Want to boost your body’s calorie burn even at rest? These tips come straight from the experts.
Jumpstart your metabolism as soon as you wake up by drinking a large glass of water. Founder of Hispanic Food Communications, Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, MS, RD, suggests placing a glass by your beside before you go to bed and drinking it first thing every morning. If you don’t like water, most other liquids count as well, according to the latest recommendations, as do fruits and veggies with a high water content such as mandarin, watermelon, and cucumber.
Never, ever skip breakfast
Eat breakfast within an hour of waking up to jump-start your metabolism. “Make sure to get enough protein at breakfast, at least 20 grams or the equivalent of 3 ounces, which is approximately the size of a deck of cards,” advises medical nutrition therapist Lauren Harris-Pincus. “Breakfast is the time we often miss out on the opportunity to protect our muscles because we can only use about 25 to 35 grams of protein at a time for muscle growth and repair. Doubling up at dinner doesn’t help if you skipped protein at breakfast.” If you can’t face meat or eggs in the morning, remember that milk, dairy, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and veggies also contain protein—and are therefore foods that increase metabolism too.
Nosh throughout the day
Learning how to boost your metabolism involves changing not just what you eat, but how and when you eat. Consuming several smaller meals instead of three large, heavy meals will help keep your metabolism and energy levels consistent throughout the day, advises dietitian Abby Sauer, registered dietitian at Abbott.
Eat foods high in B vitamins
Foods containing specific nutrients have been shown to play a role in metabolism. “Because your body needs help to convert carbs, protein, and fats from food into energy, eating foods high in B vitamins can help facilitate this process,” Sauer says. Try beans, lentils, whole grains, and most deeply colored vegetables such as kale or spinach.
Increase lean muscle mass
Muscles aren’t just there to make your body look good—they play a key role in your metabolism. “Making it a habit to get up and get moving throughout the day or engaging in a weekly workout routine with forms of aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, or cycling, can also decrease your body fat and increase lean muscle mass, which revs up your metabolism,” says Sauer.
Incorporating light weight-lifting to your fitness routine will build up muscle strength and also boost your metabolism. “Muscle is hugely metabolically demanding so the more muscle, the higher the basal metabolic rate,” explains clinical nutritionist Stephanie Moore. Here’s how strength-training changes your body. And did you know that just one weight-lifting session can even help fight diabetes!
Avoid rapid weight loss
Figuring out how to increase your metabolism is crucial if you want to lose weight and keep it off. For optimum long-term results, don’t fall into the trap of trying to lose too much weight, too quickly. “This causes the body to drop its metabolic rate in an attempt to survive what it perceives to be a famine,” says dietitian and mindful eating coach Dina Garcia.
Dina Garcia recommends including PF3 (protein, fat, fiber, and fluid) in all meals, because these components help keep you satisfied and stabilize your blood sugar. “Protein and fiber also require a little more energy to digest than refined carbs,” she adds.
Don’t skimp on z’s
If you don’t get enough good quality sleep, your metabolism could pay the price. “Lack of sleep can play a big roll in your body’s ability to burn calories,” says Dina Garcia. “Plus when you’re tired, you’re less motivated to hit the gym or opt for the stairs over the elevator.”
If you don’t consume enough throughout the day, your rate of metabolism may drop. Snacks are a great way to fuel your body, provided you do it the right way. “The key is to reach for foods and snacks that are nutritious and within your calorie requirements,” says Melendez-Klinger. “For snacks, one can easily consume 400-plus calories, so reach for foods that are satisfying and full of nutrients with no more than 200 calories each. For example, mandarin oranges are a great snack since they are sweet, easy-to-peel, and only 50 calories each! If you’re looking for something more filling yet nutritious, spread a tablespoon of your favorite nut or seed butter on whole wheat toast.”
Sip green tea
Green tea is often revered for having many health benefits. “This warming (or cooling) beverage serves a dual purpose,” says Harris-Pincus. “Not only is it full of antioxidants and other healthy phytochemicals, but it has the benefit of slightly increasing your metabolism.” Harris-Pincus recommends sipping tea in the evening instead of snacking and trading in your usual latte for a cup of iced or hot green tea to lower your calorie intake and help you burn a few extra. But remember not to add sugar to sweeten it, as that will defeat the purpose. Instead, go for enhanced flavors like pomegranate or blueberry green tea. For homemade iced green tea, add several tea bags to a two-quart container filled with water and let it steep overnight in the fridge.
Enjoy (very) dark chocolate
Good news for chocolate lovers: It’s scientifically proven to help weight loss. Or at least, the very dark stuff is. “Dark chocolate—a great source of polyphenols, and flavanols in particular—has lately received attention for its possible role in modulating obesity because of its potential effect on fat and carbohydrate metabolism, as well as on satiety, the feeling of ‘fullness,'” writes Ian Wishart in his bestselling health book Show Me The Money Honey. “The research undertaken to date has shown promising results, with the possible implication of cocoa/dark chocolate in the modulation of obesity and body weight.”
Feed your gut
Healthy gut bacteria support fat-burning and metabolic function, so increase your intake of high-fiber and probiotic-rich fermented foods, all of which enrich your microbiome, that community of friendly gut bugs. “Probiotics are beneficial for our gut health, helping us have better digestion and also less bloating,” says Rebecca Lewis, in-house dietitian at HelloFresh. “Even more importantly, they directly influence the hormones our brains release, including cortisol (our stress hormone), ghrelin (our hunger hormone), and serotonin (our happiness hormone).”
Empty dinner plate on white background
“Intermittent fasting is a great way to challenge the body to burn more fat and maintain muscle, as your body prepares to go hunting to find food!” claims Moore.
Chronic stress disrupts our metabolic hormones. High levels of the primary stress hormone, cortisol, have been shown to lead to carbohydrate and sugar cravings, which can lead to weight gain. (It makes sense from an evolutionary perspective: In ancient times, if your brain perceived a threat, it would prompt you to eat foods that would help you cope, whether you needed to flee from a wild animal or find a new cave for your family.) “Manage your stress and reduce that cortisol through breathing exercises and meditation,” suggests registered dietitian nutritionist Beryl Krinsky.
Consider GI helpers
According to certified health and wellness coach Nicole Granato, ensuring you are taking the proper supplements is very important. “A daily tonic may be your ticket to healthy bowel movements,” she says. “Try taking a shot of aloe vera (full leaf) juice first thing in the morning. This will not only help with a bowel movement, but also break up any stagnation in the body that may be contributing to fatigue and moodiness.”
Cut back on dairy
Dairy has been linked to a number of health issues, most of which relate to digestion and involve gas, bloating, constipation, fatigue, mood imbalances, and hormonal imbalance. “When we ingest milk we get all of these crazy symptoms, which is our body’s way of telling us it does not know how to process it,” says Granato. Steering clear of dairy streamline your digestion for better metabolic performance. Here’s what happens to your body when you stop eating dairy.
We’ve all heard the hype about coconut oil. Via its healthy fats, it offers weight loss, brain health, and numerous other health benefits, says registered nurse Rebecca Lee. “Coconut oil is made up of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are metabolized differently in the body than most fats. MCTs are transferred quickly from the digestive tract to the liver, and are converted into an immediate source of energy. The more energy you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day, which leads to weight loss. Coconut oil also curbs your appetite due to the way MCTs are metabolized in your body.” Granato suggests adding a teaspoon of coconut oil to your tea, coffee, or smoothie, as well as using it in place of any other oils you normally cook with.
Take apple cider vinegar
A study carried out in Japan in 2009 showed that participants who consumed apple cider vinegar every day for 12 weeks lost more weight than those who took a placebo. As well as being packed with essential vitamins and minerals (including potassium, magnesium, fiber, amino acids, and antioxidants, vinegar is believed to increase the sense of satiety after meals.
Ditch the fad diet
Warning: Fad diets can mess with your metabolism and actually make you gain more weight in the long run. “When you cut out vital nutrients from your diet, you drastically slow down your metabolism,” explains Rebecca Lee. “While fasting in itself is not bad, and may actually be recommended by some doctors, it becomes harmful when it’s done for extended periods of time. With fad diets, especially juice cleanses or detox diets, you are actually losing only water weight and not fat. Once you complete your diet and start eating normal foods again, you will gain back everything you lost due to a slower metabolism, if not more.”
Eat protein at every meal
Consuming protein at every meal not only helps you feel satisfied, but it also increases thermogenesis (the process by which your body burns calories to produce heat). According to “The Effects of High Protein Diets on Thermogenesis, Satiety and Weight Loss: A Critical Review,” published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, “there is convincing evidence that a higher protein intake increases thermogenesis and satiety compared to diets of lower protein content.” If you’d prefer not to eat more meat (and we don’t blame you).
Spice up your meals
Not only can hot, spicy foods like chilies, red pepper flakes, jalapeños, and Sriracha kick up your metabolism slightly, but they also have another benefit for weight loss. “People tend to consume spicy foods more slowly, so by turning up the heat in your meals you may eat less,” says Harris-Pincus.
Hot water and lemon
As a staple every morning, certified health coach Claudia Matles recommends hot lemon water. “It’s a very powerful aid to flush the lymph system, and a healthy clean lymph system is the foundation for a healthy metabolism,” she says. To supercharge the effects on your metabolism, add cayenne pepper and finely chopped, fresh organic ginger root to your hot water with lemon, and sip a few more cups throughout the day for a few weeks.
A new study by Tufts University found that eating whole grains (when substituted for refined grains) may boost metabolism, with the reported increase equating to a 30 minute brisk walk. Whole grains—such as barley, oats, unrefined rice, and whole wheat—contain fiber and B vitamins, unlike the refined versions, which often contain little to no fiber. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA recommends that Americans replace refined grains with whole grains. The recommended minimum daily allowance of whole grains is three ounces for women and four ounces for men, the equivalent to consuming 1.5 to 2 cups of brown rice or oatmeal each day.
If you want to know how to boost your metabolism without having to exercise or change your diet, consider mindfulness, the art of focusing on the moment. “We live such busy lives leaving us with no time to eat and enjoy our meals,” says Melendez-Klinger. “Studies have shown the benefits of focusing on our hunger cues, taking the time to chewing each bite (15 times recommended) and to savoring and enjoying each bite.”