It's one of the most frustrating realities of dieting—if you cut out too many calories, your metabolism thinks times are lean and puts the breaks on fat-burning to conserve energy, Hunter explains. Here’s the trick to keeping your metabolism revved up while dieting: Eat enough calories to at least match your resting metabolic rate (what you'd burn if you stayed in bed all day; calculate yours here). That's about 1,330 calories for a 5-feet-4-inch, 150-pound, 40-year-old woman.
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.
Late night snacking is clearly not recommended, but staying up late in and of itself directly affects the speed of your metabolism. In a study published in Lancet, researchers studied the effects of chronic sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine functions on 11 young men who were restricted to four hours of sleep a night for six nights. The results of the study showed sleep debt negatively impacts carbohydrate metabolism and endocrine function. Researchers concluded that seven to eight hours of sleep a night for adults will help keep your metabolic rate at a healthy, steady pace.
Eat six small meals a day to avoid blood-sugar spikes and minimize urges to binge. Try to schedule meals at the same time each day. If you feed yourself well throughout the day, you'll learn to understand when your body truly needs food. You can't starve yourself and expect to make good choices at the next meal. Need a few healthy lunch ideas? Check out these top food swaps from a nutritionist.
Cardio is still important, too. "Respiratory function is another big part of metabolism, and to increase that you need to be regularly getting your heart rate up," says Sasso. She recommends extended periods of walking, jogging, or some other form of moderate to intense aerobic activity, as well as body-weight circuit training with no rest between sets. Gibbons points out that cardio workouts generally burn more calories during exercise than strength-training—also important if your overall goal is weight loss or weight maintenance.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Iron deficiency affects more than 1 in 5 women in the U.S. Being deficient in essential minerals can show up in all kinds of ways, such as fatigue and anemia, but an iron deficiency can also be a blow for getting into your skinny jeans with relative ease. See, your body can’t work as efficiently to burn calories when it doesn’t have what it needs to work properly. A cup of lentils, it turns out, provides over a third of your daily iron needs. Legumes like lentils also have been shown to drive down bad cholesterol and blood pressure.
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.
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.