But, Bustillo cautions against hanging too much hope on this: “Many companies that sell the ‘after burn’ or ‘metabolic workouts’ are just utilizing a marketing strategy with [a grain of science behind it],” he says. “They're not technically lying, because training can increase BMR [in the 24 hours post-workout], but it's not by more than 200-300 calories on average.”
Some things, though, aren’t that simple. For instance, someone with a higher metabolism burns more calories at rest than someone with a lower metabolism, and can therefore get away with eating more food—even junk food. But a high metabolism isn’t a privilege reserved for a select few lucky enough to be born with it. You can raise yours and reap the benefits, too.
Our bodies need dietary fat—particularly healthy oils—in order to lose weight and function properly. The right kinds of fats and oils help quash hunger, maximize your metabolism, and speed nutrients through your body. Healthy monounsaturated fats like olive oil can actually help the body to burn calories. Extra virgin olive oil may also increase blood levels of serotonin, a hormone associated with satiety. Plus, olive oil is also loaded with polyphenols, antioxidants that help battle many diseases such as cancer, osteoporosis and brain deterioration.
It’s not just about being a gym rat. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that non-exercise related activity, such as tapping your foot or fidgeting at your desk, can help keep off fat. To integrate more movement into your everyday routine, Pincus suggests opting for a standing or transitional desk, or just making sure you don’t spend the entire workday sedentary. “Set a timer to walk around your office every half an hour, do a few squats, something to keep the body moving,” she says.
If you’re on the fence about whether to buy organic, this news may sway you: Fruits, vegetables, and grains grown without pesticides keep your fat-burning system running at full-tilt because they don’t expose your thyroid to toxins, Hyman says. Nonorganic produce, on the other hand, “blocks your metabolism mainly by interfering with your thyroid, which is your body’s thermostat and determines how fast it runs,” he explains.
When you have a drink, you burn less fat, and more slowly than usual because the alcohol is used as fuel instead, especially drinks high in sugar. Go for these low-calorie alcoholic drinks at the next happy hour to keep your waistline in check. One of the biggest mistakes people make when drinking alcohol is portion sizes. Be sure to stick to one serving; for beer, it's 12 ounces, wine is 5 ounces, and liquor is 1.5 ounces. Avoid sugary mixers that add empty calories and sip slowly to fully savor your drink.
We all know sitting around too much is really bad for our health: One meta-analysis reported that prolonged sedentary time was associated with harmful health outcomes, and many other studies have shown it can (obviously!) lead to weight gain. Limiting your time in front of the TV at night and even trying to stand more while you're at work — perhaps with a standing desk — can increase your metabolism, helping you lose weight with minimal effort.
If you really want to speed up your metabolism, start with changes to your daily activity. You'll see the greatest benefit if you can move more throughout the day. Then make diet-friendly food choices that help you to feel more energized. And lastly, skip the metabolism-boosting pills and potions (unless your doctor prescribes it). Most of them don't work and some even cause harm.
Make sure you eat breakfast. Eating a nutrient-rich morning meal (like oatmeal with almonds and berries, or a spinach-and-feta omelet with a slice of whole-grain toast) shortly after getting out of bed literally wakes up your metabolism. "Eating breakfast gets the engine going and keeps it going," Hyman explains. It's hard to argue with these results: According to the National Weight Control Registry (an ongoing study that tracks 5,000 people who lost an average of 66 pounds and kept it off more than five years), 78% of those who keep it off eat an a.m. meal every day.