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.
Research shows that getting plenty of protein can boost your metabolism, causing you to burn an extra 150 to 200 calories a day, says Jeff Hampl, Ph.D., R.D., a spokesman for the American Dietetic Association. "Protein is made up mainly of amino acids, which are harder for your body to break down [than fat and carbs], so you burn more calories getting rid of them," he explains.
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.
The more often you eat, the faster your metabolism will be. However, eating more often does not mean you can consume heavy foods with high calorie intakes in greater frequency. Instead, your calorie intake is divided into three meals a day with two healthy snacks in between your meals. Dr. Oz recommends dieters to eat within an hour of waking up to inhibit the body from going into starvation mode. To keep your metabolism up and running, he suggests to adhere to the schedule below:
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.
We all know sitting around too much is really bad for our health: One meta-analysis reported that prolonged sedentary time was associated with harmful health outcomes, and many other studies have shown it can (obviously!) lead to weight gain. Limiting your time in front of the TV at night and even trying to stand more while you're at work — perhaps with a standing desk — can increase your metabolism, helping you lose weight with minimal effort.
Believe it or not, it may be the most important meal of the day as far as metabolism (and weight loss) is concerned. Breakfast eaters lose more weight than breakfast skippers do, according to studies. "Your metabolism slows while you sleep, and it doesn't rev back up until you eat again," explains Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at Penn State University and an author of The Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan. So if you bypass breakfast, your body won't burn as many calories until lunchtime as it could. That's why it's smart to start the day with a solid 300- to 400-calorie meal; it jump-starts your metabolism.
If you're someone who loves being cold while they sleep, you might already be doing your metabolism some good. A small study looked at how lowering the temperature while you're catching some zzzs may increase your levels of "brown fat" — the "good" fat that keeps you warm in cold temps by burning calories to generate heat. When the participants in the study slept at 66 degrees opposed to warmer temperatures, their amount of brown fat increased, while the opposite occurred during the months their sleeping areas were warmer. Turns out blasting the AC can really do you some good.
"Stay away from processed, high sugar, junk food, even fruit juice," says Michael Mountain, author of Ultimate Fat Loss Solution. Stick to protein, which increases metabolism by 30 percent for up to 12 hours, whereas carbs and fat increase metabolism by 4 percent for less than one hour. And don't forget fiber—it binds with metabolized fat and removes it from the body.
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The leaner your muscles, the faster your metabolism. But if only a few muscles on your body are super-lean due to repeated exercises, you’re not going to get maximum results. Kimberly suggests engaging in activities that strengthen more than one muscle group at a time. “For example, instead of sitting and doing bicep curls, stand and do bicep curls while squatting,” she says. “Working multiple muscle groups simultaneously naturally increases caloric expenditure. On top of this, more muscle groups working translates into more muscle fibers created.” You’ll burn more calories and increase lean muscle mass.
Contrary to popular belief, researchers now say breakfast doesn’t kickstart the metabolism and may not be the most important meal of the day. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition had more than 300 overweight participants consume diets that included either eating or skipping breakfast. At the end of 16 weeks, dieters who ate breakfast lost no more weight than the breakfast skippers. And a second study in the same journal found eating breakfast had zero impact on resting metabolism. Breakfast is an ideal place to squeeze protein, fiber, and other nutrients into your day, but if the choice is a doughnut or nothing, opt for the nothing. Start your day with lean protein, which burns twice as many calories during digestion as fat or carbs. But don’t stress about squeezing it in before 9 a.m.
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.
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.
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.
Have a few cups of java for a metabolism boost, but if you’re never seen without a mug at your lips, that could work against you, says nutritionist Amy Shapiro. Caffeine is a natural appetite suppressant. If you’re constantly consuming it, you may not eat much—or realize how hungry you really are—until you get home for dinner. “Not eating enough throughout the day can make your metabolism sluggish,” she says. “By the time you eat dinner, instead of immediately using that food for energy, your body is aggressively storing it as fat, just in case it will be deprived again.”
Eat six small meals a day to avoid blood-sugar spikes and minimize urges to binge. Try to schedule meals at the same time each day. If you feed yourself well throughout the day, you'll learn to understand when your body truly needs food. You can't starve yourself and expect to make good choices at the next meal. Need a few healthy lunch ideas? Check out these top food swaps from a nutritionist.