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!
Muscles are fat-burning furnaces, so be sure to do enough resistance training to build and maintain them (these fast workouts tone your whole body in 30 minutes), and follow your workout with a healthy meal or snack that contains protein, carbohydrates and fat. Building new muscle raises your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) so you'll burn more calories every day.
Cardio improves definition and burns the fat that covers your muscles, especially belly fat. Combining regular aerobic exercise with strength training will give you the slimming effect you've been going for. After all, toning without cardio is like building a house on a weak foundation. Blast calories with these 20-minute cardio workouts from celebrity trainer Jackie Warner.
Iron deficiencies can slow down your metabolism. Do you know what’s got plenty of it? Lean meat. Eating three to four daily servings of iron-rich foods will help keep your inner furnace burning. Fortified cereals, dried fruit, and dark leafy greens will get you on your way to meeting your iron goals, but lean meat—with its high muscle-building protein content—will be doubly useful in revving up your metabolism.
Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes, fresh herbs and spices provide the proteins, carbohydrates and fats that give you energy and even blood sugar levels. Healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, fish oils, seeds, nuts, soybeans) promote longer-lasting, stable energy levels. Lean proteins (fish, soy foods, white meat poultry, lean meats and low-fat dairy) offer essential proteins for better digestion and muscle building.
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.
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.
When you’re looking to give your body a boost, you know turning to a solid weightlifting session, afternoon bike ride, even a a quick 30-minute HIIT session will get your metabolism cranked up. Metabolism is simple. It’s a series of chemical processes by which your cells produce the energy needed to sustain life—and the higher it revs, the more energy your body burns.
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.”
Bodybuilders have known for years that strategically placed ‘cheat meals’ can help prevent the metabolic slowdown mentioned above. One meal every five to seven days that contains as many carbs and calories as desired can work. Just make sure not to make a habit out of cheat meals. In fact, you could also just as easily eat clean each day and meet your calorie needs, rather than consistently depriving yourself, then occasionally indulging.
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.