Remember how, as a teen, we could live off potato chips and hamburgers and not gain a single pound? Now, it seems that just looking at a plate of rice can make us fat.
Sadly, our metabolism tends to slow down as we grow older. (As if wrinkles weren’t bad enough!) Studies show that as we hit our 30’s, we’re more likely to gain about one two pounds a year, even if we eat the same amount of food. But luckily there are ways to speed our metabolism once again. Regular exercise can build muscle tissue, which burns fat even while we sleep. And simple diet changes—like drinking cold water, or taking an iron supplement—can also help. Here are some simple tips on how to turn your body into a lean, mean calorie-burning machine.
1. Eat five times a day.
Your total calorie requirements are determined by your age, height, and general activity levels. However, as a general rule, try to keep your main meals to at least 400 calories. Never, ever, ever skip a meal, or try to crash diet by eating absurdly low-calorie food.
Why? Our body has a built-in survival mechanism: it slows down our metabolism when it thinks we’re in danger of starving. This instinct hearkens back to the years before refrigerators and supermarkets, when mankind had to hunt for food, which was hard to come buy during winters or droughts. When we skip meals, our body thinks that we’re in ‘crisis mode’ and burns available calories more slowly, converting most of into fat. It will also start breaking down your muscle tissue just to get its required energy allowance—and muscle is the only part of your body that burns calories even when you’re resting.
So the trick is to eat to avoid hunger. Have a 400-calorie breakfast, lunch and dinner, and take a light snack that’s about 100 to 150 calories in the middle of the morning and the middle of the afternoon. You stay satisfied, and also avoid the ‘binge eating’ that often comes when you wait until you’re famished to actually have a meal.
2. Have a cup of caffeine.
Caffeine can increase your metabolism by as much as 8%, which can burn an additional 200 calories a day. You can have a cup of coffee, but skip the whipped cream and sweet flavorings, and choose non-fat milk. Better yet, have brewed green tea. This can increase metabolism by as much as 12%, thanks to the ingredient called catechins. The good news is that catechins are also considered to be excellent anti oxidants.
3. Eat ‘colorful’ carbs.
You probably know about good carbs and bad carbs. You haven’t? We’ll skip the complicated list. Instead, just remember this simple rule: if it’s white, stay away from it. Brown sugar is better than white sugar. Brown wholewheat bread is better than white bread. That’s because whiter foods are usually made of refined ingredients, which have less fiber—and studies show that women who eat a lot of fiber have the least tendency to gain weight. You need about 25 grams of fiber a day. The best source? Wholewheat products, and fruits and vegetables.
4. Drink cold water.
One interesting study done by German scientist show that drinking six glasses of cold water a day can increase your resting metabolism (or how many calories you burn while you’re just sitting around or sleeping) by as much as 50 calories a day. All things being equal, this habit can mean losing 5 pounds a year—without lifting a finger! The scientists believe that when you drink cold water, you force your body to expend energy just to bring it up to ‘normal’ temperature. Another diet-boosting tip: drink water just before you eat, and take sips between bites. You feel a little more full, and force yourself to eat more slowly between bites (it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to tell your body that you’re ‘full.’)
German researchers found that drinking 6 cups of cold water a day (that’s 48 ounces) can raise resting metabolism by about 50 calories daily–enough to shed 5 pounds in a year. The increase may come from the work it takes to heat the water to body temperature.
5. Buy organic vegetables
One study done by a Canadian research team found that toxins in the food called organochlorines (left by pesticides) are stored in fat cells. These toxins can actually prevent your body from burning fat efficiently.
So, wash your vegetables thoroughly, and choose organic when you’re buying apples, bell peppers, lettuce, celery, grapes, and pears. For some reason, these tend to store organochlorines more than other fruits and vegetables.
6. Get iron supplements.
Your muscles need iron to carry oxygen to your muscles in order to burn fat. Unfortunately, women tend to lose iron during menstrual periods, and after menstruation. You also need more iron when you’re pregnant.
You can get iron from cereals, lean meat, and beans, but to guarantee proper iron intake, consider getting a multi-vitamin that has extra iron, or an iron supplement. Bonus: iron-deficiency often manifests as exhaustion, so you may feel a sudden energy boost when you’re finally getting the recommended daily allowance. This means you can move around more—and burn more calories, too.
7. Drink fortified milk.
Milk is rich in Vitamin D and calcium, two nutrients that are crucial for muscle tissue and metabolism. While you can get Vitamin D from tuna and cereal, a fortified milk can give you the Vitamin D you need and fulfill your calcium requirements (a must for women, who are more prone to osteoporosis). Studies also show that people who have a regular calcium intake are less likely to gain weight, because it reduces fat absorption from other foods.