Blaming a slow metabolism on your inability to drop unwanted pounds is a common excuse. And if you think that’s what’s been holding you back lately, you’re in luck—you have the power to improve your metabolism!
The number of calories your body burns each day (a.k.a. your metabolism) is dependent on several factors, including your age, gender, muscle-to-fat ratio, food intake, and activity level. While you can’t stop birthdays from coming, it turns out there are a few things you can do daily to give your metabolism a kick in the pants. Here are 6 gimmick-free metabolism boosters to add to your routine. (They may not have infomercials touting their magic powers, but they work!)
1. Start strength training Your body burns calories even when you’re not active, but those of you with a higher muscle-to-fat ratio are burning more. 1 pound of lean body tissue, including organs and muscles, burns an average of 14 calories a day, while 1 pound of fat only burns 3. Weight bearing exercises—even the body weight kind, like pushups and squats, help to build muscle and eliminate fat, making your metabolism higher.
2. Get your heart thumping Doing cardio at the gym may not beef up your muscles, but it can rev your metabolism for a few hours post-exercise. The trick is to make it a high-intensity workout. Push yourself to run or walk faster or try a more intense dance class to reap the benefits.
3. Drink plenty of water Being even mildly dehydrated can slow down your metabolism, because your body needs water to process calories. Aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces daily—and sip even more if you’re working out or if it’s hot outside. For example, if you weigh 148 pounds you need to guzzle 74 ounces daily as a base, and then add another 8 ounces for every 15 minutes of exercise. Snacking on high-water content fruits and veggies can also help you stay hydrated.
4. Snack between meals No, you’re not getting the green light to reach for a bag of Cheetos! Instead, you should be thinking about eating smaller main meals and adding a smart snack in between each—which means you’d be noshing every 3 to 4 hours. Several studies show enjoying several small meals throughout the day keeps your metabolism up, so you end up burning more calories over time.
5. Spice up your life Chili peppers, including cayenne and jalapeño, contains capsaicin, a compound shown in studies to give your metabolism a 15 to 20% boost for up to two hours after eating it. Consider sprinkling savory meals with red pepper flakes from now on.
6. Sip a little caffeine Caffeine gives you a pick-me-up when you’re feeling tired, it’s been shown to increase your endurance during exercise, and research also links it to a slight spike in your metabolism. The best source? Green tea, which offers the power of caffeine and catechins, antioxidants found in tea that can increase your metabolism for a couple of hours. Studies suggest drinking 2 to 4 cups of green tea daily may encourage your body to burn 17% more calories during moderately intense exercise.
Which of these metabolism-boosting ideas are you planning to try? (And which ones are you already doing?) Tell us in the comments!