The easiest 350 calories you'll ever burn: Exercise is obviously important, but regular daily activity known as "NEAT" (nonexercise activity thermogenesis) is equally essential for a healthy metabolism. Small movements such as stretching your legs, taking the stairs, even just standing to talk on the phone increases your energy expenditure and can add up to an extra 350 calories burned a day.
Thinking about having a cocktail — or two — before dinner? Think again. Having a drink before a meal causes people to eat around 200 calories more, several studies show. Drinking with dinner isn't such a good idea either: Other research has found that the body burns off alcohol first, meaning that the calories in the rest of the meal are more likely to be stored as fat. If you do have a cocktail craving, stick to wine, which packs only 80 calories a glass — or minimize the calories by drinking a white-wine spritzer (two ounces of wine mixed with two ounces of seltzer).
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 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 a.m.
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!
Why does eating lots of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, herring, and tuna) help amp up metabolism? Omega-3s balance blood sugar and reduce inflammation, helping to regulate metabolism. They may also reduce resistance to the hormone leptin, which researchers have linked to how fast fat is burned. A study in Obesity Research found rats that ingested large doses of fish oil while exercising lost weight. Take omega-3 fatty acid supplements; Hyman recommends 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams per day. Hate the fishy after-burp? Try flaxseed oil, walnuts, or eggs fortified with omega-3s. Or check out supplements (by brands such as Nordic Naturals) that have no fishy taste.
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.
Clocking in at caffeine counts higher than a cup of coffee, kola nut teas are sure to zap any morning drowsiness—and set your metabolism up for a hotter burn. In a study published in the journal Food Science and Biotechnology, researchers found that caffeine revs the sympathetic nervous system and increases lipolysis. Look for teas made from this caffeine-containing fruit; if you want to skip the label reading, just grab a box of Celestial Seasonings Fast Lane, which clocks in at 110 milligrams of caffeine.
Stress can actually cause the body to metabolize food more slowly, according to research published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. 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.
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!
Experts say weight training is the best way to crank up your resting metabolic rate. "As you get older, your resting metabolic rate drops, but weight training can rev it right back up again: A pound of muscle burns up to nine times the calories a pound of fat does," explains fitness expert Westcott. In fact, a woman who weighs 130 pounds and is muscular burns more calories than a sedentary 120-pound woman of the same height. Regular strength training can increase your resting metabolic rate anywhere from 6.8 to 7.8 percent. (That means that if you weigh 120 pounds, you could burn around 100 more calories a day, even when you're just watching TV.)
Add mustard to your meal, and feel the burn—literally! Scientists at England’s Oxford Polytechnic Institute found that by eating just one teaspoon of mustard (about 5 calories) can boost the metabolism by up to 25 percent for several hours after eating. The benefits, researchers say, may be attributed to capsaicin and allyl isothiocyanates, phytochemicals that give the mustard its characteristic flavor.
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?
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.