You may not even realize it, but while you’re sitting on the couch binge-watching all of Parks and Rec, your body is burning calories. That’s right: even when you’re at rest, your good ol’ metabolism is hard at work turning food (and fat) into energy. Though everyone’s body is different—hey, we can’t all eat a pint of ice cream and not gain an ounce—it turns out that there are actually a lot of things that you can do to boost your metabolism. Stoke your inner fire and supercharge your metabolism all day with these easy fat-burning tips.
When You First Wake Up
Eating breakfasts helps jumpstart your metabolism—especially if you do it within one hour of waking up. “Your metabolism went into rest mode over night, so your first meal of the day revs it up again,” says Keri Gans, R.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet. To work the kick-start effect to the max, choose foods high in fiber and protein, like whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk and berries.
During Your Commute
Parking farther away from your office may sound like a small step, but it can actually boost your metabolism in a big way because it forces you to move more. “Getting your heart rate up for a short period of time keeps it elevated afterward, which boosts your metabolism overall,” says Doug Barsanti, M.A., strength and conditioning specialist and owner of ReInvention Fitness in Santa Cruz, California. Another good idea? Take the stairs to get to your floor.
When You First Get to the Office
Go ahead and grab a cup of joe. Research shows that caffeine boosts your metabolic rate, albeit mildly, says David Katz, M.D., director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center and author of Disease Proof. Just watch all the caramel-cream-whatever concoctions—those are so sugary that they’ll negate coffee’s benefits.
We hereby grant you permission to schmooze with your co-workers—as long as you don’t do it over G-chat. “Moving more at every opportunity, even if it’s just to get up to go to the bathroom, keeps your heart rate going and therefore boosts your metabolism,” says Shirley Archer, an ACE-certified group fitness instructor. Try walking across the office to talk to co-workers rather than e-mailing them—or use any of these other great ideas for how to move more at work.
When You’re Buying Lunch
Pick the right foods, and you’ll stoke your metabolism. “Nothing beats a turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread with lettuce, tomato, and mustard and a piece of fruit on the side,” says Gans. “The protein-carb combo will give you energy to get through your day without dragging.”
At the Water Cooler
When it comes to water, colder is better. “Your body burns more calories in colder temperatures because it has to work harder to keep you warm—so by drinking cold water, you end up burning more than if you guzzled room-temp H20,” says Lisa Gain, Ph.D., evolutionary biologist and founder of snack-girl.com. (Sadly, the same does not hold true for ice cream, which is too high-cal to get the effect. Womp womp!)
During Your Workout
It’s all too easy to get into a cardio routine and stay at the same pace for your entire workout—but don’t! Intervals are your friend, says Barsanti. “Short, high-intensity exercise boosts your metabolism. So when you’re on the treadmill or elliptical, sprint for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds, and repeat this pattern for 10 minutes.” Pro tip: Make a playlist with fast and slow songs to help you vary your rhythm without even thinking about it.
Good news for chocolate lovers! Drinking chocolate milk post-workout helps keep your metabolism going strong. “When you exercise, your body loses glucose,” says Gans. “You need to restore it right away to keep your metabolism on track.” Chocolate milk is ideal because it has the perfect combo of carbs and protein. Sweet!
Some studies suggest that eating spicy foods may boost your metabolism—so top your meals with chili peppers and Tabasco. Bonus: Spices are naturally fat free, so there’s no need to stress about calorie counts.
In the Evening
Take a minute to relax, and your metabolism will thank you. Why? “When you get stressed, your body releases cortisol, and too much cortisol slows down your metabolism,” says Archer. To prevent this, do whatever relaxes you most, like yoga, talking to a soothing friend, or meditating.
Sleep is key to boosting your metabolism. “Your body needs it to fully restore and recover from the day and keep your muscle mass and hormones circulating properly,” says Archer. Aim for seven to eight hours a night to keep your metabolism in tip-top shape.
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