SNEAKY WAYS TO BURN FAT
It’s one of nature’s harshest jokes: Some women can scarf down any megacalorie food they want and not gain a single ounce, while the rest of us only have to look at a cheeseburger to feel our jeans tighten. Yeah, it’s hard not to envy those eat-what-they-want chicks, especially when it comes to their bodies’ metabolism: the biochemical process that converts food into calories and then burns them off as energy.
These girls seem to be blessed with one that’s fast and efficient, something we’ve been told we can’t control. But, you cancontrol your metabolism, as more and more research is showing. How? With little tricks that help your body burn calories faster while you’re at play and at rest . Check out these research-backed tips and adopt a few or all nine–either way, you’ll see results.
1. Dine exotically.
Chili pepper and mustard seed–two spices often found in Thai, Mexican, Chinese, and Indian cuisines–can help your body burn extra calories, thanks to a compound in each called Capsaicin, says Fernstrom. One study found that when people consumed nearly one teaspoon of mustard and almost one teaspoon of chili sauce, their metabolism surged an average of 25 percent. Adding that spicy taste and sensation to your meal may help keep you from overeating, says Leslie J. Bonci, MPH, RD, director of sports-medicine nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
2. Switch up your cardio.
Interval training–alternating bursts of high-intensity activity–revs your metabolism even more than cardio alone does. How to do it: Push yourself as hard as you can for three minutes, then slow to a more comfortable pace for three minutes. Trade off higher- with lower-intensity exercise four times per 30-minute workout, says Wayne Westcott, PhD, fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Massachusetts.
3. Have a cool drink.
Being dehydrated slows down all your body functions, including metabolism, says Bonci. So, keep it steady with at least eight glasses of water each day; more than that may even increase your metabolic rate. And, make them icy: Drinking cold water may further up your ability to burn calories, as your body needs extra energy to heat it.
4. Savor tea or java.
Research suggests that EGCG, an antioxidant in some hot or iced teas, can kick-start your body’s engine. One study showed that when women consumed 10 ounces–about the size of a mug–of oolong or green tea, their metabolism increased by 10 percent and 4 percent, respectively, for two hours. Tea also contains caffeine, which gives your metabolism a slight nudge. Other caffeine-rich options are coffee, energy drinks, and some sodas.
5. Pump iron.
Another muscle-mass booster (and thus, calorie burner) is resistance training: working with free weights or weight machines. After 10 weeks of basic strength-training two or three times a week, your resting metabolic rate could go up by six percent, so you’d burn an extra 75 to 100 calories per day, says Westcott. To build muscle, do at least one set (that is, 12 to 15 reps) of exercises per 30-minute workout targeting your thighs, back, abs, shoulders, arms, and calves. Try to work up to two to three sets per session.
6. Load up on the Bs.
“B vitamins are the oil that greases the wheels of your metabolic engine,” says Mark Hyman, MD, of the Institute For Functional Medicine and author of Ultrametabolism. These include B6 (found in eggs and fish), B12 (found in beef, salmon, and sardines), Thiamin (found in brown rice and pork), Niacin (found in chicken, tuna, and whole wheat), and Folate (found in lentils, okra, and spinach). “If you can’t get these five from your diet, take a multivitamin,” he says.
7. Chow down first thing.
“After eight or so hours of not eating, your metabolism is stalled,” explains Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD, sports dietitian at Ochsners’ Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans. “Breakfast is the fuel that will stoke your metabolism again.” A smart morning meal should have a 50-30-20 ratio: 50 percent complex carbohydrates, 30 percent protein, and 20 percent fat.
No time? C’mon, even the busiest chick can whip up something. Think peanut butter on whole-wheat toast or cottage cheese and fruit. If you’re super crunched, make a smoothie or parfait with low-fat yogurt, protein powder, fruit, and nuts.
8. Pile on the protein.
Protein is a powerful calorie torcher. First, digesting protein takes more energy than digesting carbs or fat does, says Kimball. Also, consuming protein helps you build and maintain muscle mass–the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even at rest. In addition, eating protein makes you absorb sugar more slowly, so your blood sugar doesn’t soar–and then plunge–after a sugary snack. So, try to get 30 percent of your daily calories from protein-rich foods: lean fish, beef, poultry, skim milk, non-fat yogurt, eggs, beans, and nuts.
9. Eat often, just smaller.
You would think that drastically cutting back on your daily calorie intake would be the secret to melting away pounds. After all, the less you ingest, the fewer calories your body has to burn, right? But, it doesn’t work that way. Scaling down your caloric count too severely tricks your system into thinking that food is scarce, prompting your metabolism to freeze…and your body to hang on to its fat preserves.
On the other hand, if you eat more often rather than less, your metabolism gets fired up and stays elevated all day long, burning calories. “The very act of eating gets your metabolism going because your body has to break down the food during digestion, and that requires energy,” says Bonci. By consuming five or so smaller, 300-to-500-calorie healthy meals about every four hours, your metabolism will chug along strong all day long without stalling, explains Dr. Hyman.