“Always be prepared for a busy or unpredictable day by keeping healthy snacks on you, at your desk, in your car,” says nutritionist Amy Shapiro. She suggests keeping almonds or other unsalted nuts, apples, bananas, chia bars, protein bars, or other fruit and nut bars close at hand. Shapiro says that if you have to skip breakfast, lunch, or even dinner during your quest to look your best, you can keep your energy levels up while making healthy choices. “You’ll have no reason to run to the vending machine for chips or stick your hand in the candy bowl,” she says.
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.”
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!
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.
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.
Cardio improves definition and burns the fat that covers your muscles, especially belly fat. Combining regular aerobic exercise with strength training will give you the slimming effect you've been going for. After all, toning without cardio is like building a house on a weak foundation. Blast calories with these 20-minute cardio workouts from celebrity trainer Jackie Warner.
Here's welcome news: You may have inherited your mom's slow-mo metabolism, but you’re not stuck with it. New research shows you can trick your body into burning calories more efficiently, especially if you hit the gym. By strength-training just a couple of times a week, for example, you’ll reverse 50% of the seemingly inevitable metabolism slow-down that comes with age, says Gary Hunter, PhD, a professor of human studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. So take control of your metabolism by making these boosters part of your routine—and (finally) stop sweating every cookie.
“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.
Sure, losing weight involves cutting calories, but limiting your calorie intake too much can deliver a double whammy to your metabolism. When you eat less than you need for basic biological function (about 2,000 calories for most women), your body throws the brakes on your metabolism. It also begins to break down precious, calorie-burning muscle tissue for energy, says Dan Benardot, PhD, RD, an associate professor of nutrition and kinesiology at Georgia State University. "Eat just enough so you're not hungry—a 150-calorie snack midmorning and mid-afternoon between three meals (about 430 calories each) will keep your metabolism humming."
Recent studies have shown that garlic supports blood-sugar metabolism and helps control lipid levels in the blood. Adding garlic to foods that are rich in fats and carbohydrates may keep those substances from doing the damage they’re known to do. What’s more, eating garlic can help boost your immune system, help ward off heart disease, fight inflammation and lower blood pressure, to name a few.
Putting yourself on a very low-calorie diet is a surefire way not to lose. "Your body is programmed to defend your usual weight," says Liz Applegate, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at the University of California at Davis and author of Bounce Your Body Beautiful. "So if you suddenly drop 1,000 calories from your diet, your resting metabolic rate [the number of calories your body burns to maintain basic bodily functions, such as breathing and heartbeat] will automatically slow down, because your body now assumes that you're starving."
When you have a drink, you burn less fat, and more slowly than usual because the alcohol is used as fuel instead, especially drinks high in sugar. Go for these low-calorie alcoholic drinks at the next happy hour to keep your waistline in check. One of the biggest mistakes people make when drinking alcohol is portion sizes. Be sure to stick to one serving; for beer, it's 12 ounces, wine is 5 ounces, and liquor is 1.5 ounces. Avoid sugary mixers that add empty calories and sip slowly to fully savor your drink.
We all know sitting around too much is really bad for our health: One meta-analysis reported that prolonged sedentary time was associated with harmful health outcomes, and many other studies have shown it can (obviously!) lead to weight gain. Limiting your time in front of the TV at night and even trying to stand more while you're at work — perhaps with a standing desk — can increase your metabolism, helping you lose weight with minimal effort.
Severely limiting caloric intake can tricking your body into thinking it’s starving. In her book Thin for Life: 10 Keys to Success from People Who Have Lost Weight and Kept it Off, Anne Fletcher writes that “if you cut back on calories, your body protects itself from this state of semi-starvation by slowing down the rate at which it burns food.” While skipping a meal or two might see positive short-term effects, it can be harmful in the long run. Here are more metabolism myths that can ruin your weight loss.
Thinking about having a cocktail — or two — before dinner? Think again. Having a drink before a meal causes people to eat around 200 calories more, several studies show. Drinking with dinner isn't such a good idea either: Other research has found that the body burns off alcohol first, meaning that the calories in the rest of the meal are more likely to be stored as fat. If you do have a cocktail craving, stick to wine, which packs only 80 calories a glass — or minimize the calories by drinking a white-wine spritzer (two ounces of wine mixed with two ounces of seltzer).
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.