If you’ve plateaued in your weight loss plan, try these simple, expert-approved tricks that boost metabolism and burn fat—no crazy diets or weird workouts required.
1. Drink More Green Tea
Green tea isn’t known only for its cancer-fighting benefits: It may help boost your metabolism, too. People who took green-tea extract three times a day saw their metabolic rate increase by about 4 percent, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (Translation: You could burn an extra 60 calories a day, which equals about six pounds a year!) It may be because green tea contains catechins, which increase levels of the metabolism-speeding brain chemical norepinephrine.
2. Pump Iron
Weight training is the ultimate way to burn calories fast. A pound of muscle burns up to nine times the calories of a pound of fat. Weight training increases your resting metabolic rate, which is the number of calories you burn while sitting on your butt. What’s more, it gives your metabolism an added boost after you exercise, staying in overdrive for up to two hours after the last bench press, according to a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
3. Eat Iron
Yeah, we just told you to pump iron, but you also need to eat it. If you don’t have enough of this mineral, your body can’t get enough oxygen to your cells, which slows down your metabolism. Most multivitamins contain around 18 mg (the RDA for adults); you can also get your fill by eating three to four daily servings of foods rich in iron, such as lean red meat, chicken, fortified cereal and soy nuts. If you’re feeling symptoms like fatigue and weakness, ask your doctor to test you for anemia (it’s a simple blood test) at your next physical.
4. Drink More Water
A new German study found that when you drink 17 ounces of water (about two glasses) within a certain time frame, your metabolic rate shoots up by about 30 percent. Using these results, they estimate that by increasing your current water intake by 1.5 liters a day, a person would burn an extra 17,400 calories a year, resulting in about a five-pound weight loss.
5. Avoid Alcohol
Want to keep your favorite meals from going straight to your hips (thighs, belly)? Wash them down with water, not wine. Alcohol slows your metabolism by depressing the central nervous system. A British study found that when alcohol was added to a high-fat, high-calorie meal, less dietary fat was burned off and more was stored as body fat.
6. Interval Training
High Intensity or Regular Interval training—in which you add bursts of high-intensity moves into your workout—is a surefire metabolism booster. Researchers at Laval University in Quebec found that high-intensity interval training burns more fat than regular, consistent aerobic exercise. If you usually jog at a 10-minute-mile pace, for example, add a 30-second sprint every five minutes. Or add a one-minute incline to your treadmill workout every five minutes. Even if you just have 10 minutes for a quick workout you can walk at a normal pace and then add in a 30-second bout of speed-walking every three minutes.
7. Do More Dairy
Women who ate low-fat dairy products, such as nonfat yogurt and low-fat cheese three to four times a day lost 70 percent more fat than dieters who stay away from dairy, according to a study published in the journal Obesity Research. Calcium serves as a switch that tells your body to burn excess fat faster. Sorry, but you won’t reap the same benefits from calcium-fortified O.J. Research shows that you get the best results from dairy products themselves, not fortified foods. Aim for 1,200 mg, which includes about three servings of dairy a day.
8. Take Up A New Sport
Are you like Old Faithful when it comes to your morning walk or evening jog? Know this: The more you do an activity, the more your body adapts to it, so you burn fewer calories. If you want to light a fire under your metabolism, consider cross-training. For example, if you normally walk, try biking instead. Since you’re not used to working all those different muscles, it’s a more intense workout, which can translate into a greater metabolic after-burn because your body is working harder to recover and get oxygen to all your tissues.
9. Fish, anyone?
Regular fish eaters tend to have lower levels of the hormone leptin—good because high levels of leptin have been linked to low metabolism and obesity. Try to consume three to four servings of a fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna or mackerel, each week.
10. Reduce Stress
Stress may contribute to abdominal fat, according to several studies, including a recent one at the University of California, San Francisco. When you’re stressed, hormones like cortisol stimulate your appetite, slow your metabolism down and encourage fat storage inside your abdomen. So what’s a frazzled girl to do? Find an activity that reduces stress for you, whether it’s listening to soothing music or taking yoga – and do it daily!
11. Eat a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich For Lunch
Think peanut butter is only for pint-sized palates? Think again. PB is rich in magnesium, a mineral that motors up your metabolism by giving your cells energy. Aim for 320 mg a day of magnesium: Good food sources include a peanut butter sandwich made with whole-wheat bread (100 mg) or spinach (1/2 cup has 80 mg).
12. Don’t Skip Breakfast
Studies show that eating breakfast plays a part in successful weight loss—almost 80 percent of people who successfully keep weight off chow down on this meal, according to a study published in Obesity Research. Your metabolism slows as you sleep, and the process of digesting food revs it up again. Aim for a 300- to 400-calorie breakfast, such as a high-fiber cereal (another metabolism booster) with skim milk and fruit.
13. Increase Protein Consumption
Not in an extreme, Atkins sort of way, but having a little protein at every meal fires up your metabolism. Your digestive system uses more energy to break it down, so you burn more calories. However, keep protein levels to between 20 and 35 percent of your diet; eating too much of it can cause kidney strain and may cause your body to store too much fat.
14. Skip the Starch
Carb crazy? Consider this: Refined carbohydrates, such as bread, potatoes and rice, create a surge in insulin that in turn drives down your resting metabolic rate. It’s important to keep carbohydrates in your diet, but really focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which have less of an effect on insulin levels. And when buying whole-grain breads and cereals, make sure the first ingredient listed is whole wheat, whole oat or cracked wheat.
15. Break Up Your Workouts
Try dividing your workouts into two shorter 20-minute sessions. You’ll rev up your metabolism for an hour or two after each workout, which means you’ll burn more calories than if you did one longer session. Don’t have time? Even small bursts of activity will get your metabolism chugging again, according to a study in Nature. Just a five-minute walk around the house every hour translates into an extra 200 to 300 calories burned every day.
16. Go Bananas
Eat more bananas.They’re full of potassium, which revs up your metabolism by regulating your body’s water balance. If you’re dehydrated, you’ll burn fewer calories. Make sure you’re getting at least 2,000 mg: a banana has 450 mg, a cup of milk has 370 mg and an orange has 250 mg.
17. Get Enough Sleep
Yeah, Gosling may be on Letterman, but it’s way more important for your waistline to head to bed. A study at the University of Chicago Medical Center found that people who got only four hours of sleep had much more difficulty processing carbs. The culprit? Increased levels of insulin and the stress hormone cortisol. When you’re exhausted, your body lacks the energy to do its normal day-to-day functions, which includes burning calories efficiently. So the best way to make sure your metabolism runs smoothly is to get six to eight hours of shut-eye each night.
18. Load Up on Citrus Fruits
The vitamin C found in these fruits can increase your metabolism and help you burn fat faster and more efficiently. Freshen your diet by eating oranges, tangerines, or grapefruit for a snack, using lemons or limes to flavor your water, or adding any of them to a salad.
19. Squeeze in a Quick Workout
Every time you find a moment of free time, try a Tabata workout that focuses on one move. Just four intense minutes of burpees, squats, or push-ups can be as effective as five times the amount of traditional cardio, research finds. Get in as many reps as you can in 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat 8 times. You’ll get your heart pumping and metabolism revved, and scientists say you’ll net the same health benefits, if not more, than you would if you went out for a run.
20. Spice it Up
If you love the kick of spicy food, try this: add a few hot peppers, like Jalapeño or cayenne, to your lunchtime salad or evening stir-fry. It’ll temporarily boost your resting metabolic rate, thanks to the capsaicin found in peppers. Capsaicin is a compound that tells your body to release more adrenaline and that, in turn, speeds up your metabolism.