Metabolism. It’s the elusive set of life-sustaining chemical transformations and a characteristic of bodies that can vary from person to person. It’s such a big concept that you might believe you’re at the mercy of it. Well, actually, you are! It’s thermodynamics at work, after all.
But there are a bunch of simple—even easy—things you can do to boost your metabolism and make your body run more efficiently, “good genes” or not. Make tomorrow a great day by grabbing a cup of rooibos tea (which boosts metabolism!) and learning about the common metabolism mistakes you probably made today.
For Jubilee, one of the best and cheapest ways to give your metabolism a jolt is to drink water (she suggests 20 to 32 ounces) shortly after waking. Why? During sleep, your body’s metabolic function slowed, and unless you woke up in the middle of the night to swig some water, it didn’t receive any fluids. Jubilee suggests completely rehydrating before stressing your body with any other food or drink. “My clients who have implemented this report less bloating, more energy and a smaller appetite,” she says. Her motto for getting your inner furnace stoked and ready for the day: “Rehydrate, then caffeinate!” And caffeinate with tea. The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse showed that white tea can simultaneously boost lipolysis (the breakdown of fat) and block adipogenesis (the formation of fat cells). The tea’s combination of caffeine and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) seems to set fat cells up for defeat.
Okay, it doesn’t have to be road rage, but that kind of unnecessary stress doesn’t do your body good. Not only can stress cause headaches, stomach distress, high blood pressure, chest pain and sleep disturbances, it also causes the body to metabolize food more slowly, according to research published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. To add insult to injury, the types of food we crave when we’re stressed out tend to be fat and sugar-laden treats like doughnuts and chocolate. Researchers say that the combination of high-cal cravings and a stress-induced snail-paced metabolic rate can result in significant weight gain.
Plenty of studies indicate that caffeine can boost your metabolism in the AM. But nutritionist Amy Shapiro says that guzzling coffee and other caffeinated drinks all day could actually work against you. Caffeine is a natural appetite suppressant. If you’re constantly consuming it, you may not eat much — or realize how hungry you really are — until you get home for dinner. “Not eating enough throughout the day can make your metabolism sluggish,” she says. “By the time you eat dinner, instead of immediately using that food for energy, your body is aggressively storing it as fat, just in case it will be deprived again.”
When metals like mercury take the place of iodine at binding sites, thyroid hormone production grinds to a halt. The good news is you can instantly detox with fruits that are rich in pectin — a gelatin-like fiber that sticks to toxic compounds in the blood and flushes them out of the body through the urine. In fact, citrus pectin increased mercury excretion in the urine by 150% within 24 hours of supplementation, according to one study. As a weight loss bonus, research shows pectin can limit the amount of fat your cells can absorb. Grapefruits, oranges, and peaches are all good sources, but since most pectin is found in the fibrous pith and peel, whole apples are one of the best.
We get it. You’re totally obsessed with your double shot skim latte. It gives you the boost you need when the work day gets to be too much. But if you always opt out of green tea—an amazing choice—you could be missing out of some major metabolism-boosting effects. In a recent 12-week study, participants who combined a daily habit of 4-5 cups of green tea with a 25-minute workout lost an average of two more pounds and more belly fat than the non tea-drinking exercisers. What’s its magic? The brew contains catechins, a type of antioxidant that triggers the release of fat from fat cells and helps speed the liver’s capacity for turning fat into energy.
“Hormones dictate how our body utilizes the energy we give it,” says Jubilee. “Between our reproductive, thyroid and growth hormones, appetite, insulin and hunger hormones — leptin and ghrelin — our bodies have to perform a tricky balancing act to keep us lean, energized and viable reproductive beings.” Those tasks have become much more difficult because of the hormone residues we consume via cage-raised foods. If you want to give your metabolism a leg up, Jubilee says, switch to organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised beef, eggs, and dairy products, thereby avoiding those nasty hormones at mealtime.
If you’re reading this, you’re almost certainly a mammal. It follows that you’re also an endotherm. This means that you can set heat free from within your own body to regulate your body temperature, rather than relying solely on the ambient temperature. It’s not just a neat trick common to both mammals and birds—it also burns calories. So turn down your thermostat and let your body do the heavy lifting. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health found that participants who slept in bedrooms cooled to 66°F for a month doubled the amount of brown adipose tissue they burned. Brown adipose tissue is a type of fat that burns calories rather than stores them. “Brown fat becomes more active in cooler temperatures to help keep us warm,” explains Aaron Cypess, MD, an endocrinologist at the NIH. The take-home? Turning down your heat, sleeping in cooler temps, and spending time outdoors is going to help to stoke your metabolism, so chill out to get lean.
Although it’s true that eating too many refined carbs can get in the way of your health and weight-loss goals, eating too few can have a similar effect. That’s because when we exercise, our muscles need carbohydrates’ stores of glycogen for energy; if they don’t get enough, they can’t grow. That’s bad because the more muscle you can get and keep, the more calories you’ll burn at rest. But that’s not all. With your muscles starved of energy, you won’t be able to exercise as intensely as you otherwise would. That means fewer calories burned while active. Have a serving (about the size of once cupped palm) of oatmeal, sweet potato or brown rice prior to working out. Still a little confused about carbs? Then you’ll love these 50 Questions About Carbs—Answered in 5 Words or Less!
It feels great to work out in an efficient amount of time, but when it comes to cranking your metabolism, haste makes waste. That’s because there are big metabolism-boosting benefits that come from the eccentric (a.k.a. lowering) aspects of these movements. Eccentric movements damage muscles more than the act of lifting them. They require more effort from your body to repair and demand more caloric energy to do so.
A review of research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), particularly those contained in walnuts, could enhance the activity of certain genes that control fat burning, meaning that a nutty snacker may burn more calories throughout the day than one who grabs another type of lower cal snack. One to 1.5 ounces amounts to a small handful of walnuts. Have a snack of this size once daily for better burning. And if you want something salty or sweet, indulge in a snack that helps you build muscle and blast flab, like one of these 50 Best-Ever Snacks for Weight Loss!