5 Daily Swaps for a Faster Metabolism
A speedy calorie-burning system means you burn more fat when you're doing anything—including sitting down. Here's how to give it a boost.
Reach for the 'good' carbs
Instead of: Higher-glycemic foods (white rice, rice cakes, raisins)
Try: Low-glycemic foods (couscous, pumpernickel bread, apples)
If you're trying to amp your metabolism in hopes of shedding a few pounds, your best bet may be to eat a low-glycemic diet. Research shows that sticking to those foods, which are less likely to send your bood sugar soaring, can help keep your metabolism fast and avoids the natural slowdown in your calorie-burning engine that comes with losing weight, says Barbara Gower, PhD, professor in the department of nutrition sciences, division of physiology and metabolism at the University of Alabama. One of Gower's studies in 2013 also shows this nice perk: "When you cut the glycemic load of your diet back, you selectively lose fat from your abdominal area," she says. You'll preserve muscle mass that keeps your metabolism humming while burning belly fat.
Instead of: Trail mix, pretzels
Try: Pistachios, almonds, walnuts
Looking for a snack? Skip the low-cal snack packs in favor of nuts, which are the metabolism-stoking choice. And if you're worried that nuts are too calorie-rich, you can ease that fear. A review published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the question of why when people add nuts to their diet they don't gain the weight researchers would think. The conclusion? Not only are nuts satiating, but they may also increase your metabolism, possibly thanks to their fat content (though more studies are needed to confirm this link). The unsaturated fats may also help your body turn up its ability to burn fat. Plus, "It doesn't hurt that a portion of the calories in nuts don't get absorbed," says Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD in New York City. As one small study found, your body may not fully digest fats from whole nuts, and they may contain about 20 percent fewer calories than listed.
Take your workout down a notch
Instead of: Hardcore exercise classes
Try: Power walking, biking outdoors
Exercise is amazing for your health—no mistaking that. But if you're going at it really hard day in and day out and not seeing results, it may be better to scale back. "I'm a big advocate for exercising, but for many women, a spin session or long run actually fuels your appetite," says Cassetty. This is how your body—or metabolism—compensates: "Your body understands you burned a bunch of calories, and it wants it back," says Gower. (Supercharged exercise programs are one reason Gower thinks The Biggest Loser contestants may have seen their metabolisms drop so drastically post-show, as a 2016 study revealed.) Here's what happens: Your hunger may turn up, so you eat more—or, if you're not hungry post-workout and don't eat, your metabolism will drop to conserve energy. The end result is that you're at the same place you started. A better strategy if your current routine isn't working for you may be keeping moderately active until you see the results you're looking for, says Gower, which will allow you to still burn calories and stay fit without negatively affecting your metabolism. Once you reach your goal weight, you can add back in tougher sessions.
Optimize your salad toppings
Instead of: Croutons, crunchy noodles, cheese
Try: Beans, lentils, chickpeas
A salad can either make for a metabolism-stoking lunch or a metabolism-tanking one. To keep it running right, pack your greens with ingredients that contain both fiber and protein. "Your body uses a greater percent of calories to convert protein and high-fiber carbohydrates into energy versus carbohydrates and fat," says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. The difference may be modest, but fiber and protein also deliver sustained energy to power you through the afternoon, she says. Gorin recommends getting this metabolism-friendly duo with pulses, or beans, lentils and chickpeas. "Eating just three-fourths of a cup daily can help you lose an additional pound over a six-week period, one study found," says Gorin.
Instead of: A 9 p.m. dinner
Try: A 7 p.m. dinner
To keep your metabolism healthy and running at a brisk clip, you'll want to pay attention not only to what you eat but also when you eat. So if your dinnertime is usually on the late side, Gorin suggests moving the meal an hour or two earlier, if possible. That way, your body can use the calories you just ate to power you while you're awake, being more active and fitting in those last to-dos of the day.