While most of us might wolf our meals down at our desks or in front of the TV, savoring your food may is better for achieving a healthier weight. Recent research shows that the faster people ate, the more they ate because the hormone that signals that you’re full, cholecystokinin (CCK), takes about 20 minutes to kick in. If you inhale your food, you might consume more than you mean to without realizing you’re full. Nutritionist Keri Gans also suggests maintaining a regular dining schedule as an important component to mindful eating habits.
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.
Boosting metabolism is the holy grail of weight watchers everywhere, but how fast your body burns calories depends on several things. Some people inherit a speedy metabolism. Men tend to burn more calories than women, even while resting. And for most people, metabolism slows steadily after age 40. Although you can't control your age, gender, or genetics, there are other ways to improve your metabolism. Here are 10 of them.
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.”
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.
Ensuring you get the proper amount of water every day is probably one of the oldest health tricks in the book, but it’s not just because it keeps our skin hydrated or helps prevent overeating by helping us feel fuller. A small study in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition found that drinking water can actually lead to weight loss, possibly because it can increase metabolism. “It takes calories to process water, because everything we do takes calories,” says nutritionist Lauren Pincus, “The more water, the more calories you need to expend.” She suggests aiming for around two liters a day, but the exact amount depending on your activity level and age.
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.
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.
Your body digests protein more slowly than fat or carbs, so you feel full longer (this is especially true when you have it for breakfast). Plus, it may also give your metabolism a bump. In a process called thermogenesis, your body uses about 10% of its calorie intake for digestion. So, because it takes longer to burn protein than carbs or fat, your body expends more energy absorbing the nutrients in a high-protein diet. Another bonus: One recent study from Purdue University found that diets higher in protein may help preserve lean body mass, which is the best fat-burner of all.
Strength training is another great way to make sure your metabolism is at its peak. Through strength training, you can tone your muscles and boost your metabolism. The great thing about muscles, other than looking lean, is that they burn more calories than fat. No need to bust out the big weights for strength training — try some basics, like push-ups, sit-ups, resistance bands, or yoga.
Now that you know how many calories you eat each day, it's time to increase your metabolic rate. You're not going to rev up your metabolism by eating a huge calorie-filled breakfast or snacking more often. You're also not going to fill up on metabolism-boosting foods or sip on energy drinks or special teas. You're going to keep your diet exactly the same and increase metabolism with movement.
Skimping on sleep can derail your metabolism. In a study at the University of Chicago, people who got four hours of sleep or less a night had more difficulty processing carbohydrates. "When you're exhausted, your body lacks the energy to do its normal day-to-day functions, which include burning calories, so your metabolism is automatically lowered," explains Peeke.