for 30 to 60 seconds, slowing down for a couple of minutes, and repeating) coupled with strength training is an excellent way to make new, improved mitochondria. Strength training builds muscle and creates more mitochondria, while interval training improves mitochondrial function and how quickly they burn oxygen and calories. You can learn more about an effective exercise plan here.
Plus, strength workouts have an additional metabolism-boosting benefit. Because this type of anaerobic training involves breaking down and building back up of muscle tissue, the body needs to burn more calories in the 24 to 48 hours after each session—a phenomenon known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, EPOC, or, informally, "afterburn.” Researchers, however, are currently debating how intense that afterburn really is.
Whenever possible, slice each of your workouts into two smaller sessions. For example, do a 15-minute weight-lifting session in the morning, then do your 30-minute walk on your lunch hour or at night. You'll burn an extra 100 to 200 calories that day, explains Kelly Tracy, M.A., fitness coordinator at Duke University Diet and Fitness Center. Don't have time? Just add in some stair climbing or short walks throughout the day. Even small bursts of activity are enough to get your metabolism revved, according to a study in the scientific journal Nature. "I call it the mini stoke: For five minutes out of every hour, get up and do something, even if it's just walking around your office," says professor of medicine Peeke. "You can end up burning a couple of hundred extra calories.
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, a Nature study found that eating it as part of a reduced-calorie diet can help shrink your waistline. And you can incorporate it into dishes throughout the day.
Some things, though, aren’t that simple. For instance, someone with a higher metabolism burns more calories at rest than someone with a lower metabolism, and can therefore get away with eating more food—even junk food. But a high metabolism isn’t a privilege reserved for a select few lucky enough to be born with it. You can raise yours and reap the benefits, too.
“Any excess protein will be stored in your body as fat, sadly, not as muscle,” Kimberly says. So it’s smart to get your fill. But that doesn’t mean you have to fill up on meat. Remember, plenty of plants and legumes are loaded with protein, too, such as beans, broccoli, and asparagus. “A good plant-based diet will also provide your body with the necessary fiber to keep the system running smoothly,” Kimberly says. Isabel Smith, M.S. R.D., celebrity dietitian, and fitness expert, suggests also starting your day with protein to help balance your hormones and blood sugar level from the get-go.
Strength training is another great way to make sure your metabolism is at its peak. Through strength training, you can tone your muscles and boost your metabolism. The great thing about muscles, other than looking lean, is that they burn more calories than fat. No need to bust out the big weights for strength training — try some basics, like push-ups, sit-ups, resistance bands, or yoga.
Going organic can be costly and leave a dent on your wallet, but it can speed up your metabolism. The antibiotics and growth hormones found in conventionally farmed foods could hamper your immune system and slow down metabolism. The amount of pesticides in non-organic foods can cause a above normal dip in metabolism in dieters who begin to lose weight, says Prevention.com.