Metabolism is the rate at which the body turns carbohydrates, proteins and fats into energy for fuel. A healthy metabolism is essential whether you're trying to lose weight or just maintain. Exercising and eating healthy are the best ways to keep the pounds off, but there are a few things you can do to boost your metabolism and speed you toward your goal. (Compare them to these 5 Tips to Kick-Start Your Metabolism.)
Improve your morning routine
A great way to boost metabolism is to start early each day. Morning exercise has been shown to help regulate the body's internal clock and improve sleep quality.
Studies show that working out before breakfast persuades the body to burn fat for energy. Breakfast is important, however; so if you work out in a pre-fasted state, make sure to eat afterward, even if it's a small portion of lean protein like yogurt or an egg. This will jumpstart your metabolism for the day by triggering your body to begin burning calories. Early morning activity can have a big effect on your body's metabolic rate. (Read this first: Food Myths Busted: Skipping Meals Helps You Lose Weight)
Get the right type of exercise
All physical activities burn calories, but some are better than others for boosting metabolism. Strength training will help you build lean muscle mass. The more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn simply to keep your body functioning—i.e., to maintain its resting metabolic rate.
Want to continue to boost your metabolism for up to 16 hours after exercising? Try longer and more intense workouts. They appear not only to burn calories but also to promote excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Commonly referred to as the "afterburn effect," this describes a period when the body sucks up more oxygen than usual to repair itself after a hard workout. (Read EPOC, Your New Workout Best Friend.)
In one oft-cited study, test subjects who worked out vigorously for 80 minutes metabolized an additional 150 calories through the afterburn effect. (According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for an exercise to be classified as "vigorous," it must raise the heart rate to between 70% and 85% of its maximum rate.)
If you don't have 80 minutes to spend on a treadmill, try interval training. It can be done in a shorter time frame. Mix short bursts of light, moderate and vigorous exercise—e.g., walk for a minute, jog for two, then sprint for a minute. Do this over for 20 minutes. Most studies show that intensity and duration play the biggest roles in post-workout calorie burn. Try these three:
- Get Fit and Fast with Interval Training
- Boost Sport-Specific Conditioning With Interval Training
- High-Intensity Interval Training With the TRX Rip Trainer
Watch what you eat
If weight loss is your goal, obviously your best bet is to count calories and eat a healthy, balanced diet. Keep your meals full of lean protein, leafy greens and fiber. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed high-protein diets contributed to the building of lean muscle mass and promoted a corresponding boost in resting metabolic rates.
Some specific foods may play a larger role in boosting metabolism. Besides packing lots of antioxidants, green tea may speed up metabolic rate and help burn fat. Likewise, fresh grapefruit, coffee and dried red peppers have been linked to weight loss.
A study out of Arizona State University recommends including foods rich in vitamin C to boost metabolism and burn fat. In one test, subjects who were deficient in vitamin C lost 25% less fat during exercise. Again, peppers make the list of vitamin C-rich foods, as do kale, oranges, strawberries and brussels sprouts.
Don't forget to rest
When we talk about fitness and metabolism, we tend to focus on exercise and diet. But getting enough quality sleep also has an effect on our ability to burn calories. In numerous studies, people who got more sleep had lower body mass indexes. The leanest tend to average around 7.7 hours of sleep a night. Although it's unclear whether there's a causal relationship between the two, researchers studying diabetes have found that disrupted or irregular sleep inhibits the body's ability to process glucose, one of the most common forms of carbohydrate.
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