So … your New Year’s resolution was to lose weight, and the first couple of weeks have gone swimmingly. Good for you! You’re motivated, full of optimism … and those first few pounds seemed to melt away.
But, pilgrim, beware the obstacles ahead! There may come a time when your best efforts hit a plateau, you’re frazzled from workday stress, the scales deliver bad news, and that bag of Oreos in the supermarket aisle is calling your name just as your defenses are beginning to weaken. Let’s prepare for that moment with some deep-breathing exercises, a willpower-enhancing mantra and most important, some tricks for revving your calorie-burning engine.
There are effective, positive steps you can take to ratchet up your metabolism. Below are nine habits that will give you the edge when the dreaded “plateau” threatens to disrupt your weight loss plans.
1. Step Up Your Workout
You won’t build big muscles with aerobic exercise, but you can rev up your metabolism in the hours after a workout. The key is to push yourself. High-intensity exercise delivers a bigger, longer increase in resting metabolic rate than low- or moderate-intensity workouts. To get the benefits, try a more intense class at the gym or include short bursts of jogging during your regular walk.
2. Build Muscle
Believe it or not, even couch potatoes are burning calories 24/7. But the resting metabolic rate is much higher in people with more muscle. Every pound of muscle uses about 6 calories a day just to sustain itself, while each pound of fat burns only 2 calories daily. That small difference can add up over time. In addition, after a bout of resistance training, muscles are activated all over your body, increasing your average daily metabolic rate.
3. Avoid Crash Diets
Crash diets – those involving eating fewer than 1,000 calories a day – are disastrous for anyone hoping to quicken their metabolism. Although these diets may help you drop pounds (at the expense of good nutrition), a high percentage of the loss comes from muscle. The lower your muscle mass, the slower your metabolism. The final result is a body that burns far fewer calories (and gains weight faster) than the one you had before the diet.
4. Get More Sleep
This seems counter-intuitive, but it’s true: A good night’s sleep is associated with a smaller waistline. Research shows that sleep deprivation can send your hunger and appetite hormones out of whack. A four-year joint study by the University of Wisconsin and Stanford University found that adults who regularly slept for only five hours a night increased their levels of hunger-inducing ghrelin by 14.9 percent and lowered their levels of appetite-suppressing leptin by 15.5 percent.
5. Wake Up Earlier
If your morning ritual consists only of showering, brushing your teeth and getting dressed, then you’re neglecting two important activities that could boost your metabolism. They are: MOVE and EAT. First, take the dog for a brisk walk, or do some calisthenics, or go for a jog. The earlier your body becomes active, the sooner your metabolism revs up from the sleep state. Second, eat breakfast! During its overnight resting period, your body has been conserving calories. Now it’s time to send the wake-up message – “break” your “fast”! Eating stimulates your metabolism.
6. Break Up Your Activity Sessions
Try to exercise more than once a day. No, it doesn’t mean you need to visit the gym morning and evening. Just break up your activities. Instead of a 60-minute workout, make it a 30-minute workout and 30 minutes of brisk walking (or dancing to your favorite classic rock songs). Or, make it three 20-minute sessions. Doing this is not only convenient, but also it may help you burn more fat, according to recent research.
7. Be a Frequent Eater
Eating more really can help you lose weight — eating more often, that is. When you eat large meals with many hours in between, you train your metabolism to slow down. Having a small meal or snack every 3 to 4 hours keeps your metabolism cranking, so you burn more calories over the course of a day. Several studies have also shown that people who snack regularly eat less at meal time. Just be sure your main meals are smaller to accommodate all this snacking, or you’ll load up on extra calories. Keep healthy snacks (fruits, veggies, nuts, yogurt) with you throughout the day.
8. Don’t Skip Meals
Dieters often try to get that extra weight-loss edge by cutting entire meals instead of just cutting calories throughout the day. But this is counterproductive: Skipping meals forces your metabolism to slow down and conserve calories to compensate for the lack of food.
9. Stay Hydrated with Water
Your body needs water to process calories. If you are even mildly dehydrated, your body mistakes this for hunger and your metabolism slows down. In one study, adults who drank eight or more glasses of water a day burned more calories than those who drank four. To stay hydrated, drink a glass of water or other unsweetened beverage before every meal and snack. In addition, try munching on fresh fruits and vegetables, which are full of fluid, rather than pretzels or chips.
In the next post I’ll discuss 7 Foods and Beverages to Boost Your Metabolism.