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."
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.
Non-exercise adaptive thermogenesis (NEAT) is the next part of your metabolism, and it's basically made up of those extra things your body does that aren’t really exercise, but that still cost energy (think: fidgeting, shivering, and all the things you do to go about your day, like walking and standing). It accounts for about 20 percent of your metabolism, and it can vary from day to day depending on things like what you’re doing to what you're eating.
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.
Plus, strength workouts have an additional metabolism-boosting benefit. Because this type of anaerobic training involves breaking down and building back up of muscle tissue, the body needs to burn more calories in the 24 to 48 hours after each session—a phenomenon known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, EPOC, or, informally, "afterburn.” Researchers, however, are currently debating how intense that afterburn really is.