The recipe for boosting metabolism was shrouded in myth—and misconceptions. Until now. (Photo: Shutterstock)
High metabolism: It’s the Holy Grail of weight loss, the mysterious, magical method by which we burn fat all day, all night, even when we sleep—if only we could crank it up. Marketers know we’re buying metabolism fixes: A quick Google search for “metabolism” turns out some 75 million hits—more than “obesity,” (10M) “weight loss,” (34M) and “Kate Upton” (1.4M) combined!
It’s obvious why: In theory, a “metabolism boost” is the easiest way to burn fat. Metabolism refers to the process by which your body converts the calories you eat into energy—the stuff that fuels everything you do, from growing your hair to breathing in air. The more efficiently you burn off those calories, the less fat you store without the need for a restrictive diet or intense exercise. Sounds awesome, right?
Yet as with any seemingly magical formula, the recipe for boosting metabolism is shrouded in myth—and misconceptions.
Here are 10 metabolism myths debunked, and our sure-fire suggestions for melting away the pounds. (And flatten your belly once and for all by steering clear of these 20 Little Daily Mistakes You Make That Prevent Weight Loss.)
METABOLISM MYTH #1: Expensive juice cleanses are the fastest way to slim down
REALITY: Tea is the magic elixir
You can lose up to 10 pounds in one week—for pennies a day—drinking delicious, affordable tea…if you do it right. It worked for Tracy Durst, age 45, of Lewistown, PA, when she did our 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse. “I went from a size 20 to a size 16, alive with energy,” she told Eat This, Not That! “This is not a diet or cleanse for me but a way of life!” The cleanse features many metabolism-boosting teas, including Pu-erh, barberry, rooibos, white tea and green tea, all backed by the latest research. For example, Taiwanese researchers studied more than 1,100 people over a 10-year period and found that those who drank green tea had nearly 20 percent less body fat than those who drank none! The secret is a metabolism-boosting nutrient called EGCG, found in certain teas, which has been shown to simultaneously enhance lipolysis (the breakdown of fat) and block adipogenesis (the formation of fat cells).
SURE-FIRE BOOST: For the complete meal plan, try it yourself and slim down—fast—on The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Diet and Cleanse!
METABOLISM MYTH #2: Never skip breakfast
REALITY: No time? Don’t stress
Contrary to popular belief, researchers now say breakfast doesn’t kickstart the metabolism and may not be the most important meal of the day. A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition had more than 300 overweight participants consume diets that included either eating or skipping breakfast. At the end of 16 weeks, dieters who ate breakfast lost no more weight than the breakfast skippers. And a second study in the same journal found eating breakfast had zero impact on resting metabolism. Breakfast is an ideal place to squeeze protein, fiber and other nutrients into your day, but if the choice is a doughnut or nothing, opt for the nothing.
SURE-FIRE BOOST: Start your day with lean protein, which burns twice as many calories during digestion as fat or carbs. But don’t stress about squeezing it in before 9 a.m.
METABOLISM MYTH #3: “Hot” workouts help you lose weight
REALITY: Cold naps work better
We still like to think of sweat as our fat crying—especially when we’re raising our temperature through Bikram yoga or some other “hot” workout—but striking new research published in the journal Diabetes suggests cooler temperatures may be optimal for weight loss. According to the study, simply turning on the AC at night may subtly transform a person’s stores of brown fat —the “good” fat, stimulated by cold temperatures, that serves to keep us warm by burning through “bad” fat stores. Participants spent a few weeks sleeping in bedrooms with varying temperatures: a neutral 75 degrees, a cool 66 degrees, and a balmy 81 degrees. After four weeks of sleeping at 66 degrees, the men had almost doubled their volumes of calorie-burning brown fat. Cool!
SURE-FIRE BOOST: Turn down the heat at night. You’ll trim your belly, and your heating bills. Keep blasting fat using our science-backed 8 Ways to Lose Weight While You Sleep!
METABOLISM MYTH #4: Tongue-scorching peppers burn belly fat
REALITY: Don’t drive yourself wild—it’s okay to stay mild
You’ve probably read that hot sauce can boost your metabolism, and in fact, that’s true. But what if you don’t like spices? Now, there’s new research to suggest more-palatable, mild peppers may have the same calorie-burning potential—minus the agony! Study findings presented at the Experimental Biology meeting in Anaheim, California, suggest the compound dihydrocapsiate (DCT), capsaicin’s non-spicy cousin, is equally effective. In fact, participants who ate the most DCT from mild peppers experienced a metabolic boost that was nearly double the placebo group.
SURE-FIRE BOOST: Pack your salads and stir-frys with sweet peppers—including bell peppers, pimentos, rellenos and sweet banana peppers. They’re just as effective as the hot stuff.
METABOLISM MYTH #5: Quinoa is the best vegetarian protein out there
REALITY: There are other ancient grains that are just as good
Our favorite: Kamut. Native to the Middle East, kamut, also known as Khorsan wheat, is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, high in protein and low in calories. A half-cup serving has 30% more protein than regular wheat (six grams), with only 140 calories. Eating kamut reduces cholesterol, blood sugar and cytokines, which cause inflammation throughout the body, a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found. “This whole grain has plenty to offer,” says Lisa Moskovitz, RD. “It packs in a good source of zinc, iron and B-vitamins, all of which will help keep your energy levels high so you can burn more calories throughout the day, aiding your weight-loss efforts.”
SURE-FIRE BOOST: Toss it into salads or eat it as a side dish on its own. A quick tweak like that can have you melting fat fast—along with these Zero Belly Diet-secrets on 14 Ways to Lose Your Belly in 14 Days!
METABOLISM MYTH #6: Six small meals throughout the day will stoke the metabolic fire
REALITY: Three squares can also keep you from growing round
Body-builders have long sworn by eating every few hours to keep their muscles fueled, but don’t discount the weight loss potential of three squares a day. A study in the journal Hepatology put two groups of men on weight-gain diets. One group divided the calories among three small meals with snacks in between while the second group ate the same number of calories in three square meals. While both groups gained weight, researchers found that belly fat—the dangerous kind that increases heart-disease risk—only increased in the high-meal frequency group.
SURE-FIRE BOOST: Focus on overall calorie control and get plenty of fiber, protein and micronutrients. What you eat is more important than when.
METABOLISM MYTH #7: Your smoothies should contain belly-filling bananas as a base
REALITY: Bananas are great, but how about a fruit that taste like chocolate pudding?
Yep, it exists. Known as the “chocolate pudding fruit,” black sapote tastes like … chocolate pudding. No wonder it’s an Eat This, Not That! favorite! Deceptively rich and creamy, a 100-gram serving has 130 calories and 191 mg of vitamin C, or twice that of an orange. (That’s a mic drop, chocolate pudding.) A study published in Food Research International found black sapote to be a good source of carotenoids and catechins, which spur the release of fat from fat cells and helps the liver convert fat into energy.
SURE-FIRE BOOST: Originating in South America, black sapotes can be found in Florida and Hawaii, and certain growers online will ship them within the U.S. Devotees swear by them for low-cal pies and smoothies. Speaking of smoothies, melt fat with each sip by making this Best Smoothie Ever for Weight-Loss!
METABOLISM MYTH #8: Eating carbs at night will make you fat
REALITY: Nighttime carbs set you up for daytime weight loss
The theory makes sense: Your body burns carbs for energy, but if you eat them before you go to sleep, your body just stores them as fat. But the pastanomics of weight loss aren’t so simple. One study in the European Journal of Nutrition put two groups of men on identical weight loss diets. The only difference? Half of the group ate their carbs throughout the day while the second group reserved carbohydrates for nighttime. The result? The nighttime carb group showed a significantly higher diet-induced thermogenesis (meaning they burned more calories digesting their food the next day). Moreover, the daytime-carb group showed increased blood sugar levels. Another study in the journal Obesity saw similar results. Nighttime carb eaters lost 27 percent more body fat—and felt 13.7 percent fuller—than those on the standard diet.
SURE-FIRE BOOST: Enjoy a pasta dinner—cold. Not only will the carbs set you up for tomorrow’s fat burn, but chilling pasta before you eat it changes the nature of the carbs to resistant starch—a type of carbohydrate that’s harder to store as fat. That’s just one of our 10 Best Nutrition Tips of All Time—click here to see the other 9!
METABOLISM MYTH #9: The caffeine in energy drinks revs up your metabolism
REALITY: The sugar in energy drinks revs up your belly fat
Caffeine may provide a bit of a boost to the metabolism, especially when ingested before exercise, but no amount of metabolic boost can burn off the empty calories that energy drinks supply. According to one study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a typical energy drink serves up a quarter cup of sugar—calories that hit your body all at once and trigger fat storage.
SURE-FIRE BOOST: Drink detox water. Researchers estimate that increasing water intake by 1.5 liters a day (about 6 cups) would burn an extra 17,400 calories over the course of the year—that’s five pounds! And if you need an energy boost, get it from healthy snacks, like the ones on this ultimate list of the 50 Best Snacks for Weight Loss!
METABOLISM MYTH #10: A pound of muscle burns 100 calories per day
REALITY: A pound of brain burns 100 calories a day
Over the years, would-be exercise gurus have greatly exaggerated the fat-torching powers of muscle. According to a report in the journal Obesity, skeletal muscle actually has a very low metabolic rate when at rest, at just 6 calories per pound. True, that’s three times as much as fat, so resistance training definitely helps your daily fat-burn. But you might be better off building your brain power: a pound of brain actually burns 109 calories a day.
SURE-FIRE BOOST: Exercise, and don’t sweat the big muscles if you don’t want to. Any exercise will do. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Public Health studied four groups of healthy older adults, ages 65 to 89, and found that those who exercised had larger brains!
FOR 16 INCREDIBLE SUPERFOODS that boost your metabolism, give you instant energy and help you look, feel and love better than ever—CLICK HERE!
AND STRIP AWAY BELLY FAT and lose up to 16 pounds in just 14 days—while eating the foods you love—with these secrets from the New York Times-bestselling Zero Belly Diet!
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