While drinking in moderation every so often won’t do too much harm to your waistline, making it a habit can slow down your metabolic rate. Why? When your body has a cocktail to break down, it takes precedence over any food that you’ve already eaten that’s waiting to be digested. This slows down the entire metabolic process. On the occasions that you decided to indulge, stick to low-calorie drinks. Alternate your alcohol with water to slow your pace, and cut yourself off after two drinks. Avoid ordering high-cal bar food like fries and burgers. An important note: Wine in moderation can have numerous benefits, including weight loss!
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.
Instead of ditching carbs or going low-fat, try a diet that's rich in veggies, beans, and legumes to increase your metabolism — and keep your blood sugar from spiking. "Many people think weight is all about calories in, calories out, but quality also matters," says Aunna Pourang, M.D. "[In a 2012 study], low-carb diets showed the most increase in metabolism, but also showed an increase in the stress hormone cortisol. This is why scientists concluded that the low-glycemic diet worked the best."
In addition to green tea, coffee is one of the best drinks for weight loss because it boosts your metabolism. A study published in the journal Food Science and Biotechnology found that caffeine revs the sympathetic nervous system and increases lipolysis. A cup of black coffee is a good pre-workout beverage, too: Researchers found that cyclists who took a caffeine supplement were able to ride about a mile farther than those who took a placebo. Make yours a venti and skip the sweeteners.
It's tempting to curl up on the couch the minute PMS mood swings and bloat strike, but you'll lose more weight if you exercise during those two weeks before your period, according to a recent study at the University of Adelaide in Australia. "Women burned about 30 percent more fat for the two weeks following ovulation to about two days before menstruating," says study coauthor Leanne Redman. Here's why: The reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone are at their peak then — and because they promote the body's use of fat as energy, more fat is burned off when you exercise during this time.
There are plenty of fish in the sea, but salmon may be the best one for your metabolism. That’s because most cases of underactive thyroid are due to inflammation of the gland, and salmon boasts significant anti-inflammatory properties thanks to its rich omega-3 fatty acid content. In fact, a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the effects of weight loss and seafood consumption and showed salmon to be the most effective at reducing inflammation—better than cod, fish oil, and a fish-free diet.
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A good night’s sleep can help balance the fluctuating hormones that wreak havoc after age 50, Katherine explains. Additionally, a well-rested body is more resistant to cravings. “Studies show that when a body is sleep-deprived, the body slows the metabolism to conserve energy,” she says. “This seems counter-intuitive, as we all know it feels like it takes more energy to function when sleep-deprived—but perhaps it is because your own body slowed your metabolism to conserve energy.”
You might want to think twice before ditching dairy if you’re trying to lose weight—despite what your Paleo-preaching CrossFit friends tell you. Cheese is a satisfying, portable, and inexpensive food that’s packed with calcium, vitamin D, and protein. “Calcium can also promote weight loss because it helps maintain muscle mass, which boosts and helps maintain metabolism, helping you burn calories more efficiently throughout the day,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, RD, author of The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories & Fat Disappear—With Fiber! That doesn’t mean you can help yourself to a cheese-drenched casserole, though. Work cheese into fiber-rich snacks to make them more satiating.
"Protein burns more calories than carbs and fat,” says Bustillo. About 30 percent of the calories in protein will go towards digestion and absorption, whereas that number is only about 10 percent for carbs, and even less for fats. Fiber's another nutrient that costs a little more energy, says Bustillo—so, getting adequate protein and fiber can definitely help maximize your BMR.
Limit simple sugars: Limit your intake of foods like cookies, cakes and chips that contain limited nutritional value, no fibre and only serve to spike blood sugar, D’Ambrosio warns. If you eat too many simple sugars then our bodies secrete insulin to bring down blood sugar and insulin promotes fat storage. Instead, reach for grains like brown rice, oats, barley and quinoa for your fibre intake.
The smoothie revolution is here, and lots of people are swilling down bushels of leafy greens. Believe it or not, there’s a downside to this ingenious delivery method. A big part of the body’s job—breaking down food so that the body can absorb nutrients—has been outsourced to our Nutribullets and Vitamixes. That means that the body is expending much less energy than it would if we were eating kale, spinach, and bananas in their solid form. Smoothies are great for weight loss, but by prioritizing lean meats, fish, fibrous vegetables and fruit, you are driving up TEF (the Thermic Effect of Food, or your metabolic rate after eating) and expending more calories on digestion.
Your body digests protein more slowly than fat or carbs, so you feel full longer (this is especially true when you have it for breakfast). Plus, it may also give your metabolism a bump. In a process called thermogenesis, your body uses about 10% of its calorie intake for digestion. So, because it takes longer to burn protein than carbs or fat, your body expends more energy absorbing the nutrients in a high-protein diet. Another bonus: One recent study from Purdue University found that diets higher in protein may help preserve lean body mass, which is the best fat-burner of all.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
When you’re looking to give your body a boost, you know turning to a solid weightlifting session, afternoon bike ride, even a a quick 30-minute HIIT session will get your metabolism cranked up. Metabolism is simple. It’s a series of chemical processes by which your cells produce the energy needed to sustain life—and the higher it revs, the more energy your body burns.
Aim for a breakfast that has plenty of high-fiber carbs: When researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia compared the effects of high-fat and high-fiber-carbohydrate breakfasts, they discovered that people who ate the fatty meal got hungry sooner afterward. "High-fiber carbohydrates take longer for your body to digest and absorb than fats; thus they don't cause rapid changes in your blood sugar, so your hunger is kept at bay longer," says study coauthor Susanna Holt, Ph.D. Some good choices: a bran-rich breakfast cereal with low-fat milk; whole-grain toast topped with low-fat ricotta and sliced banana or berries; an egg-white veggie omelette with whole-grain toast.
Even the fittest and most health-conscious people can’t avoid aging. And while, there’s nothing wrong with adding years of experience and memories under your belt, sometimes age adds a bit more than that. Plenty of factors contribute to increased weight over time, but decreased metabolism is a main culprit. In fact, even if you continue with your regular eating and exercise plan every year, you’ll still gain two pounds per year, says Kimberly Corp, certified Pilates instructor, and co-founder of Pilates on Fifth. The good news is that you still have a lot of control over your metabolism after 50. Here are some expert tips to help rev up your engines.
While nutritionists agree that there is no magic food to revving up your metabolism, getting enough exercise, especially the right kind of exercise, is key. Experts suggest strength training two or three times to build lean muscle mass. “A pound of muscle burns up to nine times more calories than a pound of fat,” says nutritionist Lisa Stollman. “Lifting weights is a great way to build muscle mass.” However, the point is not just to build lean muscle mass, but to maintain it. “As we age, we start to lose muscle,” says Pincus. “Strength training not only builds muscle groups to burn more calories, but also helps preserve them and prevent loss.” Check out these other nutritionist-approved ways to speed up your metabolism.
Dehydrated cells and organs don’t function as well as they should, leaving your metabolism lower than it could be if you’re not fully hydrated. Water is best, but you can also increase your hydration levels by consuming other beverages too. Just make sure they don’t have high calorie or sugar levels. (This suggestion works especially well for college students who hope to avoid the Freshman 15!)
Muscle burns more calories than fat. So will building more muscle not boost your metabolism? Yes, but only by a small amount. Most regular exercisers only gain a few pounds (kilograms) of muscle. That is not enough to make a big difference in the number of calories you burn. Plus, when not in active use, muscles burn very few calories. Most of the time, your brain, heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs account for most of your metabolism.
Lifting weights: Strength training builds muscle, and Marci says, "The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you will burn, even while at rest." While doing cardio does burn calories, your body quickly adapts to the amount you do, so in order to burn the same number of calories, you'll have to do more cardio. Lifting weights saves you time and is way more effective.
If you vary your diet so that you get more calories once in a while, your metabolism will speed up to meet the need of burning the extra calories without your gaining any weight. Then the next day when you eat less again, your metabolism will still be higher so your body will burn fat to meet the energy needs of the higher metabolic rate. If you add in exercise, you will maintain a higher metabolic rate which will expedite the process even further.
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.
So how many calories should you consume? Depending on your level of activity, you can safely lose anywhere from half a pound to two pounds a week if you multiply your current weight by 11, says Applegate. (For example, if you're 120 pounds, aim for around 1,320 calories a day.) Unless you're less than five feet tall, don't let your daily calories dip below 1,200. "Research shows that women who consume less than this amount see their resting metabolic rate plummet by as much as 45 percent," notes Dale Huff, R.D., a St. Louis nutritionist.
Your body needs water to process calories. If you are even mildly dehydrated, your metabolism may slow down. In one study, adults who drank eight or more glasses of water a day burned more calories than those who drank four. To stay hydrated, drink a glass of water or other unsweetened beverage before every meal and snack. Also, snack on fresh fruits and vegetables, which naturally contain water, rather than pretzels or chips.