Fuel your body with wholesome, nutritious foods, and limit your intake of refined carbs (anything sugary or white-flour based). To maximize the calories burned through digestion and stave off hunger, get plenty of complex carbs (fruits, vegetables and beans) and eat a little protein with every meal. It doesn't need to be meat; nuts, lowfat dairy, tofu, and beans are all good vegetarian protein sources.
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In a study conducted by Swiss and German researchers, lucky participants ate about 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate daily for two weeks. Ultimately, these chocolate nibblers had lower stress-hormone levels and a more regulated metabolism than a control group. Scientists speculate that chemicals in cocoa, such as flavonoids, play a role in regulating metabolism by alleviating stress that can cause your fat-burning engines to go on the fritz. Should you think this is a license to go wild, take heed: We’re talking small amounts of high-quality dark chocolate. Researchers say 1.5 ounces is enough.
A recent study by the Royal Society for Public Health found that while a long commute to work obviously decreases physical activity and might eat into time spent at the gym, it can also lead to decreased sleep time and a 29 percent increase in food consumption—and usually unhealthier food at that, since there is less time to prepare meals. Though some people might not have the means (or the climate) to avoid driving or public transportation, subbing in walking or biking for part of the trip could have you feeling more energetic and lean. Make sure you avoid these simple habits that slow down your metabolism.
Stress can actually cause the body to metabolize food more slowly, according to research published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. To make matters worse, the food we crave when we’re stressed out tends to be fatty and full of sugar. Researchers say that the combination of high-cal cravings and a stress-induced, snail-paced metabolic rate can result in significant weight gain. To keep your metabolism running strong, fight stress with laughter. Research shows that smiling and laughing causes levels of stress hormones to diminish.
“Always be prepared for a busy or unpredictable day by keeping healthy snacks on you, at your desk, in your car,” says nutritionist Amy Shapiro. She suggests keeping almonds or other unsalted nuts, apples, bananas, chia bars, protein bars, or other fruit and nut bars close at hand. Shapiro says that if you have to skip breakfast, lunch, or even dinner during your quest to look your best, you can keep your energy levels up while making healthy choices. “You’ll have no reason to run to the vending machine for chips or stick your hand in the candy bowl,” she says.
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.
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.”
Studies conducted at The Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee suggest that consuming dairy may help your body metabolize fat more efficiently. Other studies have shown that increased calcium intake from dairy products (though not from supplemental calcium carbonate) caused study participants to poop out more fat as opposed to it sticking around on the body.
A good night’s sleep can help balance the fluctuating hormones that wreak havoc after age 50, Katherine explains. Additionally, a well-rested body is more resistant to cravings. “Studies show that when a body is sleep-deprived, the body slows the metabolism to conserve energy,” she says. “This seems counter-intuitive, as we all know it feels like it takes more energy to function when sleep-deprived—but perhaps it is because your own body slowed your metabolism to conserve energy.”
Spicy foods have natural chemicals that can kick your metabolism into a higher gear. Cooking foods with a tablespoon of chopped red or green chili pepper can boost your metabolic rate. The effect is probably temporary, but if you eat spicy foods often, the benefits may add up. For a quick boost, spice up pasta dishes, chili, and stews with red pepper flakes.
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.
To get why, you have to understand a bit of the science behind metabolism. Your metabolic rate is essentially the speed at which your body expends energy, and it depends on many different factors. Your age, weight, health history, organ function, oxygen capacity, and even your height can all influence how many calories you burn during exercise, but also (and more importantly) during sedentary times of day.
Crash diets -- those involving eating fewer than 1,200 (if you're a woman) or 1,800 (if you're a man) calories a day -- are bad for anyone hoping to quicken their metabolism. Although these diets may help you drop pounds, that comes at the expense of good nutrition. Plus, it backfires, since you can lose muscle, which in turn slows your metabolism. The final result is your body burns fewer calories and gains weight faster than before the diet.
It’s not just about being a gym rat. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that non-exercise related activity, such as tapping your foot or fidgeting at your desk, can help keep off fat. To integrate more movement into your everyday routine, Pincus suggests opting for a standing or transitional desk, or just making sure you don’t spend the entire workday sedentary. “Set a timer to walk around your office every half an hour, do a few squats, something to keep the body moving,” she says.
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.
Your body needs water to process calories. If you are even mildly dehydrated, your metabolism may slow down. In one study, adults who drank eight or more glasses of water a day burned more calories than those who drank four. To stay hydrated, drink a glass of water or other unsweetened beverage before every meal and snack. Also, snack on fresh fruits and vegetables, which naturally contain water, rather than pretzels or chips.
Experts say weight training is the best way to crank up your resting metabolic rate. "As you get older, your resting metabolic rate drops, but weight training can rev it right back up again: A pound of muscle burns up to nine times the calories a pound of fat does," explains fitness expert Westcott. In fact, a woman who weighs 130 pounds and is muscular burns more calories than a sedentary 120-pound woman of the same height. Regular strength training can increase your resting metabolic rate anywhere from 6.8 to 7.8 percent. (That means that if you weigh 120 pounds, you could burn around 100 more calories a day, even when you're just watching TV.)
So how many calories should you consume? Depending on your level of activity, you can safely lose anywhere from half a pound to two pounds a week if you multiply your current weight by 11, says Applegate. (For example, if you're 120 pounds, aim for around 1,320 calories a day.) Unless you're less than five feet tall, don't let your daily calories dip below 1,200. "Research shows that women who consume less than this amount see their resting metabolic rate plummet by as much as 45 percent," notes Dale Huff, R.D., a St. Louis nutritionist.
Body composition (the more muscle we have, the higher our metabolisms), protein intake, hormones, stimulant use (like caffeine, which speeds up metabolism temporarily), fasting (which lowers metabolism) and environmental temperatures (i.e. when it’s hot or cold out, our body burns more calories trying to keep itself at a constant temperature) are also considered to have an impact on metabolism, registered dietitian Tristica Curley of Fueling with Food adds.
It’s important to remember that you are unique: Everyone was born with a different biochemical make-up. You have trillions of little energy factories called mitochondria that provide the fuel to run everything in your body. If you can remember high school biochemistry class, you know mitochondria convert the oxygen you breathe and the food you eat into energy for your body to use.
If you’re on the fence about whether to buy organic, this news may sway you: Fruits, vegetables, and grains grown without pesticides keep your fat-burning system running at full-tilt because they don’t expose your thyroid to toxins, Hyman says. Nonorganic produce, on the other hand, “blocks your metabolism mainly by interfering with your thyroid, which is your body’s thermostat and determines how fast it runs,” he explains.
Bring on the funny cat videos — they're good for your health, according to researchers. No, you won't get the same calorie-burning results as you get from your spin class, but laughing does give your metabolism a small boost. Astudy published in the International Journal of Obesity found that genuine laughter increased both energy expenditure and heart rate by 10-20 percent above resting values. Another study found that watching cat videos in particular can boost your energy level. Guess you know what you're watching on the treadmill from now on.
Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. A recent study from Case Western Reserve University found that, on average, women who sleep for 5 hours or less per night are 32 percent more likely to gain weight and 15 percent more likely to be obese than those who get at least 7 hours. If stress is keepig you up at night, try these 10 simple tips to reduce stress.
Metabolism. It’s the set of life-sustaining chemical transformations within the cells of living organisms. It’s such a big concept that it’s understandable to feel as if it’s beyond your control. But that’s not true! If you’re wondering how to increase metabolism, we’ve rounded up the 55 best quick and easy ways to rev your fat-burning furnace to help you reach your weight loss goals that much faster.
In one study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, volunteers who got 22 to 55 percent of their total calories at breakfast gained only 1.7 pounds on average over four years. Those who ate zero to 11 percent of their calories in the morning gained nearly three pounds. In another study published in the same journal, volunteers who reported regularly skipping breakfast had 4.5 times the risk of obesity as those who took the time to eat.
"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.