Your body needs water to process calories. If you are even mildly dehydrated, your metabolism may slow down. In one study, adults who drank eight or more glasses of water a day burned more calories than those who drank four. To stay hydrated, drink a glass of water or other unsweetened beverage before every meal and snack. Also, snack on fresh fruits and vegetables, which naturally contain water, rather than pretzels or chips.
So how many calories should you consume? Depending on your level of activity, you can safely lose anywhere from half a pound to two pounds a week if you multiply your current weight by 11, says Applegate. (For example, if you're 120 pounds, aim for around 1,320 calories a day.) Unless you're less than five feet tall, don't let your daily calories dip below 1,200. "Research shows that women who consume less than this amount see their resting metabolic rate plummet by as much as 45 percent," notes Dale Huff, R.D., a St. Louis nutritionist.
If you're cutting calories to lose weight, add 200-300 to your daily intake once in a while, says Amanda Bonfiglio Cunningham, a senior Yoga Medicine instructor. "The body will get used to a calorie deficit diet, adjusting by slowing the metabolic rate. By allowing yourself a day of indulgence (not overindulgence!), you're creating a healthy balance," she explains. "The extra calories raise leptin production, a hormone that regulates appetite and energy. This rise triggers thermogenesis, the body's natural tendency to create heat, which results in burning calories." Pass the dessert menu!
Want to have a faster metabolism? Install apps like f.lux or Twilight on your devices. They reduce certain parts of the light spectrum as your bedtime approaches. Studies have shown that LED lights in phones disturb the production of the sleep hormone melanin. A purring metabolism is greatly helped by a good night’s sleep. So take your late-night texting down a notch or two… At least in terms of screen brightness.
It's one of the most frustrating realities of dieting—if you cut out too many calories, your metabolism thinks times are lean and puts the breaks on fat-burning to conserve energy, Hunter explains. Here’s the trick to keeping your metabolism revved up while dieting: Eat enough calories to at least match your resting metabolic rate (what you'd burn if you stayed in bed all day; calculate yours here). That's about 1,330 calories for a 5-feet-4-inch, 150-pound, 40-year-old woman.
Iron deficiencies can slow down your metabolism. Do you 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 on your way to meeting your iron goals, but lean meat—with its high muscle-building protein content—will be doubly useful in revving up your metabolism.
Experts agree that including a weekly cheat meal into your healthy-eating plan can actually help you reach your weight loss goals. Having a strategy is key: “By planning your cheat meal, you know what you’ll be eating and can cut a few extra calories earlier in the day,” says Jim White, RD, ACSM Health Fitness Specialist and owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios. “This also allows you to really pick a favorite food instead of wasting calories on something you didn’t enjoy.” Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, Real Nutrition NYC, gives similar advice. “Pick your poison. If you’re going out, pick your splurge. Are you going to dig into carbs like a bread basket or pasta or dessert? Or are you planning on tossing back a few cocktails?” She urges cheaters to avoid consuming all three of those common categories in one sitting. “Focus only on one,” she says, adding that by saving the others for another time you can “enjoy without going overboard.”
"A seasonal detox is an effective way to clear toxins out of one's system to speed up metabolism and to enhance overall health," says Matt Dower, spa director of the award-winning Mirbeau Inn & Spa, which offers a do-it-yourself detox for those who seek to continue its health benefits at home after their visit. Just be careful to avoid extreme detox diets that can do more harm than good. Try these simple, safe ways to detox your body.
Most of your resting metabolism is taken up by your organs—brain, heart, liver, etc. But the biggest factor affecting your metabolism that you can control is your ratio of body fat to lean muscle mass. "Muscle burns more calories than fat tissue, because muscle requires more energy to maintain," says Harold Gibbons, New York State Director of the National Strength and Conditioning Association. "The more fat you have, the slower your metabolism will be."
Like many of you, these dieters were ignoring a key factor in managing weight: metabolism. Your metabolism, the amount of energy your body uses each day, can determine whether you will be successful in losing weight and keeping it off. Controlling your weight is easier if your metabolism is faster because you can eat more calories. So, is it possible to speed up your metabolism?
Don't think you have time to hit the gym circuit? You can get great results with only two 15-minute lifting sessions a week. Westcott's research, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise in January 1999, found that doing just one set of 10 reps reaps about the same muscle-building benefits as three sets, as long as they're performed to muscle fatigue. Bonus: Weight training also gives your metabolism a short-term boost. When women lift weights, their metabolisms remain in overdrive for up to two hours after the last bench press, allowing them to burn as many as 100 extra calories, according to a study published in June 2001 in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
Muscle burns more calories than fat. So will building more muscle not boost your metabolism? Yes, but only by a small amount. Most regular exercisers only gain a few pounds (kilograms) of muscle. That is not enough to make a big difference in the number of calories you burn. Plus, when not in active use, muscles burn very few calories. Most of the time, your brain, heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs account for most of your metabolism.
Body composition (the more muscle we have, the higher our metabolisms), protein intake, hormones, stimulant use (like caffeine, which speeds up metabolism temporarily), fasting (which lowers metabolism) and environmental temperatures (i.e. when it’s hot or cold out, our body burns more calories trying to keep itself at a constant temperature) are also considered to have an impact on metabolism, registered dietitian Tristica Curley of Fueling with Food adds.
Eat plenty of healthy fats. Healthy fats like avocados, nuts and seeds, along with wild, fatty fish are your mitochondria’s preferred fuel. My favorite “gasoline” for your mitochondria is medium-chain triglycerides or MCT oil, which is found in coconut oil. I provide an extensive plan to utilize these and other healthy fats in my new book Eat Fat, Get Thin.
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!