By the time you reach 30, you’re finally getting your house in order. By this point, you probably have a career path, a disposable income, a comfortable home, a stylish wardrobe. It seems like you’re at the height of your powers, and things are really breaking your way. Then, quite suddenly, it happens.
You notice that the winter weight doesn’t come off as easily in the springtime. That your pants are a little snugger. That a few drinks on a Friday night can ruin most of your Saturday. You tell yourself it’s because you’re busy with work and have been slacking at the gym, drinking a little too much and eating takeout too often. All that may well be true. But that belies the fact that something else is going on: Your metabolism is slowing down. The good news is that by making some changes in how you do things, you can kick it back up into high gear. It just takes a little know-how. Like this. And for more on life after 30, check out the 30 Life Changes You Should Make After 30.
Turn Down Your Thermostat
On a list that encompasses several easy ways to rev your metabolism, this may be one of the easiest. Take the temp in your bedroom down a notch. That’s it! A hot new study published in the journal Diabetes suggests that simply turning on the AC may subtly transform a person’s stores of brown fat—“good” fat, stimulated by cold temperatures, that serves to keep us warm by burning through “bad” fat stores. Participants spent a few weeks sleeping in bedrooms with varying temperatures: A neutral 75 degrees, a cool 66 degree and a balmy 81 degrees. After four weeks of sleeping at 66 degrees, the men had almost doubled their volumes of brown fat. For more ways to sleep better, try out the 10 Best Pillows For A Better Night’s Sleep.
Laugh To Stay Lean
It’s no joke: genuine laughter may cause a 10 to 20 percent increase in basal energy expenditure and resting heart rate, according to a study published in The International Journal of Obesity. That means a 10-15 minute giggle fest could burn up 40 to 170 calories. Who has the last laugh now? You do! To get in a few extra laughs ASAP, check out the 50 Dad Jokes So Bad They’re Actually Hilarious.
Ensure That You Eat Enough
If you want to weigh less, you’ve got to eat less, right? Not exactly. See, if you take in too few calories, it can cause your body to lose muscle mass, which will actually slow down your metabolism. What’s more, skimping on calories slows the rate at which the body burns calories to conserve the fuel it has. “Under-fueling is just as risky as over-fueling,” explains Carolyn Brown, a registered dietitian at Foodtrainers in New York City. Stock your kitchen with these 40 Heart Foods to Eat After 40.
Drink Green Tea
The brew contains catechins, a type of antioxidant that triggers the release of fat from fat cells and helps speed the liver’s capacity for turning fat into energy. In a recent 12-week study, participants who drank 4 to 5 cups of green tea daily, then did a 25-minute workout, lost an average of two more pounds, and more belly fat, than the non tea-drinking exercisers.
“Hormones dictate how our body utilizes the energy we give it,” says nutritionist Lisa Jubilee. “Between our reproductive, thyroid and growth hormones, appetite, insulin and hunger hormones — leptin and ghrelin — our bodies have to perform a tricky balancing act to keep us lean, energized and viable reproductive beings.” Those tasks have become much more difficult because of the hormone residues we consume via cage-raised foods. If you want to give your metabolism a leg up, Jubilee says, switch to organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised beef, eggs and dairy products, thereby avoiding those nasty hormones at mealtime.
When it comes to the best workouts for weight loss, neither weights nor cardio can completely move the needle on their own. Interval training is the best way to shed pounds, increase your metabolism, improve your cholesterol profile, and improve insulin sensitivity. At the gym, sign up for a HIIT class, or turn your favorite aerobic exercise, (running, biking, even walking) into an interval workout by adding periods of intense speed (start with 30 to 60 seconds) followed by periods of rest (normal speed) for the same amount of time. Do this six to 10 times to complete a fat-slashing workout.
Drink more water
Weight loss hardly gets easier than this: drinking more water may increase the rate at which you burn calories, according to a study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. After drinking approximately 17 ounces of water (about 2 tall glasses), participants’ metabolic rates increased by 30 percent. The researchers estimate that increasing water intake by 1.5 liters a day (about 6 cups) would burn an extra 17,400 calories over the course of the year—a weight loss of approximately five pounds!
Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Our bodies need dietary fat—particularly healthy oils—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. What’s more, adding the stuff to your diet is one of 10 Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure.
Put On Some Muscle
Even when you’re at rest, your body is constantly burning calories. In fact, 75% of the calories that you burn each day are being used up just keeping you alive. “Resting metabolic rate” is much higher in people with more muscle, because every pound of muscle uses about six calories a day just to sustain itself. If you can pack on just five pounds of muscle and sustain it, you’ll burn the caloric equivalent of three pounds of fat over the course of a year.
Eat Egg Yolks
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.
Just Do It…Briefly
Forget slogging on the treadmill for hours, research printed in the journal Physiological Reports showed that people who did five 30-second bursts of max-effort cycling, followed by four minutes of rest, burned 200 extra calories that day. That’s just 2.5 minutes of work for a resting metabolism boost that will last 24 to 48 hours.
Eat Carbs at Night
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. But the pasta-nomics of weight loss aren’t so simple. 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. Another study in the journal Obesity saw similar results. Nighttime carb eaters lost 27 percent more body fat—and felt 13.7 percent fuller—than those on the standard diet.
Calcium and vitamin C team up well to boost metabolism. Broccoli contains both nutrients, not to mention the kind of fiber that’s been shown to increase TEF (the Thermic Effect of Food, or your metabolic rate after eating). What’s more: Broccoli contains a compound that works on a genetic level to effectively “switch off” cancer genes, leading to the targeted death of cancer cells and slowing of disease progression. One study found men who ate three or more half-cup servings of broccoli per week had a 41 percent decreased risk for prostate cancer compared to men who ate fewer than one serving per week.
Avoid Diet Soda
Yeah, yeah, it has zero calories, but drinking diet soda may yet play havoc with your goal of having a flat belly. Research published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism shows that artificially sweetened beverages may screw up the body’s normal metabolic response to sugar, actually increasing appetite. Increasingly, diet drinks are being linked with weight gain, metabolic syndrome and a host of other ills.
That chill pill you’re urged to take from time to time? It can be a metabolism booster. That’s because stress can actually cause the body to metabolize food more slowly, according to research published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. To make matters worse, the food we crave when we’re stressed out tends to be fatty and full of sugar. Researchers say that the combination of high-cal cravings and a stress-induced, snail-paced metabolic rate can result in significant weight gain. To keep your metabolism running strong, fight stress with laughter. Research shows that smiling and laughing (see tip #2) causes levels of stress hormones to diminish. And for more ways to kick back, master the 30 Best Ways to Cut Stress.
Eat Enough Protein Daily
The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn–no matter what you’re doing. Hitting the gym helps you build muscle to begin with, but eating protein keeps it from breaking down and slowing your metabolic rate as a result. Protein needs differ by individual, but typically consuming 0.8 to one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day should be sufficient enough to fuel weight loss, says Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN, a New York City-based dietitian. For a 130-pound (58 kilogram) person, that would equal between 46 and 58 grams of protein. Research has found that because protein is more difficult for the body to break down and digest than other nutrients, it can increase post-meal calorie burn by as much as 35 percent.
Get to Bed
A Finnish researcher 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 — which experts say is 7 to 9 hours a night for most people — 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.”
Take a Stand at Work
Ideally, we sleep about eight hours for every 24. Most people spend another seven to ten hours sitting at their desk. That means most of us spend the overwhelming majority of our time sedentary. Our bodies weren’t designed for this level of inactivity — most of humans’ evolutionary history involved being active, searching for food and fuel. Nutritionist Lisa Jubilee says that one way to burn more calories daily is to stand more and sit less. She cites a British study which found that standing at work burned 50 more calories per hour than sitting. If that doesn’t sound like a lot, consider this: If you stand for just three hours of your day, in one year you’d expend more than 30,000 extra calories — which amounts to about 8 lbs of fat.
Nibble On Chocolate
In a study 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.
Yep, you heard that right! We all know that cheese is a satisfying, portable and inexpensive food that’s packed with calcium, vitamin D and protein. It’s that last quality that makes it a metabolism revver. “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.
Eat Full-Fat Foods
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 get their protective effects.
Get Your D
If there’s one supplement most Americans should be taking, it’s Vitamin D. It’s essential for preserving metabolism-revving muscle tissue, but researchers estimate that a measly 20 percent of Americans take in enough through their diet. While you can nail 90 percent of your recommended daily value (400 IU) in a 3.5-ounce serving of salmon, a daily supplement makes a lot of sense. Other good dietary sources: salmon, fortified milk and cereal, and eggs.
Eat Whole Foods
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’re driving up TEF (Thermic Effect of Food) and expending more calories on digestion.
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, one study that looked at the effects of weight loss and seafood consumption showed salmon to be the most effective at reducing inflammation — better than cod, fish oil and a no-fish diet. The fishy fatty acids may also signal thyroid cells in the liver to burn more fat, a recent study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry suggests.
An Apple A Day…
Eating an apple every day can help prevent metabolic syndrome, a disorder associated with abdominal fat, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. They’ll keep the doctor away and your muffin tops at bay, because apples are a low-calorie, nutrient dense source of fiber, which studies have proven to be integral to reducing visceral fat. A recent study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber eaten per day, visceral fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years.
Eat Three Square Meals, Not More
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.
Drink Less Booze to Burn More Fat
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. In fact, some researchers claim boozing can decrease the body’s fat-burning ability by up to 73 percent. On the occasions that you decided to indulge, stick to low-calorie drinks.
Snack on Yogurt
Probiotics in products like yogurt and fermented foods like pickles and sauerkraut help good bacteria in the gut process food more efficiently. Not only is yogurt a great source of protein and calcium, studies have shown that eating it as part of a reduced-calorie diet can increase metabolism. And you can incorporate it into dishes throughout the day.
Dim the Lights
Want to have a faster metabolism? Install apps like f.lux or twilight on your devices. They reduce certain parts of the light spectrum as your bedtime approaches. Studies have shown that LED lights in phones disturb production of sleep hormone melatonin. A purring metabolism is greatly helped by a good night’s sleep. So take your late night sexting down a notch or two … at least in terms of screen brightness.
Eat the butter that grows on trees
But instead of cholesterol, trans and saturated fats in butter, avocado contains metabolism-enhancing monounsaturated fat. But that’s not all. Each one is also packed with fiber and free-radical-killing antioxidants. Free radicals are destructive rogue oxygen molecules—natural byproducts of metabolism—that trigger various chain reactions in the body that destroy cells and DNA, causing all kinds of health problems. And for more on sparking up your body’s internal machine, learn the Single Best Way to Boost Your Metabolism Every Day.
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