12 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism

Want to rev up your body's natural calorie-burning engine? Boost your metabolism. For people trying to lose weight, a higher metabolism can help the pounds melt away even while at rest. Here's how to increase your metabolic rate.

What Is Metabolism?

Metabolism is the energy (calories) your body needs to function, and it operates at a different rate for each person. Metabolic rate is determined by uncontrollable factors such as gender (men tend to have higher rates than women), heredity, and age (metabolism tends to slow down after age 40 due in part to hormonal changes), as well as controllable factors such as weight, activity level, and what and when you eat.

Here are some tips from nutrition, exercise, and medical experts to help you boost your metabolism and ditch a few extra pounds for good.

Note: "People living with diabetes should check their blood glucose levels frequently to make sure that they do not become hypoglycemic with the decrease in calorie intake and the increase in physical activity," recommends dietitian Toby Smithson, R.D, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "Also tell your health care provider about your intended lifestyle changes for possible adjustments of medications."

Eat Breakfast Every Day

"Breakfast breaks your fast from the night's sleep," says dietitian Toby Smithson, R.D. "Breakfast gives you energy and serves as a way to get your daily requirements for vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Eating breakfast can help you prevent overeating at your next meal and has been shown by the National Weight Control Registry participants to help people who have lost weight keep it off. It also helps to refuel your body by replacing the glucose, which is the body's main energy source for the brain."

A healthful breakfast should include one or more servings of a high-fiber whole grain food, a good source of low-fat protein or dairy such as 8 ounces of fat-free milk, and a serving of fruit.

Get Plenty of Exercise

Exercise for 30 minutes most days of the week. Try activities you enjoy such as walking, jogging, bicycling, dancing, or anything else that keeps your interest and gets you moving.

Many adults need up to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days to prevent unhealthy weight gain. Those who have lost weight may need 60-90 minutes of daily activity to avoid regaining the weight. Talk with your health care provider about how many minutes you should exercise each day.

Pace Your Meals Throughout the Day

Eating smaller meals throughout the day may help maintain an elevated metabolic rate. Plus, there is another benefit: It can help reduce the chance of overeating. "For people who skip meals, they tend to overeat at their next mealtime," says dietitian Toby Smithson. "Consuming balanced meals and snacks can help maintain blood glucose control throughout the day."

Build More Muscle

Resistance training can increase your lean muscle mass and prevent losing what you have. Lift weights at home or in the gym, or use your own body weight for resistance with push-ups and pull-ups.

Resistance training has other significant benefits for people with diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), resistance training has been shown to improve insulin resistance and lower A1C. The ADA recommends resistance training three times a week.

Make Smart Choices About Eating Less

If you've been told to eat fewer calories, a good strategy is to cut small amounts of calories at a time. Instead of skipping meals, opt for a diet soda instead of regular and a small salad instead of fries. Small changes over time will allow you to stick to a healthier way of eating and also help you meet weight loss and calorie goals -- without drastically reducing your metabolic rate.

Increase Your Lean Muscle

Resistance training can increase your lean muscle mass and prevent losing the muscle you already have. At the cellular level, exercise induces changes in the skeletal muscle and repairs damaged tissue that contributes to an elevated metabolism. Each pound of muscle burns about 35 calories a day, while a pound of fat burns about 5 calories.

"In general, just doing regular exercise will promote the development of muscle mass and keep the muscle mass you have," Potteiger says.

Eat Enough Protein

"There is some evidence that a slightly higher protein intake can help boost metabolism because it increases satiety (feeling full), which may help people stick with their lower-calorie meal plan," says dietitian Toby Smithson.

Protein needs for an adult are 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. So a 150-pound woman requires a total of 55 grams of protein per day, or approximately 5 to 6 ounces of protein foods per day. Talk with a registered dietitian about your current eating plan and whether you're getting enough protein, and how to choose and prepare healthful protein sources.

Increase the Intensity of Your Workout

Pump up your usual workout routine with some physical challenges. "If you walk the same mile at the same level every day, you will burn fewer and fewer calories each day because you are in better shape," says Melina Jampolis, M.D., a weight loss and nutrition specialist in San Francisco and a member of Heart-Healthy Living magazine's advisory board. "By introducing interval training, it changes things up and keeps the body working hard."

For example, with interval training, instead of going for a leisurely 45-minute walk, try a 30-minute moderate walk or walk/jog combo. Occasionally throw a sprint, a hill, or a few squats or lunges into your walk. The higher level of intensity means you will burn more calories during your workouts, which helps with more immediate weight loss in addition to kicking up your metabolic rate.

Just remember to track your blood glucose levels as you change your exercise intensity. And make sure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water; metabolism slows when the body becomes even slightly dehydrated.

Don't Crash Diet

Going on a crash diet may seem like a quick fix, but it does not work in the long run. "When you go on and off diets, it will slow your metabolism down each time and make it more difficult for you to lose weight the next time you try," says dietitian Toby Smithson.

When you cut your calories too low, your body feels threatened -- as if it's in a starvation state -- so it will lay down more fat as storage and conserve energy in response to the drop in nutrition, burning calories even more slowly.

You Can Burn More Calories

There are actions you can take to rev up your metabolism, beginning with living a healthy lifestyle. You have a huge amount of control to help you offset some of your genetic tendency toward having a lower metabolism, says weight loss expert Melina Jampolis, M.D. Exercise is how you can most significantly raise your metabolism.

Consider a Snack

In a 2005 study at Georgia State University, athletes who ate a 250-calorie snack three times a day had a higher energy output than when they didn't snack. Researchers found that snacking helped the athletes eat less at their three regular meals. At the end of the study, the athletes had a higher metabolic rate, a lower caloric intake, and reduction in body fat. Talk with your health care provider about whether and how to incorporate a snack into your diabetic meal plan.

Add More Activity to Your Day

In addition to a workout, get in the habit of moving throughout the day at home and at work. Go down the hall to talk to a colleague rather than sending an e-mail. Take the stairs. Walk during lunch. Take the long way to the restroom.

"Everything is so automated. You can do so much from your desk," says exercise science professor Jeffrey Potteiger. "The key is to make activity at the forefront of your thought process."

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