Bodybuilders have long sworn by eating every few hours to keep their muscles fueled, but don’t discount the weight loss potential of three squares a day. A study in the journal Hepatology put two groups of men on weight-gain diets. One group divided the calories among three small meals with snacks in between while the second group ate the same number of calories in three square meals. While both groups gained weight, researchers found that belly fat—the dangerous kind that increases heart-disease risk—only increased in the high-meal frequency group.
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.
Don’t cave into that extra episode of Stranger Things: Getting a quality night’s is a critical component of a healthy metabolism. “Too little sleep appears to wreak havoc with leptin and ghrelin, two hormones that regulate appetite,” says nutritionist Elisa Zied. “When you don’t sleep well, you feel hungrier and you tend to eat more and choose more nutrient-poor foods.”
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.
Whole foods contain an assortment of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that act as metabolic spark plugs, giving you the energy to get up and move around. That’s the theory behind increasingly popular diets like Paleo, which eschews processed foods in favor of lean meat and vegetables. Without preservatives and unnecessary crap in your food, your body will burn clean, and that translates to a faster-moving metabolic engine.
Not only does muscle weigh more than fat, but it uses more energy, too. The average woman in her 30s who strength-trains 30 to 40 minutes twice a week for four months will increase her resting metabolism by 100 calories a day. That means you're resetting your thermostat to keep running at that rate even on the days when you don't make it to the gym, Hunter explains.
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.
Sleep, sleep, sleep: Getting poor sleep impacts our hunger hormones, D’Ambrosio says. Studies have also found that less sleep was associated with a higher BMI. “Less sleep increases our ghrelin – our hunger hormone – and decreases our leptin – which helps us feel full,” she explains. “If you are looking to burn calories more efficiently and moderate your consumption, be sure to get enough sleep.”
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.
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.
Want to have a faster metabolism? Install apps like f.lux or Twilight on your devices. They reduce certain parts of the light spectrum as your bedtime approaches. Studies have shown that LED lights in phones disturb the production of the sleep hormone melanin. A purring metabolism is greatly helped by a good night’s sleep. So take your late-night texting down a notch or two… At least in terms of screen brightness.
When you're trying to ramp up your metabolism, eating fats might sound scary — but you just have to eat the right kind. Focus on a balanced diet of protein, carbs, and healthy fats like avocados, nuts, and olive oil to see a change. "I told my friend to start her day with high-fiber cereal, plain yogurt, and a handful of walnuts, or a hard-boiled egg and a slice of whole-grain toast topped with avocado. Then eat this same balance of protein, carbs, and fat for lunch and dinner," says Eugenia Gianos, M.D., co-director of the Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at New York University Langone Medical Center. "She felt full between meals, had fewer cravings, and because good fats and fiber work in tandem to boost metabolism, she was able to drop the extra pounds and keep them off. It's a strategy I've seen work over and over again in my practice."
Activity. Aerobic exercise helps you burn calories, and strengthening exercises (resistance training) can help you build and maintain muscle mass. Having more muscle causes you to burn more calories even while at rest (your resting metabolic rate). Keep in mind that building more muscle to burn calories is much more difficult than burning calories through aerobic activities.
This tea is known for its powerful thermogenic effects—meaning it turns up your body’s calorie-burning mechanism—and can also promote weight loss by improving insulin sensitivity. In a Nutrition and Metabolism study, participants were divided into two groups where one group took a placebo 60 minutes prior to exercise and the other group ingested a 1,000-milligram capsule of yerba maté. Researchers found that those who consumed the herb increased the beneficial effects their workout had on their metabolism. Yerba maté is just one of the best teas for weight loss!
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.
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.
The key to this metabolism diet trick is to start slowly. First, add non-exercise movement to your day. Walk more often, take the stairs instead of the elevator, carry your groceries home from the store or add a few easy exercise sessions to your routine. Use an activity tracker to increase your daily step count and increase your total calories burned per day.
A striking new study published in the journal Diabetes suggests that simply turning on the AC may subtly transform a person’s stores of brown fat, the “good” fat stimulated by cold temperatures, that serves to keep us warm by burning through “bad” fat stores. Participants spent a few weeks sleeping in bedrooms with varying temperatures: a neutral 75 degrees, a cool 66 degrees, and a balmy 81 degrees. After four weeks of sleeping at 66 degrees, the men had almost doubled their volumes of brown fat. Cool!
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.
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.
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.
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.
You've heard this one before, but it's worth repeating! Eating smaller meals more often throughout the day can help fire up your fat-burning furnace. Susie Akers, director at the Aamoth Family Pediatric Wellness Center at MetroHealth and gastroenterology dietitian, recommends you consume at least three to four times a day instead of only one to two times to keep your metabolism up and avoid excessive portions with large meals.
It’s no secret that experts recommend putting away blue-light devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops, at least an hour before bed to improve sleep quality. However, a recent pilot study from Northwestern University shows that exposure to blue-light at night can impact glucose metabolism. Although the exact correlation is still being studied, John La Puma, MD, suggests ceasing exposure to blue light two hours prior to hitting the sack. “It resets melatonin levels so that getting to sleep becomes harder, and too little sleep means weight gain for most people,” says Dr. La Puma.
Muscle is typically more dense than fat and uses more energy as a result. The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK states that those who have a higher muscle to fat ratio tend to have a higher BMR because of the fact it requires more energy to maintain. For every pound of muscle, the body burns 50 calories to maintain a person's BMR. Exercising to build muscle will help boost your metabolism as you get your body in shape.