The theory makes sense: Your body burns carbs for energy, but if you eat them before you go to sleep, your body just stores them as fat. One study in the European Journal of Nutrition put two groups of men on identical weight loss diets. The only difference? Half of the group ate their carbs throughout the day while the second group reserved carbohydrates for nighttime. The result? The nighttime carb group showed a significantly higher diet-induced thermogenesis (meaning they burned more calories digesting their food the next day). Moreover, the daytime-carb group showed increased blood sugar levels.
Believe it or not, it may be the most important meal of the day as far as metabolism (and weight loss) is concerned. Breakfast eaters lose more weight than breakfast skippers do, according to studies. "Your metabolism slows while you sleep, and it doesn't rev back up until you eat again," explains Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at Penn State University and an author of The Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan. So if you bypass breakfast, your body won't burn as many calories until lunchtime as it could. That's why it's smart to start the day with a solid 300- to 400-calorie meal; it jump-starts your metabolism.
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.
In a study conducted by Swiss and German researchers, lucky participants ate about 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate daily for two weeks. Ultimately, these chocolate nibblers had lower stress-hormone levels and a more regulated metabolism than a control group. Scientists speculate that chemicals in cocoa, such as flavonoids, play a role in regulating metabolism by alleviating stress that can cause your fat-burning engines to go on the fritz. Should you think this is a license to go wild, take heed: We’re talking small amounts of high-quality dark chocolate. Researchers say 1.5 ounces is enough.
Late night snacking is clearly not recommended, but staying up late in and of itself directly affects the speed of your metabolism. In a study published in Lancet, researchers studied the effects of chronic sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine functions on 11 young men who were restricted to four hours of sleep a night for six nights. The results of the study showed sleep debt negatively impacts carbohydrate metabolism and endocrine function. Researchers concluded that seven to eight hours of sleep a night for adults will help keep your metabolic rate at a healthy, steady pace.
Not only does muscle weigh more than fat, but it uses more energy, too. The average woman in her 30s who strength-trains 30 to 40 minutes twice a week for four months will increase her resting metabolism by 100 calories a day. That means you're resetting your thermostat to keep running at that rate even on the days when you don't make it to the gym, Hunter explains.
Move more and faster. Research shows high intensity interval training (where you go all out for 30 to 60 seconds, slowing down for a couple of minutes, and repeating) coupled with strength training is an excellent way to make new, improved mitochondria. Strength training builds muscle and creates more mitochondria, while interval training improves mitochondrial function and how quickly they burn oxygen and calories. You can learn more about an effective exercise plan here.
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.
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.
A new report from the Credit Suisse Research Institute found that more and more of us are choosing whole-fat foods over skim, lite, fat-free or other modern monikers of leanness. And while many health organizations like the American Heart Association still want us to cut down on fat—particularly saturated fat—this full-fat trend may be a healthy rebellion against those decades-old credos, according to recent studies. In fact, people who eat a lot of high-fat dairy products actually have the lowest incidence of diabetes, according to a 2015 study of 26,930 people in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Those who ate a lot of low-fat dairy products, on the other hand, had the highest incidence. The researchers speculated that while calcium, protein, vitamin D, and other nutrients in yogurt are indeed good for us, we need the fat that goes along with them in order to reap their protective effects.
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.
For nutritionist Lisa Jubilee, one of the best and cheapest ways to give your metabolism a jolt is to drink water (she suggests 20 to 32 ounces) shortly after waking. Why? During sleep, your body’s metabolic function slows down, and unless you wake up in the middle of the night to swig some water, you’re not taking in any fluids. Jubilee suggests completely rehydrating before stressing your body with any other food or drink. “My clients who have implemented this report less bloating, more energy and a smaller appetite,” she says. Her motto for getting your inner furnace stoked and ready for the day: “Rehydrate, then caffeinate!”
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.
Iron deficiency affects more than 1 in 5 women in the U.S. Being deficient in essential minerals can show up in all kinds of ways, such as fatigue and anemia, but an iron deficiency can also be a blow for getting into your skinny jeans with relative ease. See, your body can’t work as efficiently to burn calories when it doesn’t have what it needs to work properly. A cup of lentils, it turns out, provides over a third of your daily iron needs. Legumes like lentils also have been shown to drive down bad cholesterol and blood pressure.
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.
This vitamin is essential for preserving metabolism-revving muscle tissue. Unfortunately, researchers estimate that a measly four percent of Americans over age 50 take in enough vitamin D through their diet. Get 90 percent of your recommended daily value (400 IU) in a 3.5-ounce serving of salmon. Other good sources: tuna, shrimp, tofu, fortified milk and cereal, and eggs.
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.
If you're someone who loves being cold while they sleep, you might already be doing your metabolism some good. A small study looked at how lowering the temperature while you're catching some zzzs may increase your levels of "brown fat" — the "good" fat that keeps you warm in cold temps by burning calories to generate heat. When the participants in the study slept at 66 degrees opposed to warmer temperatures, their amount of brown fat increased, while the opposite occurred during the months their sleeping areas were warmer. Turns out blasting the AC can really do you some good.
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!
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.”