Spreading your meals throughout the day might keep you from getting too hungry and overeating. If so, it is a good idea. Athletes perform better when they eat more often in smaller amounts. If you are someone who has a hard time stopping once you start eating, 3 meals a day may make it easier for you to stick to an appropriate intake than lots of little snacks.
But there are easy things you can do to stoke your fat-burning potential. "There's no reason you can't have the same metabolism in your 30s and 40s that you had in your 20s," stresses Pamela Peeke, M.D., author of Fight Fat After Forty. Here are some experts' tips on how to boost your metabolism — so you, too, can guiltlessly binge on Ben & Jerry's every now and then.
Not only is vinegar great on salad, it’s also shown to “switch on” genes that release proteins that break down fat. In a study of 175 overweight Japanese men and women published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, researchers found that participants who drank one or two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily for 12 weeks significantly lowered their body weight, BMI, visceral fat, and waist circumference.
Sprinkle a few hot peppers into your lunchtime soup or evening stir-fry. They temporarily boost your resting metabolic rate, according to research done at Laval University in Canada. Here's why: Capsaicin, a compound found in jalapeño and cayenne peppers, temporarily stimulates your body to release more stress hormones, such as adrenaline, speeding up your metabolism and thus increasing your ability to burn calories, says study coauthor Angelo Tremblay, director of the Institute of Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods at Laval. Bonus: The pepper-eaters had less of an appetite, Tremblay found, probably because the spiciness of the food made them feel full.
Some ingredients in energy drinks can give your metabolism a boost. They're full of caffeine, which increases the amount of energy your body uses. They sometimes have taurine, an amino acid. Taurine can speed up your metabolism and may help burn fat. But using these drinks can cause problems like high blood pressure, anxiety, and sleep issues for some people. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend them for kids and teens.
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,” says nutritionist Seth Santoro. “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—under the recommended seven to nine hours a night for most adults—also leads to impaired glucose tolerance, a.k.a. your body’s ability to utilize sugar for fuel. “We all have those less-than-adequate nights of sleep,” says nutritionist Lisa Jubilee. “But if it’s a regular thing, you’re better off lengthening your night’s sleep than working out, if fat loss or weight maintenance is your goal.”
Just dropping pounds probably won't help, though, since most weight loss is a combination of fat and muscle tissue. "Usually, when people lose weight, their metabolism actually goes down," says Kim Sasso, a nutritionist at Loyola University Health System. That makes sense; you don’t need as much food to maintain a lower bodyweight. But if your goal is simply to up your metabolism, Sasso says, "it's not until you start decreasing your percentage of body fat and replacing it with increased muscle mass, do you start to see a difference in your resting metabolic rate."
Source of protein at every meal: “Protein requires more energy – about 25 per cent more energy – to digest compared to fat and carbohydrates,” D’Ambrosio says. “This is why it is important to have one source of protein at every meal to help feel full until the next meal or snack.” However it’s important to note that our body still needs carbs as it’s the body’s main fuel source, she adds.
It’s no secret that experts recommend putting away blue-light devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops, at least an hour before bed to improve sleep quality. However, a recent pilot study from Northwestern University shows that exposure to blue-light at night can impact glucose metabolism. Although the exact correlation is still being studied, John La Puma, MD, suggests ceasing exposure to blue light two hours prior to hitting the sack. “It resets melatonin levels so that getting to sleep becomes harder, and too little sleep means weight gain for most people,” says Dr. La Puma.
Muscles are fat-burning furnaces, so be sure to do enough resistance training to build and maintain them (these fast workouts tone your whole body in 30 minutes), and follow your workout with a healthy meal or snack that contains protein, carbohydrates and fat. Building new muscle raises your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) so you'll burn more calories every day.
Your body may burn a few calories heating the cold water to your core temperature, says Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., founder and director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Weight Management Center. Though the extra calories you burn drinking a single glass doesn't amount to much, making it a habit can add up to pounds lost with essentially zero additional effort.
Eat six small meals a day to avoid blood-sugar spikes and minimize urges to binge. Try to schedule meals at the same time each day. If you feed yourself well throughout the day, you'll learn to understand when your body truly needs food. You can't starve yourself and expect to make good choices at the next meal. Need a few healthy lunch ideas? Check out these top food swaps from a nutritionist.