Boost your metabolism
Instead of envying 20-somethings for their ability to seemingly keep weight off with zero effort, follow these tips to help speed up your own metabolism.
Drink more H2O
If you’re looking to speed up your metabolism, ensuring you get the proper amount of water every day is probably one of the oldest health tricks in the book, but not just because it keeps skin hydrated or helps prevent overeating. A small study in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition found that drinking water can actually lead to weight loss, possibly because it can increase metabolism. “It takes kilojoules to process water, because everything we do takes kilojoules,” says Lauren Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. “The more water, the more kilojoules you need to expend.” She suggests aiming for around two litres a day, but the exact amount depends on your activity level and age.
Start strength training
While nutritionists agree that there is no magic food to rev up your metabolism, getting enough exercise, especially the right kind of exercise, is key. Strength training two or three times a week can help build lean muscle mass. A kilo of muscle burns many more kilojoules than a kilo of fat. “Lifting weights is a great way to build muscle mass,” says nutritionist Lisa Stollman, RDN, CDN. However, the point is not just to build lean muscle mass, but to maintain it. “As we age, we start to lose muscle,” says Pincus. “Strength training not only builds muscle groups to burn more kilojoules, but also helps preserve them and prevent loss.”
Up your protein intake
Eating a sufficient quantity of protein at each meal is almost unanimously agreed upon as a critical component of maintaining a rapid metabolism. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition confirms that a higher protein diet makes you feel more satiated after eating and helps you maintain lean muscle mass. But that doesn’t mean you should go to town on a juicy steak every night. “You can absorb only about 30 grams of protein at a time to utilise it for muscle group and repair,” says Pincus, who recommends that you spread protein consumption throughout the day, about 115g with each meal. Not sure how to incorporate healthy lean protein into your mealtime routines? According to Stollman, these are some of the high-protein foods nutritionists actually eat with their meals and snacks: 2 tablespoons of nuts or nut butter, 225g of low-fat yogurt, either dairy or soy, 60g of tuna, 4 tablespoons of hummus, 115g of tofu, or 1 egg.
Be mindful when eating
While most of us might wolf our meals down at our desks or in front of the TV, savouring your food is better for achieving a healthier weight. Recent research shows that the faster people ate, the more they ate because the hormone that signals that you’re full, cholecystokinin (CCK), takes about 20 minutes to kick in. If you inhale your meal, you might consume more than you mean to without realising you’re already full. Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet, also suggests maintaining a regular dining schedule as an important component to mindful eating habits.
Don’t underestimate the importance of sleep
Don’t cave into that extra episode on Netflix: Getting a quality night’s sleep is critical for a healthy metabolism. “Too little sleep appears to wreak havoc with levels of leptin and ghrelin, two hormones that regulate appetite,” says Elisa Zied, MS, RDN, CDN, founder and president of Zied Health. “When you don’t sleep well, you feel hungrier and you tend to eat more and choose more nutrient-poor foods.”
Limit screen time before bed
It’s no secret that experts recommend putting away blue-light devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops at least an hour before bed to improve sleep quality. But it’s important for metabolism too – a pilot study from Northwestern University shows that exposure to blue light at night can impact glucose metabolism. Although the exact correlation is still being studied, John La Puma, MD, suggests ceasing exposure to blue light two hours prior to hitting the sack. “Blue light exposure resets melatonin levels so that getting to sleep becomes harder, and too little sleep means weight gain for most people,” says Dr La Puma.
Enjoy a cup of coffee and tea
“Caffeine can increase your metabolism up to 8 percent,” says Stollman. “Brewed tea kicks it up another notch by boosting your metabolism by 10 percent.” Green tea goes above and beyond thanks to its catechins, and the effects add up. Pincus recommends three to four cups a day to potentially burn up to 200 to 420 kilojoules. Just don’t use this an excuse to indulge in flavoured lattes or sugary green tea drinks from boutique cafes. “Don’t make it into dessert – that defeats the whole purpose,” says Gans.
Don’t overly restrict kilojoules
Severely limiting kilojoules intake can tricking your body into thinking it’s starving. In her book Thin for Life: 10 Keys to Success from People Who Have Lost Weight and Kept it Off, Anne Fletcher writes: “If you cut back on kilojoules, your body protects itself from this state of semi-starvation by slowing down the rate at which it burns food.” While skipping a meal or two might see positive short-term effects, it can be harmful in the long run.
Don’t skimp on protein at breakfast
Choosing a cup of sugary cereal instead of a plate of eggs in the a.m. could slow down your metabolism throughout the day. “If you skip protein at breakfast, you lose an opportunity in your day to feed your muscles,” says Pincus. “You can’t double up at dinner since your body can’t utilise more than 115g at a time.”
Spice it up
Capsaicin, present in spicy foods like chilli and red pepper flakes, is known to boost metabolism, and in a 2018 study in the journal BMC Obesity, supplementing with capsaicin even decreased body fat. And the longer participants took the supplements, the more body fat they lost. As always, don’t use this as an excuse to eat unhealthier foods like greasy takeout. “Sprinkle on red pepper flakes on eggs in the morning,” advises Gans. “You could even make fish, chicken, or lean beef a little spicier for dinner.”
Keep moving, even if you’re at your desk
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 being 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.
Change up your commute
A recent study by the Royal Society for Public Health found that while a long commute to work obviously decreases physical activity and might eat into time spent exercising, it can also lead to decreased sleep time and a 29 percent increase in food consumption – and usually unhealthier food at that, since there is less time to prepare meals. Though some people might not have the means (or the climate) to avoid driving or public transportation, subbing in walking or biking for part of the trip could have you feeling more energetic and lean.
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