But a simple plan isn't always an easy plan. Changing your daily movement habits can be hard. So I've developed this 3-step plan to increase your metabolism while you keep your food intake the same. You'll create the energy deficit needed for weight loss without an expensive diet or hard-to-find foods. Follow the program for 2-3 weeks to increase your energy levels, boost your metabolism and put your weight loss program into hyperdrive.
Putting yourself on a very low-calorie diet is a surefire way not to lose. "Your body is programmed to defend your usual weight," says Liz Applegate, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at the University of California at Davis and author of Bounce Your Body Beautiful. "So if you suddenly drop 1,000 calories from your diet, your resting metabolic rate [the number of calories your body burns to maintain basic bodily functions, such as breathing and heartbeat] will automatically slow down, because your body now assumes that you're starving."
Spicy foods have natural chemicals that can kick your metabolism into a higher gear. Cooking foods with a tablespoon of chopped red or green chili pepper can boost your metabolic rate. The effect is probably temporary, but if you eat spicy foods often, the benefits may add up. For a quick boost, spice up pasta dishes, chili, and stews with red pepper flakes.
Contrary to popular belief, researchers now say breakfast doesn’t kickstart the metabolism and may not be the most important meal of the day. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition had more than 300 overweight participants consume diets that included either eating or skipping breakfast. At the end of 16 weeks, dieters who ate breakfast lost no more weight than the breakfast skippers. And a second study in the same journal found eating breakfast had zero impact on resting metabolism. Breakfast is an ideal place to squeeze protein, fiber, and other nutrients into your day, but if the choice is a doughnut or nothing, opt for the nothing. Start your day with lean protein, which burns twice as many calories during digestion as fat or carbs. But don’t stress about squeezing it in before 9 a.m.
Caffeine may provide a bit of a boost to the metabolism, especially when ingested before exercise, but no amount of metabolic boost can burn off the empty calories that energy drinks supply. According to one study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a typical energy drink serves up a quarter cup of sugar—calories that hit your body all at once and trigger fat storage. If you want to burn calories, try the miracle beverage known as tap water. According to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, after drinking two tall glasses of water (17 ounces), participants’ metabolic rates increased by 30 percent.
If you vary your diet so that you get more calories once in a while, your metabolism will speed up to meet the need of burning the extra calories without your gaining any weight. Then the next day when you eat less again, your metabolism will still be higher so your body will burn fat to meet the energy needs of the higher metabolic rate. If you add in exercise, you will maintain a higher metabolic rate which will expedite the process even further.
Like many of you, these dieters were ignoring a key factor in managing weight: metabolism. Your metabolism, the amount of energy your body uses each day, can determine whether you will be successful in losing weight and keeping it off. Controlling your weight is easier if your metabolism is faster because you can eat more calories. So, is it possible to speed up your metabolism?
Most of us choose one time of day to get our exercise in—whether that’s first thing in the morning or right after work. Though having a routine is helpful, Katherine suggests incorporating physical activity into both morning and night. For example, if you typically only exercise in the morning, then do a little something in the afternoon or early evening to bring the heart rate back up for a bit. “Evening exercisers can do the same thing in the morning,” she says. “Ten to 15 minutes of some activity in the morning will jump-start your metabolism for the day and will do a world of good.”
It takes the body extra effort to break down whole grains than more refined and processed grains, like the flour ordinarily used to make bread and pasta. You can help keep your metabolic rate elevated by consuming foods that the body has to work harder to digest. Your go-tos are whole foods that are also rich in fiber. We’re talking brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, and sprouted grain bread.
Sprinkle a few hot peppers into your lunchtime soup or evening stir-fry. They temporarily boost your resting metabolic rate, according to research done at Laval University in Canada. Here's why: Capsaicin, a compound found in jalapeño and cayenne peppers, temporarily stimulates your body to release more stress hormones, such as adrenaline, speeding up your metabolism and thus increasing your ability to burn calories, says study coauthor Angelo Tremblay, director of the Institute of Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods at Laval. Bonus: The pepper-eaters had less of an appetite, Tremblay found, probably because the spiciness of the food made them feel full.
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.
"Protein burns more calories than carbs and fat,” says Bustillo. About 30 percent of the calories in protein will go towards digestion and absorption, whereas that number is only about 10 percent for carbs, and even less for fats. Fiber's another nutrient that costs a little more energy, says Bustillo—so, getting adequate protein and fiber can definitely help maximize your BMR.