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."
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!
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.
Get aerobic: This type of exercise is especially good in the hours following a workout, D’Ambrosio says. “Aerobic exercise burns more calories than resistance training,” she says. “Therefore, think of aerobic exercise as the better way to boost metabolism in the short term and strength training as the better way to boost metabolism in the long term.” Aim to do high-intensity exercise like spinning, jogging or a step class two to three times per week.
As far as foods and supplements go, nothing's been shown to have a meaningful impact on metabolic rate. "Green tea has a reputation for being a metabolism booster because it has compounds like caffeine, but the effect is so tiny, it's negligible," Sasso says. Protein also gets branded as metabolism-boosting, because the body uses more energy to digest it than it does for fat and carbs. But this effect is only temporary and, again, not big enough to make a real difference on its own.
“Caffeine can increase your metabolism up to 8 percent,” says Stollman. “Brewed tea kicks it up another notch by boosting your metabolism by 10 percent.” Green tea goes above and beyond thanks to its catechins, and the effects add up. Pincus recommends three to four cups a day to potentially burn up to 50 to 100 calories. However, it’s important to refrain from using this an excuse to indulge in flavored lattes or sugary green tea drinks from the store. “Don’t make it into dessert—that defeats the whole purpose,” says Gans. Check out these other foods that are scientifically prove to burn fat.
Before you throw a French press at someone's head, read on. You don't have to eliminate coffee — but throw a few cups of green tea into the rotation and you may find that your pants fit a little looser. "Research shows that the caffeine and catechin in green tea has the ability to increase your metabolic function by 4-5 percent and improve fat oxidation by 10-16 percent," explains Bonfiglio Cunningham. Green tea comes with an extra perk, too — its antioxidant properties. "The antioxidants found in many teas fight free radicals in the body, improving the aging process and lowering the risk of disease."
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Most of your resting metabolism is taken up by your organs—brain, heart, liver, etc. But the biggest factor affecting your metabolism that you can control is your ratio of body fat to lean muscle mass. "Muscle burns more calories than fat tissue, because muscle requires more energy to maintain," says Harold Gibbons, New York State Director of the National Strength and Conditioning Association. "The more fat you have, the slower your metabolism will be."
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!
While drinking in moderation every so often won’t do too much harm to your waistline, making it a habit can slow down your metabolic rate. Why? When your body has a cocktail to break down, it takes precedence over any food that you’ve already eaten that’s waiting to be digested. This slows down the entire metabolic process. On the occasions that you decided to indulge, stick to low-calorie drinks. Alternate your alcohol with water to slow your pace, and cut yourself off after two drinks. Avoid ordering high-cal bar food like fries and burgers. An important note: Wine in moderation can have numerous benefits, including weight loss!
Make sure you eat breakfast. Eating a nutrient-rich morning meal (like oatmeal with almonds and berries, or a spinach-and-feta omelet with a slice of whole-grain toast) shortly after getting out of bed literally wakes up your metabolism. "Eating breakfast gets the engine going and keeps it going," Hyman explains. It's hard to argue with these results: According to the National Weight Control Registry (an ongoing study that tracks 5,000 people who lost an average of 66 pounds and kept it off more than five years), 78% of those who keep it off eat an a.m. meal every day.