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).
It’s important to remember that you are unique: Everyone was born with a different biochemical make-up. You have trillions of little energy factories called mitochondria that provide the fuel to run everything in your body. If you can remember high school biochemistry class, you know mitochondria convert the oxygen you breathe and the food you eat into energy for your body to use.
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.”
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.
Capsaicin, present in spicy foods like chili and red pepper flakes, might boost metabolism by up to 8 percent. As always, don’t use this as an excuse to eat unhealthier foods like greasy takeout. “Sprinkle on red pepper flakes on eggs in the morning,” advises Gans. “You could even make fish, chicken, or lean beef a little spicier for dinner.” Look out for these common foods that are messing with your metabolism.
Now that you know how many calories you eat each day, it's time to increase your metabolic rate. You're not going to rev up your metabolism by eating a huge calorie-filled breakfast or snacking more often. You're also not going to fill up on metabolism-boosting foods or sip on energy drinks or special teas. You're going to keep your diet exactly the same and increase metabolism with movement.
Source of protein at every meal: “Protein requires more energy – about 25 per cent more energy – to digest compared to fat and carbohydrates,” D’Ambrosio says. “This is why it is important to have one source of protein at every meal to help feel full until the next meal or snack.” However it’s important to note that our body still needs carbs as it’s the body’s main fuel source, she adds.
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.
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.