Ever wonder why your best friend can go through a pint of Ben & Jerry's without gaining a pound while just one spoonful goes straight to your hips? The answer lies in your metabolism, that little engine in your body that burns calories all day, every day. Because of genetics, some women burn fat faster than others. But age, weight, diet, and exercise habits also play a role.
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.
Bodybuilders have known for years that strategically placed ‘cheat meals’ can help prevent the metabolic slowdown mentioned above. One meal every five to seven days that contains as many carbs and calories as desired can work. Just make sure not to make a habit out of cheat meals. In fact, you could also just as easily eat clean each day and meet your calorie needs, rather than consistently depriving yourself, then occasionally indulging.  
Think of every bean as a little weight-loss pill. One study found that people who ate a ¾ cup of beans daily weighed 6.6 pounds less than those who didn’t—despite bean eaters consuming, on average, 199 calories more per day. The magic is in the perfect combination of protein and fiber: Studies show that those who eat the most fiber gain the least weight over time and that eating fiber can rev your fat burn by as much as 30 percent. Aim for about 25 grams of fiber a day—the amount present in about three servings each of fruits and vegetables.

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."
The more often you eat, the faster your metabolism will be. However, eating more often does not mean you can consume heavy foods with high calorie intakes in greater frequency. Instead, your calorie intake is divided into three meals a day with two healthy snacks in between your meals. Dr. Oz recommends dieters to eat within an hour of waking up to inhibit the body from going into starvation mode. To keep your metabolism up and running, he suggests to adhere to the schedule below:
Capsaicin, present in spicy foods like chili and red pepper flakes, might boost metabolism by up to 8 percent. As always, don’t use this as an excuse to eat unhealthier foods like greasy takeout. “Sprinkle on red pepper flakes on eggs in the morning,” advises Gans. “You could even make fish, chicken, or lean beef a little spicier for dinner.” Look out for these common foods that are messing with your metabolism.

Sleep, sleep, sleep: Getting poor sleep impacts our hunger hormones, D’Ambrosio says. Studies have also found that less sleep was associated with a higher BMI. “Less sleep increases our ghrelin – our hunger hormone – and decreases our leptin – which helps us feel full,” she explains. “If you are looking to burn calories more efficiently and moderate your consumption, be sure to get enough sleep.”


Have a few cups of java for a metabolism boost, but if you’re never seen without a mug at your lips, that could work against you, says nutritionist Amy Shapiro. Caffeine is a natural appetite suppressant. If you’re constantly consuming it, you may not eat much—or realize how hungry you really are—until you get home for dinner. “Not eating enough throughout the day can make your metabolism sluggish,” she says. “By the time you eat dinner, instead of immediately using that food for energy, your body is aggressively storing it as fat, just in case it will be deprived again.”
Crash diets -- those involving eating fewer than 1,200 (if you're a woman) or 1,800 (if you're a man) calories a day -- are bad for anyone hoping to quicken their metabolism. Although these diets may help you drop pounds, that comes at the expense of good nutrition. Plus, it backfires, since you can lose muscle, which in turn slows your metabolism. The final result is your body burns fewer calories and gains weight faster than before the diet.
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.
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Metabolism is known scientifically as all of the chemical reactions that occur within the body, but the term sometimes is used to refer to the essential process of converting ingested food into energy. Metabolism is the process behind responsible all your movements, your thought process, and how you grow. The constant process is inextricably linked with life; once metabolism stops, so will the living organism, says Discovery Health. A two-part process, metabolism is influenced by the way you eat. Anabolism, one part of metabolism, is the process in which energy is created and stored; smaller molecules come together to create bigger molecules, eventually building up to organs and tissues. Catabolism, the second process of metabolism, provides the energy required for cellular activity by breaking down carbohydrates and fats to release the energy, says Kidshealth.org.
This tea is known for its powerful thermogenic effects—meaning it turns up your body’s calorie-burning mechanism—and can also promote weight loss by improving insulin sensitivity. In a Nutrition and Metabolism study, participants were divided into two groups where one group took a placebo 60 minutes prior to exercise and the other group ingested a 1,000-milligram capsule of yerba maté. Researchers found that those who consumed the herb increased the beneficial effects their workout had on their metabolism. Yerba maté is just one of the best teas for weight loss!
We all know sitting around too much is really bad for our health: One meta-analysis reported that prolonged sedentary time was associated with harmful health outcomes, and many other studies have shown it can (obviously!) lead to weight gain. Limiting your time in front of the TV at night and even trying to stand more while you're at work — perhaps with a standing desk — can increase your metabolism, helping you lose weight with minimal effort.
If there’s one supplement most Americans should be taking, it’s vitamin D. It’s essential for preserving metabolism-revving muscle tissue, but researchers estimate that a measly 20 percent of Americans take in enough via their diet. While you can nail 90 percent of your recommended daily value (400 IU) in a 3.5-ounce serving of salmon, popping a daily supplement is pretty convenient. Other good dietary sources: tuna, fortified milk and cereal, and eggs.
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.
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.
Before you throw a French press at someone's head, read on. You don't have to eliminate coffee — but throw a few cups of green tea into the rotation and you may find that your pants fit a little looser. "Research shows that the caffeine and catechin in green tea has the ability to increase your metabolic function by 4-5 percent and improve fat oxidation by 10-16 percent," explains Bonfiglio Cunningham. Green tea comes with an extra perk, too — its antioxidant properties. "The antioxidants found in many teas fight free radicals in the body, improving the aging process and lowering the risk of disease."
It’s well reported that fiery capsaicin (think: hot sauce, cayenne, chili) can rev up the metabolism, but study findings presented at the Experimental Biology meeting in Anaheim, California, showed similar weight loss potential in dihydrocapsiate (DCT), the non-spicy cousin of hot peppers. Participants who ate the most DCT experienced a metabolic boost that was nearly double the placebo group! Bottom line: Pile on the poblanos!
Get aerobic: This type of exercise is especially good in the hours following a workout, D’Ambrosio says. “Aerobic exercise burns more calories than resistance training,” she says. “Therefore, think of aerobic exercise as the better way to boost metabolism in the short term and strength training as the better way to boost metabolism in the long term.” Aim to do high-intensity exercise like spinning, jogging or a step class two to three times per week.
The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn—no matter what you’re doing. Hitting the gym helps you build muscle but eating protein keeps your gains 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, says Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN, a New York City-based Dietitian. For a 130-pound (59 kilograms) 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.
Build muscle mass: Muscle burns more calories than fat, D’Ambrosio says. To be specific, a pound of muscle burns about six calories per day compared to two calories a day for a pound of fat. “If you want your body to burn more calories, you had better build extra muscle mass,” she says. “This is why a person with higher muscle mass will burn more calories and have a higher metabolism at rest than a person with less muscle mass.” Focus on doing resistance or strengthening exercises at least twice a week.
Non-exercise adaptive thermogenesis (NEAT) is the next part of your metabolism, and it's basically made up of those extra things your body does that aren’t really exercise, but that still cost energy (think: fidgeting, shivering, and all the things you do to go about your day, like walking and standing). It accounts for about 20 percent of your metabolism, and it can vary from day to day depending on things like what you’re doing to what you're eating.
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. 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!
Sleep, sleep, sleep: Getting poor sleep impacts our hunger hormones, D’Ambrosio says. Studies have also found that less sleep was associated with a higher BMI. “Less sleep increases our ghrelin – our hunger hormone – and decreases our leptin – which helps us feel full,” she explains. “If you are looking to burn calories more efficiently and moderate your consumption, be sure to get enough sleep.”
Adding interval training — bursts of high-intensity moves — to your workout is a great metabolism booster. "Studies have shown that people who do interval training twice a week [in addition to cardio] lose twice as much weight as those who do just a regular cardio workout," says obesity specialist Aronne. You can easily incorporate interval training into your workout by inserting a 30-second sprint into your jog every five minutes or by adding a one-minute incline walk to your treadmill workout. "Since your body is working harder, it's a more intense workout -- and you therefore burn more calories," says Westcott. On other days, shake up your routine with 40 minutes of cross-training. Ideally, aim for two 20-to-40-minute interval-training sessions and two 20-to-40-minute cross-training sessions a week.
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.”
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.

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For nutritionist Lisa Jubilee, one of the best and cheapest ways to give your metabolism a jolt is to drink water (she suggests 20 to 32 ounces) shortly after waking. Why? During sleep, your body’s metabolic function slows down, and unless you wake up in the middle of the night to swig some water, you’re not taking in any fluids. Jubilee suggests completely rehydrating before stressing your body with any other food or drink. “My clients who have implemented this report less bloating, more energy and a smaller appetite,” she says. Her motto for getting your inner furnace stoked and ready for the day: “Rehydrate, then caffeinate!”
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!
Research shows that getting plenty of protein can boost your metabolism, causing you to burn an extra 150 to 200 calories a day, says Jeff Hampl, Ph.D., R.D., a spokesman for the American Dietetic Association. "Protein is made up mainly of amino acids, which are harder for your body to break down [than fat and carbs], so you burn more calories getting rid of them," he explains.
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