Most of us choose one time of day to get our exercise in—whether that’s first thing in the morning or right after work. Though having a routine is helpful, Katherine suggests incorporating physical activity into both morning and night. For example, if you typically only exercise in the morning, then do a little something in the afternoon or early evening to bring the heart rate back up for a bit. “Evening exercisers can do the same thing in the morning,” she says. “Ten to 15 minutes of some activity in the morning will jump-start your metabolism for the day and will do a world of good.”
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.
If you're someone who loves being cold while they sleep, you might already be doing your metabolism some good. A small study looked at how lowering the temperature while you're catching some zzzs may increase your levels of "brown fat" — the "good" fat that keeps you warm in cold temps by burning calories to generate heat. When the participants in the study slept at 66 degrees opposed to warmer temperatures, their amount of brown fat increased, while the opposite occurred during the months their sleeping areas were warmer. Turns out blasting the AC can really do you some good.
"Protein burns more calories than carbs and fat,” says Bustillo. About 30 percent of the calories in protein will go towards digestion and absorption, whereas that number is only about 10 percent for carbs, and even less for fats. Fiber's another nutrient that costs a little more energy, says Bustillo—so, getting adequate protein and fiber can definitely help maximize your BMR.
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 you vary your diet so that you get more calories once in a while, your metabolism will speed up to meet the need of burning the extra calories without your gaining any weight. Then the next day when you eat less again, your metabolism will still be higher so your body will burn fat to meet the energy needs of the higher metabolic rate. If you add in exercise, you will maintain a higher metabolic rate which will expedite the process even further.
Load up on low-fat dairy: Women who consumed milk, yogurt, and cheese three to four times a day lost 70 percent more body fat than women who didn't eat dairy in a study published in the January 2003 American Society for Nutritional Sciences Journal of Nutrition. The reason: Calcium, along with other substances in dairy, actually revs up your metabolism, telling your body to burn excess fat faster, according to study author Michael Zemel, Ph.D., director of the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. And no, fortified o.j. won't do the trick. The best results come from dairy products instead of from other calcium-rich foods (like broccoli), calcium-fortified products (such as orange juice) or supplements. Women reap the largest fat-burning benefit when they consume three servings of dairy and 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day, Zemel's research shows.
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.
When you're trying to ramp up your metabolism, eating fats might sound scary — but you just have to eat the right kind. Focus on a balanced diet of protein, carbs, and healthy fats like avocados, nuts, and olive oil to see a change. "I told my friend to start her day with high-fiber cereal, plain yogurt, and a handful of walnuts, or a hard-boiled egg and a slice of whole-grain toast topped with avocado. Then eat this same balance of protein, carbs, and fat for lunch and dinner," says Eugenia Gianos, M.D., co-director of the Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at New York University Langone Medical Center. "She felt full between meals, had fewer cravings, and because good fats and fiber work in tandem to boost metabolism, she was able to drop the extra pounds and keep them off. It's a strategy I've seen work over and over again in my practice."
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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.
Your body constantly burns calories, even when you're doing nothing. This resting metabolic rate is much higher in people with more muscle. Every pound of muscle uses about 6 calories a day just to sustain itself, while each pound of fat burns only 2 calories daily. That small difference can add up over time. After a session of strength training, muscles are activated all over your body, raising your average daily metabolic rate.
But, Bustillo cautions against hanging too much hope on this: “Many companies that sell the ‘after burn’ or ‘metabolic workouts’ are just utilizing a marketing strategy with [a grain of science behind it],” he says. “They're not technically lying, because training can increase BMR [in the 24 hours post-workout], but it's not by more than 200-300 calories on average.”
Exercise is a gift to yourself that keeps on giving. In a phenomenon known as excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), your body can take hours to recover from a robust workout (one intense enough that you can't hold a conversation) and return to its previous resting metabolic rate. The windfall: Your body is actually burning more calories than it normally would—even after you've finished exercising. There’s a catch, though. The better shape you're in, the less benefit you'll get, because your fit body replenishes its energy stores efficiently. You can improve your burn by increasing how often or how hard you work out (think intervals), suggests Walt Thompson, PhD, professor of kinesiology and health and nutrition at Georgia State University.
Make sure you eat breakfast. Eating a nutrient-rich morning meal (like oatmeal with almonds and berries, or a spinach-and-feta omelet with a slice of whole-grain toast) shortly after getting out of bed literally wakes up your metabolism. "Eating breakfast gets the engine going and keeps it going," Hyman explains. It's hard to argue with these results: According to the National Weight Control Registry (an ongoing study that tracks 5,000 people who lost an average of 66 pounds and kept it off more than five years), 78% of those who keep it off eat an a.m. meal every day.
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.
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.
It’s like butter that grows on trees. But instead of the cholesterol, trans fats, and saturated fats in real butter, avocado contains metabolism-enhancing monounsaturated fat. And that’s not all. Each creamy fruit is also packed with fiber and free-radical-killing antioxidants. Free radicals are destructive rogue oxygen molecules—natural byproducts of metabolism—that trigger various chain reactions in the body that destroy cells and DNA, causing all kinds of health problems. Antioxidants in fresh fruits and vegetables can help neutralize some free radicals, but they can’t reach the mitochondria—the base camp for the free radical army—and that’s a problem. When your mitochondria aren’t working properly, your metabolism runs less efficiently. Enter: Avocado. A 2015 study found that monounsaturated-rich oil pressed from the fruit can help mitochondria become more resilient. Researchers say the results jive with low-disease rates in Mediterranean countries where olive oil—nutritionally similar to the avocado—is a diet staple.