You probably don't need scientists to tell you that your metabolism slows with age. The average woman gains 1 1/2 pounds a year during her adult life—enough to pack on 40-plus pounds by her 50s, if she doesn't combat the roller coaster of hormones, muscle loss, and stress that conspires to slow her fat-burning engine. Thankfully, there's a way to help rev it up again. Midlife weight gain isn't inevitable: By eating metabolism-boosting foods and following the path, you'll sleep better, have more energy, feel firmer, and notice your clothes are looser in as little as two weeks. Here's how to increase your metabolism.
Add mustard to your meal, and feel the burn—literally! Scientists at England’s Oxford Polytechnic Institute found that by eating just one teaspoon of mustard (about 5 calories) can boost the metabolism by up to 25 percent for several hours after eating. The benefits, researchers say, may be attributed to capsaicin and allyl isothiocyanates, phytochemicals that give the mustard its characteristic flavor.
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."
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.
Not only is vinegar great on salad, it’s also shown to “switch on” genes that release proteins that break down fat. In a study of 175 overweight Japanese men and women published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, researchers found that participants who drank one or two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily for 12 weeks significantly lowered their body weight, BMI, visceral fat, and waist circumference.
Ensuring you get the proper amount of water every day is probably one of the oldest health tricks in the book, but it’s not just because it keeps our skin hydrated or helps prevent overeating by helping us feel fuller. A small study in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition found that drinking water can actually lead to weight loss, possibly because it can increase metabolism. “It takes calories to process water, because everything we do takes calories,” says nutritionist Lauren Pincus, “The more water, the more calories you need to expend.” She suggests aiming for around two liters a day, but the exact amount depending on your activity level and age.
Don’t cave into that extra episode of Stranger Things: Getting a quality night’s is a critical component of a healthy metabolism. “Too little sleep appears to wreak havoc with leptin and ghrelin, two hormones that regulate appetite,” says nutritionist Elisa Zied. “When you don’t sleep well, you feel hungrier and you tend to eat more and choose more nutrient-poor foods.”
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.
This tea is known for its powerful thermogenic effects—meaning it turns up your body’s calorie-burning mechanism—and can also promote weight loss by improving insulin sensitivity. In a Nutrition and Metabolism study, participants were divided into two groups where one group took a placebo 60 minutes prior to exercise and the other group ingested a 1,000-milligram capsule of yerba maté. Researchers found that those who consumed the herb increased the beneficial effects their workout had on their metabolism. Yerba maté is just one of the best teas for weight loss!
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Although it’s true that egg whites are low in calories, fat-free, and contain most of the protein found in an egg, eating the entire egg is beneficial to your metabolism. The yolk contains many metabolism-stoking nutrients, including fat-soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids and—most significantly—choline, a powerful compound that attacks the gene mechanism that triggers your body to store fat around your liver. Worried about cholesterol? New studies have found that moderate consumption of two whole eggs per day has no negative effect on a person’s lipid (fat) profile and may actually improve it.
Bring on the funny cat videos — they're good for your health, according to researchers. No, you won't get the same calorie-burning results as you get from your spin class, but laughing does give your metabolism a small boost. Astudy published in the International Journal of Obesity found that genuine laughter increased both energy expenditure and heart rate by 10-20 percent above resting values. Another study found that watching cat videos in particular can boost your energy level. Guess you know what you're watching on the treadmill from now on.
Build muscle mass: Muscle burns more calories than fat, D’Ambrosio says. To be specific, a pound of muscle burns about six calories per day compared to two calories a day for a pound of fat. “If you want your body to burn more calories, you had better build extra muscle mass,” she says. “This is why a person with higher muscle mass will burn more calories and have a higher metabolism at rest than a person with less muscle mass.” Focus on doing resistance or strengthening exercises at least twice a week.
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.