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.
Whenever possible, slice each of your workouts into two smaller sessions. For example, do a 15-minute weight-lifting session in the morning, then do your 30-minute walk on your lunch hour or at night. You'll burn an extra 100 to 200 calories that day, explains Kelly Tracy, M.A., fitness coordinator at Duke University Diet and Fitness Center. Don't have time? Just add in some stair climbing or short walks throughout the day. Even small bursts of activity are enough to get your metabolism revved, according to a study in the scientific journal Nature. "I call it the mini stoke: For five minutes out of every hour, get up and do something, even if it's just walking around your office," says professor of medicine Peeke. "You can end up burning a couple of hundred extra calories.
Each time you eat, enzymes in your body's cells break down the food and turn it into energy that keeps your heart beating, your mind thinking and your legs churning during a grueling workout. The faster your metabolism runs, the more calories you burn. The more you burn, the easier it is to drop pounds. And get this—you can make your metabolism work harder, a lot harder, 24 hours a day.
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.
Yeah, yeah, it has zero calories, but drinking diet soda may yet play havoc with your goal of having a flat belly. Research published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism shows that artificially sweetened beverages may screw up the body’s normal metabolic response to sugar, actually increasing appetite! Increasingly, diet drinks are being linked to weight gain, metabolic syndrome and a host of other ills. (Find out what happens to your body when you give up soda.) Best to give them a wide berth. But if you really crave something sweet…
After a week or two, your body will adjust to a more active lifestyle. That's when it's time to add workouts that increase metabolism. If you are healthy enough for vigorous exercise add one HIIT or Tabata session per week. Then gradually add one or two more. You can also add up to 3 strength training workouts per week to increase your metabolism with lean muscle mass.
“Any excess protein will be stored in your body as fat, sadly, not as muscle,” Kimberly says. So it’s smart to get your fill. But that doesn’t mean you have to fill up on meat. Remember, plenty of plants and legumes are loaded with protein, too, such as beans, broccoli, and asparagus. “A good plant-based diet will also provide your body with the necessary fiber to keep the system running smoothly,” Kimberly says. Isabel Smith, M.S. R.D., celebrity dietitian, and fitness expert, suggests also starting your day with protein to help balance your hormones and blood sugar level from the get-go.
Derived from the Japanese tencha leaf and then stone-ground into a bright-green fine powder, matcha literally means “powdered tea,” and it’s incredibly good for you. Research in the Journal of Chromatography shows the concentration of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in matcha to be 137 times greater than the amount you’ll find in most store-bought green tea. EGCG is a dieter’s best friend: Studies have shown the compound can simultaneously boost the breakdown of fat and block the formation of belly-fat cells. A meta-analysis in the International Journal of Obesity shows that when EGCG is combined with caffeine, it can help one lose weight or maintain weight loss.
Most of your resting metabolism is taken up by your organs—brain, heart, liver, etc. But the biggest factor affecting your metabolism that you can control is your ratio of body fat to lean muscle mass. "Muscle burns more calories than fat tissue, because muscle requires more energy to maintain," says Harold Gibbons, New York State Director of the National Strength and Conditioning Association. "The more fat you have, the slower your metabolism will be."
Aim for a breakfast that has plenty of high-fiber carbs: When researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia compared the effects of high-fat and high-fiber-carbohydrate breakfasts, they discovered that people who ate the fatty meal got hungry sooner afterward. "High-fiber carbohydrates take longer for your body to digest and absorb than fats; thus they don't cause rapid changes in your blood sugar, so your hunger is kept at bay longer," says study coauthor Susanna Holt, Ph.D. Some good choices: a bran-rich breakfast cereal with low-fat milk; whole-grain toast topped with low-fat ricotta and sliced banana or berries; an egg-white veggie omelette with whole-grain toast.
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.”
You might want to think twice before ditching dairy if you’re trying to lose weight—despite what your Paleo-preaching CrossFit friends tell you. Cheese is a satisfying, portable, and inexpensive food that’s packed with calcium, vitamin D, and protein. “Calcium can also promote weight loss because it helps maintain muscle mass, which boosts and helps maintain metabolism, helping you burn calories more efficiently throughout the day,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, RD, author of The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories & Fat Disappear—With Fiber! That doesn’t mean you can help yourself to a cheese-drenched casserole, though. Work cheese into fiber-rich snacks to make them more satiating.
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.
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.