The easiest 350 calories you'll ever burn: Exercise is obviously important, but regular daily activity known as "NEAT" (nonexercise activity thermogenesis) is equally essential for a healthy metabolism. Small movements such as stretching your legs, taking the stairs, even just standing to talk on the phone increases your energy expenditure and can add up to an extra 350 calories burned a day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You’ve heard they're bad for you. But trans fats also slow down your body's ability to burn fat. "They have an altered shape and make your biochemistry run funny," Hyman says, explaining that trans fat binds to fat and liver cells and slows metabolism. Eating trans fat can also lead to insulin resistance and inflammation, both of which cripple metabolism and can cause weight gain.
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.
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.
Caffeine may provide a bit of a boost to the metabolism, especially when ingested before exercise, but no amount of metabolic boost can burn off the empty calories that energy drinks supply. According to one study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a typical energy drink serves up a quarter cup of sugar—calories that hit your body all at once and trigger fat storage. If you want to burn calories, try the miracle beverage known as tap water. According to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, after drinking two tall glasses of water (17 ounces), participants’ metabolic rates increased by 30 percent.
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If you vary your diet so that you get more calories once in a while, your metabolism will speed up to meet the need of burning the extra calories without your gaining any weight. Then the next day when you eat less again, your metabolism will still be higher so your body will burn fat to meet the energy needs of the higher metabolic rate. If you add in exercise, you will maintain a higher metabolic rate which will expedite the process even further.
Eat plenty of healthy fats. Healthy fats like avocados, nuts and seeds, along with wild, fatty fish are your mitochondria’s preferred fuel. My favorite “gasoline” for your mitochondria is medium-chain triglycerides or MCT oil, which is found in coconut oil. I provide an extensive plan to utilize these and other healthy fats in my new book Eat Fat, Get Thin.
For nutritionist Lisa Jubilee, one of the best and cheapest ways to give your metabolism a jolt is to drink water (she suggests 20 to 32 ounces) shortly after waking. Why? During sleep, your body’s metabolic function slows down, and unless you wake up in the middle of the night to swig some water, you’re not taking in any fluids. Jubilee suggests completely rehydrating before stressing your body with any other food or drink. “My clients who have implemented this report less bloating, more energy and a smaller appetite,” she says. Her motto for getting your inner furnace stoked and ready for the day: “Rehydrate, then caffeinate!”
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Your body constantly burns calories, even when you're doing nothing. This resting metabolic rate is much higher in people with more muscle. Every pound of muscle uses about 6 calories a day just to sustain itself, while each pound of fat burns only 2 calories daily. That small difference can add up over time. After a session of strength training, muscles are activated all over your body, raising your average daily metabolic rate.
Even when you’re at rest, your body is constantly burning calories. In fact, 75 percent of the calories that you burn each day are being used up just keeping you alive. “Resting metabolic rate” is much higher in people with more muscle, because every pound of muscle uses about 6 calories a day just to sustain itself. If you can pack on just five pounds of muscle and sustain it, you’ll burn the caloric equivalent of three pounds of fat over the course of a year.
Don't think you have time to hit the gym circuit? You can get great results with only two 15-minute lifting sessions a week. Westcott's research, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise in January 1999, found that doing just one set of 10 reps reaps about the same muscle-building benefits as three sets, as long as they're performed to muscle fatigue. Bonus: Weight training also gives your metabolism a short-term boost. When women lift weights, their metabolisms remain in overdrive for up to two hours after the last bench press, allowing them to burn as many as 100 extra calories, according to a study published in June 2001 in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
“Hormones dictate how our body utilizes the energy we give it,” says nutritionist Lisa Jubilee. “Between our reproductive, thyroid and growth hormones, appetite, insulin, and hunger hormone leptin and ghrelin, our bodies have to perform a tricky balancing act to keep us lean, energized and viable reproductive beings.” Those tasks have become much more difficult because of the hormone residues we consume via cage-raised foods. If you want to give your metabolism a leg up, Jubilee says, switch to organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised beef, eggs, and dairy products, thereby avoiding those nasty hormones at mealtime.
Most of us choose one time of day to get our exercise in—whether that’s first thing in the morning or right after work. Though having a routine is helpful, Katherine suggests incorporating physical activity into both morning and night. For example, if you typically only exercise in the morning, then do a little something in the afternoon or early evening to bring the heart rate back up for a bit. “Evening exercisers can do the same thing in the morning,” she says. “Ten to 15 minutes of some activity in the morning will jump-start your metabolism for the day and will do a world of good.”
A 2003 study in the International Journal of Obesity demonstrated that a low-calorie diet that’s rich in almonds could help people shed weight. Not only do the good monounsaturated fats in almonds have an effect on insulin levels, say scientists, but also give dieters a feeling of fullness, meaning that they are less likely to overeat. So stock your pantry with almonds, walnuts, and nut butter.
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.