1. THE DOCTOR SAYS… Say no to crash diets
Your metabolism slows as you get older, so the little changes you've always relied on to drop a few pounds (skipping dessert here and there, doing a few extra minutes on the treadmill) may no longer cut it. But that doesn't mean you should reduce your calorie intake dramatically. When you take in fewer than 1,200 calories a day, your metabolism actually starts to slow down, because your body feels like it has to hold on to all of its energy resources—including that extra fat you're working to shed. Looking to drop some weight? Start by lowering your calories to about 1,800 a day, which may mean lightening up your meals. If you hit a plateau, downshift by a couple hundred calories again. This change should be enough to help you lose without sending your metabolism into slo-mo.
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VICKI MARCH, MD, medical director, Lifestyle Program, Magee- Womens Hospital, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
2. THE EXERCISE SCIENTIST SAYS… Buy a set of dumbbells
Muscle naturally burns about 10 more calories per pound than fat, even at rest. Translation: For every 5 pounds of muscle you add (regardless of any weight you lose in the process), you'll burn an extra 350 calories a week without making any other changes. And the cherry on top? Strength training spikes your metabolism post-workout as your body rebuilds the muscle. Try to do a session twice a week.
BRAD SCHOENFELD, PhD, author, Women's Home Workout Bible
3. THE NUTRITIONIST SAYS… Eat protein all day
Higher-protein diets can help increase your resting metabolic rate, which is the number of calories burned just by sitting. But timing is key: People usually eat most of their protein at dinner, yet you only use about 30 g of the nutrient at a time, and any extra may be stored as fat. Aim to spread out your intake throughout the day. Try eggs with turkey sausage for breakfast, tuna on greens for lunch, lowfat string cheese for a snack and chicken breast for dinner.
JENNIFER MCDANIEL, RD, spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
THE RESEARCHER SAYS… Adopt four easy habits
These tiny tweaks to your day can help move your metabolism in the right direction.
4. HAVE AN AFTERNOON COFFEE
Caffeine provides a short-term metabolism boost. Drinking a cup with breakfast will help jumpstart your system, but having a second cup of joe around 2 P.M. will keep your metabolism humming throughout the rest of the day as well. (If coffee is too strong for you in the afternoon, try tea, which has enough caffeine to make a difference.)
5. AVOID LATE-NIGHT MUNCHING
Your metabolism naturally slows down a tad at night. Plus, people who eat after dinner tend to consume more calories overall than those who avoid late-night splurges, leading to weight gain. Those extra pounds may make it harder to regulate your metabolism.
6. CHOW DOWN ON HOT PEPPERS
Capsaicin, the ingredient in peppers that gives them their heat, slightly increases metabolic rate. Additionally, foods that set your mouth on fire tend to suppress your appetite, helping you eat less. Add jalapeño to eggs or sprinkle chili pepper flakes on top of pasta.
7. EMBRACE FIDGETING
Fidgeting, whether jiggling your legs or tapping your fingers, has been found to speed up metabolism, helping you burn calories around the clock. If you're not a natural squirmer, set a reminder on your phone to get up and walk around for a few minutes every couple of hours.