One frustrating thing about trying to lose weight is the snail’s pace at which the pounds seem to drop. Then there’s the harsh reality that the more weight you lose, the harder your body fights to hold on to the calories it gets and the fewer calories it burns. That’s usually about the time you hit the infamous weight-loss plateau — and start losing steam. But what if you could turbo-charge your weight-loss efforts without a lot of sacrifice?
We’ve come up with easy ways to boost your metabolism, or the rate at which you burn calories. We’ve also thrown in ideas for cranking up the calorie burn of your workout — without making it longer. Taken together, these tips should be more than enough to shift your weight loss out of neutral and move it full speed ahead again.
Still, it’s important that you maintain a realistic expectation of what’s considered “healthy” weight loss. About a pound or two a week is ideal; much more than that is unlikely to last long-term.
1. Sip green tea three times a day. A study from the University of Geneva in Switzerland found that in addition to caffeine, green tea contains catechin polyphenols, plant chemicals that may boost metabolism.
2. Use interval training to rev up your workout. Walk for the same amount of time at the same intensity day in and day out and your body gets as bored with your workout as you do. Throw it a curveball with interval training, which involves varying the intensity of your workout throughout your exercise session. Every five minutes into your walk, jog for one minute. Every five minutes into your bike ride, shift into a higher gear and pedal hard for a minute. If you swim, turn on the speed every other lap. You’ll burn more calories in the same amount of time.
3. Fidget. People who drum their fingers or bounce their knees burn at least 500 calories a day! That adds up to losing a pound a week.
4. Keep a small squeeze ball with you and work out your hands frequently during the day. It’s one of the few exercises you can do anytime. You’ll build up the muscles in your hands — and muscle, whether in your hands or legs, burns a lot of calories.
5. Don’t starve yourself. Cutting too many calories can backfire in more ways than one. Try to subsist on morsels and your metabolism will slow so much that you’ll not only stop losing weight, but you’ll be lucky if you can peel yourself off the couch.
6. Put five rubber bands around your wrist every morning. That’s how many 16-ounce bottles of water you should drink during the day to rev your metabolism, helping burn more calories. At least, that’s what German researchers found when they had 14 participants drink about 17 ounces of water. The volunteers’ metabolic rate — or how quickly they burned calories — jumped a third within 10 minutes of drinking the water and remained high for another 30 or 40 minutes. The researchers estimated that over a year, increasing your water consumption by 1.5 liters a day (about 50 ounces) would burn an extra 17,400 calories, or about five pounds’ worth. Since much of the increased metabolic rate is due to the body’s efforts to heat the water, make sure the water you’re drinking is icy.
7. Exercise outside. Maybe it’s the fresh air, maybe it’s the sunshine, but something about exercising in the open makes you walk or run faster than doing the same exercise in the gym.
8. Turn up the heat with hot peppers. Some studies show that very spicy foods can temporarily increase your metabolism. Gourmet groceries often stock a dozen different kinds of peppers. Buy one a week and practice adding some to various meals. Spice up your scrambled eggs with minced jalapeño, add a little fire to your beef stew with half a diced banana pepper, or pull together a spicy jambalaya (using turkey sausage and lots of veggies).
9. Eat five small meals throughout the day instead of three large meals. You might think you should eat less often if you want to lose weight, but that’s just not the case. By eating every few hours, you keep your metabolism fired up and ensure it doesn’t slow between meals in order to hang on to calories. A “meal” can be as small as a cup of soup.
10. Sip a couple of cups of coffee throughout the day. Studies find that the caffeine in coffee increases the rate at which your body burns calories. This does not mean, however, that you can order one of those fancy calorie-packed frappuccinos! And skip the java if it makes you toss and turn at night.
11. Don’t get discouraged because you’ve been yo-yo dieting. Somehow the myth got started that if you’ve spent your life losing and gaining the same 10 or 20 pounds, your metabolism gets out of whack and winds up slower than an airport security line. Don’t believe it. When researchers reviewed 43 studies on the topic, they found no difference in the metabolic rates of yo-yo dieters versus those of everyone else.
12. Walk with intent — and intensity. Burn more calories in the same amount of time with these strategies:
- Swing your arms when you walk. You’ll burn 5-10 percent more calories.
- Wear a weighted vest. Another great way to crank up the calorie burn. Leave the hand and ankle weights at home, though. They throw you off balance and could result in injury.
- Walk on grass, sand, or a gravel trail instead of the road. It takes more muscle power to glide smoothly over these uneven surfaces (especially sand) than over asphalt.
- Use walking poles. A University of Wisconsin study found you get a much more intense workout than without the poles.
- Walk along the shoreline of a beach, lake, or pond with your ankles in the water. The resistance will cause you to burn more calories and give your muscles an added workout.
13. Bump up the protein in your diet. There is some evidence that by taking protein to the upper end of the recommended range (roughly 20 percent of your overall calories), the amount of energy you expend while resting remains the same even as you’re losing weight (normally, it falls).