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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.
Strength training is another great way to make sure your metabolism is at its peak. Through strength training, you can tone your muscles and boost your metabolism. The great thing about muscles, other than looking lean, is that they burn more calories than fat. No need to bust out the big weights for strength training — try some basics, like push-ups, sit-ups, resistance bands, or yoga.

Stephen Colbert’s doing great, but now it’s time to DVR him and start getting to bed earlier. A study in Finland looked at sets of identical twins and discovered that in each set of siblings, the twin who slept less had more visceral fat. If you do nothing else differently, just getting an extra half hour of shuteye will make all the difference. If you’re chronically sleep deprived, don’t be surprised if you gain a few pounds without eating a morsel of extra food. “A lack of sleep can cause several metabolic problems,” says nutritionist Seth Santoro. “It can cause you to burn fewer calories, lack appetite control and experience an increase in cortisol levels, which stores fat.” Lack of sufficient sleep—under the recommended seven to nine hours a night for most adults—also leads to impaired glucose tolerance, a.k.a. your body’s ability to utilize sugar for fuel. “We all have those less-than-adequate nights of sleep,” says nutritionist Lisa Jubilee. “But if it’s a regular thing, you’re better off lengthening your night’s sleep than working out, if fat loss or weight maintenance is your goal.”
Spicy foods have natural chemicals that can kick your metabolism into a higher gear. Cooking foods with a tablespoon of chopped red or green chili pepper can boost your metabolic rate. The effect is probably temporary, but if you eat spicy foods often, the benefits may add up. For a quick boost, spice up pasta dishes, chili, and stews with red pepper flakes.

If you're cutting calories to lose weight, add 200-300 to your daily intake once in a while, says Amanda Bonfiglio Cunningham, a senior Yoga Medicine instructor. "The body will get used to a calorie deficit diet, adjusting by slowing the metabolic rate. By allowing yourself a day of indulgence (not overindulgence!), you're creating a healthy balance," she explains. "The extra calories raise leptin production, a hormone that regulates appetite and energy. This rise triggers thermogenesis, the body's natural tendency to create heat, which results in burning calories." Pass the dessert menu!


It sounds counterintuitive; why would you eat continually if you wanted to lose weight? But eating five to six mini meals rather than three larger meals every day keeps your metabolism humming 24/7. "It will also prevent you from going without food so long that you become so hungry you overeat," says Peeke. Try not to let more than four hours elapse between meals and make sure each meal includes protein, for an extra metabolic boost. If you eat a high-fiber breakfast of cereal and fruit first thing, for example, have a midmorning snack, such as yogurt and fruit; lunch (try four ounces of chicken or fish on top of a leafy green salad); another snack, like a banana and a piece of low-fat cheese, in the late afternoon; and a light dinner (think four to six ounces of turkey, salmon, or another lean source of protein with steamed veggies).

Body composition (the more muscle we have, the higher our metabolisms), protein intake, hormones, stimulant use (like caffeine, which speeds up metabolism temporarily), fasting (which lowers metabolism) and environmental temperatures (i.e. when it’s hot or cold out, our body burns more calories trying to keep itself at a constant temperature) are also considered to have an impact on metabolism, registered dietitian Tristica Curley of Fueling with Food adds.
While going on a diet or purchasing the latest weight-loss products might seem like a quick way to shed pounds, you might not get the results you hoped for if you don't take your metabolism into account. Dieters might count fats, carbs, and calories meticulously, but in order to lose weight successfully, you have to understand your metabolism and what it does for your body.
When it comes to weight loss, a strong metabolism is the key to not only reaching your goals, but also to reaching them in record time. Sadly, many diets and weight loss programs have the opposite effect and wind up lowering your body’s ability to burn calories, making your journey to your ideal weight much harder than it has to be. So, if you struggle with losing weight or don’t feel like the numbers are reducing as quickly as you’d like, here are nine effective actions you can take that will put your metabolism (and your weight loss) in higher gear:
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.
“Any excess protein will be stored in your body as fat, sadly, not as muscle,” Kimberly says. So it’s smart to get your fill. But that doesn’t mean you have to fill up on meat. Remember, plenty of plants and legumes are loaded with protein, too, such as beans, broccoli, and asparagus. “A good plant-based diet will also provide your body with the necessary fiber to keep the system running smoothly,” Kimberly says. Isabel Smith, M.S. R.D., celebrity dietitian, and fitness expert, suggests also starting your day with protein to help balance your hormones and blood sugar level from the get-go.

What should you be having? Morning munchies that are slow to digest and leave you feeling fuller longer. Try a mix of lean protein with complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, like this power breakfast, recommended by Berardi: an omelet made from one egg and two egg whites and a half cup of mixed peppers and onions, plus a half cup of cooked steel-cut oats mixed with a quarter cup of frozen berries and a teaspoon of omega-3-loaded fish oil.
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.
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.
Just dropping pounds probably won't help, though, since most weight loss is a combination of fat and muscle tissue. "Usually, when people lose weight, their metabolism actually goes down," says Kim Sasso, a nutritionist at Loyola University Health System. That makes sense; you don’t need as much food to maintain a lower bodyweight. But if your goal is simply to up your metabolism, Sasso says, "it's not until you start decreasing your percentage of body fat and replacing it with increased muscle mass, do you start to see a difference in your resting metabolic rate."
Ever wonder why your best friend can go through a pint of Ben & Jerry's without gaining a pound while just one spoonful goes straight to your hips? The answer lies in your metabolism, that little engine in your body that burns calories all day, every day. Because of genetics, some women burn fat faster than others. But age, weight, diet, and exercise habits also play a role. 

“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.
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.
Why does eating lots of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, herring, and tuna) help amp up metabolism? Omega-3s balance blood sugar and reduce inflammation, helping to regulate metabolism. They may also reduce resistance to the hormone leptin, which researchers have linked to how fast fat is burned. A study in Obesity Research found rats that ingested large doses of fish oil while exercising lost weight. Take omega-3 fatty acid supplements; Hyman recommends 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams per day. Hate the fishy after-burp? Try flaxseed oil, walnuts, or eggs fortified with omega-3s. Or check out supplements (by brands such as Nordic Naturals) that have no fishy taste.
Our bodies need dietary fat—particularly healthy oils—in order to lose weight and function properly. The right kinds of fats and oils help quash hunger, maximize your metabolism, and speed nutrients through your body. Healthy monounsaturated fats like olive oil can actually help the body to burn calories. Extra virgin olive oil may also increase blood levels of serotonin, a hormone associated with satiety. Plus, olive oil is also loaded with polyphenols, antioxidants that help battle many diseases such as cancer, osteoporosis and brain deterioration.
Incorporating more fiber-rich foods into your diet such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans and other legumes, will make you feel fuller longer and keep cravings for unhealthy foods at bay. Studies find that women who eat the most fiber in foods gain the least weight over time. Women should aim to get 21 to 25 grams of fiber daily, and men 30 to 38 grams. The vegetables and fruits with the most fiber include raspberries, pears, apples, green peas, broccoli, and turnip greens. Making sure you're getting a good balance of protein, fiber, and fat every day will keep your hormone levels in check and help prevent you from gaining belly fat.

If you want to weigh less, you’ve got to eat less, right? Well, if you take in too few calories, it can cause your body to lose muscle mass, which will decrease the rate of your metabolism. Plus, when you skimp on calories, your body slows the rate at which it burns calories to conserve the fuel it’s got. “Under-fueling is just as risky as over-fueling,” explains Carolyn Brown, MS RD at Foodtrainers in Manhattan. Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN agrees: “In an attempt for quick, noticeable weight loss, many people wrongfully believe that eating as few calories as possible is the best solution. Not only can this lead to numerous nutritional deficiencies as the body is getting less food overall, but it can also actually have the opposite effect on weight loss.” Instead of cutting calories like crazy, use the simple diet and exercise hacks below that can help you slim down quickly and safely without screwing up your metabolism.

But a simple plan isn't always an easy plan. Changing your daily movement habits can be hard. So I've developed this 3-step plan to increase your metabolism while you keep your food intake the same. You'll create the energy deficit needed for weight loss without an expensive diet or hard-to-find foods. Follow the program for 2-3 weeks to increase your energy levels, boost your metabolism and put your weight loss program into hyperdrive.
If you're cutting calories to lose weight, add 200-300 to your daily intake once in a while, says Amanda Bonfiglio Cunningham, a senior Yoga Medicine instructor. "The body will get used to a calorie deficit diet, adjusting by slowing the metabolic rate. By allowing yourself a day of indulgence (not overindulgence!), you're creating a healthy balance," she explains. "The extra calories raise leptin production, a hormone that regulates appetite and energy. This rise triggers thermogenesis, the body's natural tendency to create heat, which results in burning calories." Pass the dessert menu!
Load up on low-fat dairy: Women who consumed milk, yogurt, and cheese three to four times a day lost 70 percent more body fat than women who didn't eat dairy in a study published in the January 2003 American Society for Nutritional Sciences Journal of Nutrition. The reason: Calcium, along with other substances in dairy, actually revs up your metabolism, telling your body to burn excess fat faster, according to study author Michael Zemel, Ph.D., director of the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. And no, fortified o.j. won't do the trick. The best results come from dairy products instead of from other calcium-rich foods (like broccoli), calcium-fortified products (such as orange juice) or supplements. Women reap the largest fat-burning benefit when they consume three servings of dairy and 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day, Zemel's research shows.

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.)

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 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.

Dried goji berries might be a staple of every health food store, but it’s worth looking for them a couple aisles over in the tea section. Lycium barbarum, the plant from which goji berries are harvested, is a traditional Asian therapy for diabetes and other diseases, but it also boasts a slimming effect. In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, participants were either given a single dose of L. barbarum or a placebo after a meal. The researchers found that one hour after the dose, the goji group was burning calories at a rate 10 percent higher than the placebo group, and the effects lasted up to four hours. Bonus: Most goji teas are mixed with green tea, further boosting your calorie burn.
But there are easy things you can do to stoke your fat-burning potential. "There's no reason you can't have the same metabolism in your 30s and 40s that you had in your 20s," stresses Pamela Peeke, M.D., author of Fight Fat After Forty. Here are some experts' tips on how to boost your metabolism — so you, too, can guiltlessly binge on Ben & Jerry's every now and then.
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