Whenever possible, slice each of your workouts into two smaller sessions. For example, do a 15-minute weight-lifting session in the morning, then do your 30-minute walk on your lunch hour or at night. You'll burn an extra 100 to 200 calories that day, explains Kelly Tracy, M.A., fitness coordinator at Duke University Diet and Fitness Center. Don't have time? Just add in some stair climbing or short walks throughout the day. Even small bursts of activity are enough to get your metabolism revved, according to a study in the scientific journal Nature. "I call it the mini stoke: For five minutes out of every hour, get up and do something, even if it's just walking around your office," says professor of medicine Peeke. "You can end up burning a couple of hundred extra calories.
Plus, strength workouts have an additional metabolism-boosting benefit. Because this type of anaerobic training involves breaking down and building back up of muscle tissue, the body needs to burn more calories in the 24 to 48 hours after each session—a phenomenon known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, EPOC, or, informally, "afterburn.” Researchers, however, are currently debating how intense that afterburn really is.
That doesn't mean you have to live on the high-protein Atkins diet. But you should make sure that 10 to 35 percent of your total daily calories comes from protein. So if you're on an 1,800-calorie diet, 360 to 630 of those calories should come from lean sources of protein, such as fish, chicken, low-fat cheese, yogurt and legumes. "Aim to have a serving of protein, such as nuts, a small can of tuna, or a piece of low-fat string cheese, at every meal and snack," says Hampl.
It's one of the most frustrating realities of dieting—if you cut out too many calories, your metabolism thinks times are lean and puts the breaks on fat-burning to conserve energy, Hunter explains. Here’s the trick to keeping your metabolism revved up while dieting: Eat enough calories to at least match your resting metabolic rate (what you'd burn if you stayed in bed all day; calculate yours here). That's about 1,330 calories for a 5-feet-4-inch, 150-pound, 40-year-old woman.
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.)
Eating a sufficient quantity of protein at each meal is almost unanimously agreed upon as a critical component of maintaining a rapid metabolism. A recent study by the American Society of Nutrition attested to a higher protein diet making you feel more satiated after eating and maintaining lean muscle mass. But that doesn’t mean you should go to town on a juicy steak every night. “You can only absorb about 30 grams of protein at a time to utilize it for muscle group and repair,” says Pincus, who recommends that you spread protein consumption throughout the day, about 4 ounces with each serving. Not sure how to incorporate healthy lean protein into your mealtime routines? Stollman suggests 2 tablespoons of nuts or nut butter, 8 ounces of low-fat yogurt, either dairy or soy, 2 ounces of tune, 4 tablespoons of hummus, 4 ounces of tofu, or 1 egg, with each meal or snack.
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.
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.