Stop obsessing over numbers. Quality over quantity becomes key for optimizing mitochondria. That said, if you’d like to know how much you should be eating, calculate your resting metabolic rate (RMR) or the total number of calories your body needs to survive at complete rest. If you eat fewer calories than your RMR, your body thinks it is starving. Calculating your RMR is easy. If you are average size, take your weight in pounds and multiply by 10. If you are very muscular and lean, multiply your weight by 13. If you are very overweight, multiply it by 8. Eating less than your RMR means your body goes into starvation mode.
Boosting metabolism is the holy grail of weight watchers everywhere, but how fast your body burns calories depends on several things. Some people inherit a speedy metabolism. Men tend to burn more calories than women, even while resting. And for most people, metabolism slows steadily after age 40. Although you can't control your age, gender, or genetics, there are other ways to improve your metabolism. Here are 10 of them.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
It’s not just about being a gym rat. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that non-exercise related activity, such as tapping your foot or fidgeting at your desk, can help keep off fat. To integrate more movement into your everyday routine, Pincus suggests opting for a standing or transitional desk, or just making sure you don’t spend the entire workday sedentary. “Set a timer to walk around your office every half an hour, do a few squats, something to keep the body moving,” she says.
If there’s one supplement most Americans should be taking, it’s vitamin D. It’s essential for preserving metabolism-revving muscle tissue, but researchers estimate that a measly 20 percent of Americans take in enough via their diet. While you can nail 90 percent of your recommended daily value (400 IU) in a 3.5-ounce serving of salmon, popping a daily supplement is pretty convenient. Other good dietary sources: tuna, fortified milk and cereal, and eggs.