While going on a diet or purchasing the latest weight-loss products might seem like a quick way to shed pounds, you might not get the results you hoped for if you don't take your metabolism into account. Dieters might count fats, carbs, and calories meticulously, but in order to lose weight successfully, you have to understand your metabolism and what it does for your body.
A new report from the Credit Suisse Research Institute found that more and more of us are choosing whole-fat foods over skim, lite, fat-free or other modern monikers of leanness. And while many health organizations like the American Heart Association still want us to cut down on fat—particularly saturated fat—this full-fat trend may be a healthy rebellion against those decades-old credos, according to recent studies. In fact, people who eat a lot of high-fat dairy products actually have the lowest incidence of diabetes, according to a 2015 study of 26,930 people in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Those who ate a lot of low-fat dairy products, on the other hand, had the highest incidence. The researchers speculated that while calcium, protein, vitamin D, and other nutrients in yogurt are indeed good for us, we need the fat that goes along with them in order to reap their protective effects.
What should you be having? Morning munchies that are slow to digest and leave you feeling fuller longer. Try a mix of lean protein with complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, like this power breakfast, recommended by Berardi: an omelet made from one egg and two egg whites and a half cup of mixed peppers and onions, plus a half cup of cooked steel-cut oats mixed with a quarter cup of frozen berries and a teaspoon of omega-3-loaded fish oil.
In addition to green tea, coffee is one of the best drinks for weight loss because it boosts your metabolism. A study published in the journal Food Science and Biotechnology found that caffeine revs the sympathetic nervous system and increases lipolysis. A cup of black coffee is a good pre-workout beverage, too: Researchers found that cyclists who took a caffeine supplement were able to ride about a mile farther than those who took a placebo. Make yours a venti and skip the sweeteners.
When it comes to weight loss, a strong metabolism is the key to not only reaching your goals, but also to reaching them in record time. Sadly, many diets and weight loss programs have the opposite effect and wind up lowering your body’s ability to burn calories, making your journey to your ideal weight much harder than it has to be. So, if you struggle with losing weight or don’t feel like the numbers are reducing as quickly as you’d like, here are nine effective actions you can take that will put your metabolism (and your weight loss) in higher gear:
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."
Noshing throughout the day is a proven strategy to help you curb hunger and eat fewer calories overall. Now, experts are promoting nibbling versus gorging as a way to keep metabolism running by holding blood sugar levels steady and preventing weight-gain-promoting insulin spikes. Enjoying six small meals a day should do the trick; keep them around 300 calories each, or divide your usual day's calories by six.
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!
Even when you’re at rest, your body is constantly burning calories. In fact, 75 percent of the calories that you burn each day are being used up just keeping you alive. “Resting metabolic rate” is much higher in people with more muscle, because every pound of muscle uses about 6 calories a day just to sustain itself. If you can pack on just five pounds of muscle and sustain it, you’ll burn the caloric equivalent of three pounds of fat over the course of a year.
"Stay away from processed, high sugar, junk food, even fruit juice," says Michael Mountain, author of Ultimate Fat Loss Solution. Stick to protein, which increases metabolism by 30 percent for up to 12 hours, whereas carbs and fat increase metabolism by 4 percent for less than one hour. And don't forget fiber—it binds with metabolized fat and removes it from the body.
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.
It’s not just about being a gym rat. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that non-exercise related activity, such as tapping your foot or fidgeting at your desk, can help keep off fat. To integrate more movement into your everyday routine, Pincus suggests opting for a standing or transitional desk, or just making sure you don’t spend the entire workday sedentary. “Set a timer to walk around your office every half an hour, do a few squats, something to keep the body moving,” she says.
Activity. Aerobic exercise helps you burn calories, and strengthening exercises (resistance training) can help you build and maintain muscle mass. Having more muscle causes you to burn more calories even while at rest (your resting metabolic rate). Keep in mind that building more muscle to burn calories is much more difficult than burning calories through aerobic activities.
According to a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, strength training increases your resting metabolic rate, so you burn calories even when you're not working out. When it comes to strength training, doing compound exercises is one of the most effective ways to work several muscles at once and save time at the gym. Compound movements like a weighted squat to a shoulder press or a reverse lunge to a bicep curl will work multiple muscle groups, so you get more bang for your buck.
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.”