Just dropping pounds probably won't help, though, since most weight loss is a combination of fat and muscle tissue. "Usually, when people lose weight, their metabolism actually goes down," says Kim Sasso, a nutritionist at Loyola University Health System. That makes sense; you don’t need as much food to maintain a lower bodyweight. But if your goal is simply to up your metabolism, Sasso says, "it's not until you start decreasing your percentage of body fat and replacing it with increased muscle mass, do you start to see a difference in your resting metabolic rate."
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.
If you want to weigh less, you’ve got to eat less, right? Well, if you take in too few calories, it can cause your body to lose muscle mass, which will decrease the rate of your metabolism. Plus, when you skimp on calories, your body slows the rate at which it burns calories to conserve the fuel it’s got. “Under-fueling is just as risky as over-fueling,” explains Carolyn Brown, MS RD at Foodtrainers in Manhattan. Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN agrees: “In an attempt for quick, noticeable weight loss, many people wrongfully believe that eating as few calories as possible is the best solution. Not only can this lead to numerous nutritional deficiencies as the body is getting less food overall, but it can also actually have the opposite effect on weight loss.” Instead of cutting calories like crazy, use the simple diet and exercise hacks below that can help you slim down quickly and safely without screwing up your metabolism.
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.
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“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.
If you're cutting calories to lose weight, add 200-300 to your daily intake once in a while, says Amanda Bonfiglio Cunningham, a senior Yoga Medicine instructor. "The body will get used to a calorie deficit diet, adjusting by slowing the metabolic rate. By allowing yourself a day of indulgence (not overindulgence!), you're creating a healthy balance," she explains. "The extra calories raise leptin production, a hormone that regulates appetite and energy. This rise triggers thermogenesis, the body's natural tendency to create heat, which results in burning calories." Pass the dessert menu!
It’s well reported that fiery capsaicin (think: hot sauce, cayenne, chili) can rev up the metabolism, but study findings presented at the Experimental Biology meeting in Anaheim, California, showed similar weight loss potential in dihydrocapsiate (DCT), the non-spicy cousin of hot peppers. Participants who ate the most DCT experienced a metabolic boost that was nearly double the placebo group! Bottom line: Pile on the poblanos!
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.
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.
Going organic can be costly and leave a dent on your wallet, but it can speed up your metabolism. The antibiotics and growth hormones found in conventionally farmed foods could hamper your immune system and slow down metabolism. The amount of pesticides in non-organic foods can cause a above normal dip in metabolism in dieters who begin to lose weight, says Prevention.com.