You don't need to eat like a child to recapture the metabolism of your youth. "You can rev up your metabolic engine without changing how much you eat," says Mark Hyman, M.D., author of Ultra-metabolism. Combined with an interval workout, these simple tips will have your body burning calories all day long — and all night.
- Up your protein intake. A British study found that participants who increased the percentage of protein-based calories in their diets burned 71 more calories a day (that's 7.4 pounds a year) than those on low-protein diets. "Protein burns hotter than other food sources," says Dr. Hyman. Jump-start your metabolism early with two scrambled eggs or a few slices of lean turkey bacon for breakfast, then keep it up throughout the day with at least one protein-packed snack, such as almonds or cheese, and lunch and dinner built around legumes, lean meats, tuna, or salmon.
- Eat more often. Skipping meals lets your body's calorie-burning furnace go cold, says Dr. Hyman. Spread out mini-meals throughout the day. Try a cup of yogurt with fresh fruit or almonds at 10:30 a.m., and a hard-boiled egg or hummus with vegetables around 3 p.m.
- Go green. Catechins, the powerful antioxidants found in green tea, are known to increase metabolism. In a 12-week double-blind study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, participants who consumed 690 milligrams of catechins from green tea daily had significantly lower body-mass indexes and smaller waist measurements than those in the control group. Skip the Lipton and steep 1 teaspoon of loose green-tea leaves (we like Dragon Pearl from Rishi) in hot water for 4 minutes.
Eat breakfast every day
Begin by proving that you have time for it. This weekend, time how long it takes you to nuke a bowl of instant oatmeal and eat it. We're betting less than 5 minutes, which isn't long enough to make you late for work.
Then remind yourself why it's so crucial. "Not eating breakfast may reduce your metabolic rate by 10 percent," says Leslie Bonci, R.D., M.P.H., director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh medical center. This in turn increases your risk of obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
"Keep a breakfast bar by your bed, or pour dry oatmeal or cereal in a bowl the night before," Bonci suggests. Leave a bowl of fruit or bags of trail mix near your front door so you can grab them in a hurry.
Wanna lose 40 pounds?
You want to drop big weight? Forget about it. No, really — that's the crucial tip. Put the end goal out of the picture and narrow your focus to the day at hand. Bob Harper, a trainer on the NBC TV show "The Biggest Loser," says, "Ask yourself, Did I get my workout in today? Did I make the right food choices? Then go through it again tomorrow, always with an eye on improving."
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Here are Harper's top five real-world solutions. Becoming fat is a big piece of cake. Slimming down is not.
1. Get over gym-timidation.The muscleheads at the squat rack aren't judging you. "If they see someone out of shape trying their hardest to change, they'll do what they can to help you," says Harper. So ask for a spot, or even some guidance. Just because those guys are ripped doesn't mean they don't struggle with diets and exercise plans.
2. Fight through the pain. Your neglected body won't be able to do what it once could. Start slowly and remember that post-exercise soreness means you're making progress. Use this as motivation to put the past into your present. "You'll see just how far you've let yourself go, but you'll know what you're eventually capable of," Harper says.
3. Break periods of discouragement — with a little help from your friends. "It's no secret that support groups work," says Harper. Online sites like www.biggestloserclub.com are huge inspirations for weight loss. Share your story with peers and read how they overcame struggles similar to yours.
4. Forget plateaus. Whether you lose weight every week or not, remember that your efforts are improving your overall health — from lowering cholesterol to cutting visceral belly fat. And don't weigh yourself more than once a week. You'll just make yourself nuts.
5. Fall down six times, but stand up seven. The wagon will leave you behind if you fall off. It's your job to keep chasing it down.
Eat smaller portions
There's a conspiracy to trick you into eating more. Everything from efficient busboys (clearing the table so you forget how much you've eaten) to "family-size" bags of chips (making massive quantities seem normal) goads us into stuffing our faces.
A recent Cornell University study found that nutritionists (!) who were asked to serve themselves ice cream at a party with large bowls and spoons dished out about 50 percent more than those given smaller bowls and spoons. "Even superstar experts get fooled," says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Mindless Eating. Fortunately, the illusion works both ways. . . .
- Use small bowls and spoons. Not only will you serve yourself less food, you'll eat less. Cornell researchers also found that graduate students scarfed down 59 percent more Chex Mix from large bowls than those who served themselves from smaller bowls.
- Drink from a tall glass. Our brains estimate height differently than width. Given drinking glasses with the same capacity, we tend to pour more into a short, squat glass than a tall, narrow one.
- Always, always skip the value size. Sure, you get more for your money when you buy in bulk. But Wansink has found that people who are given larger boxes of pasta cook and eat more of it than people given smaller boxes. Sacrifice the pennies; slim your waist.
Kick your fast-food addiction
We know how tempting it is. We're guys, and we've been hungry and tired. Fight back with our plan.
Step 1: No more eating while driving. The real appeal of fast food is convenience: You don't even need to get out of your car. Once you have to walk in the door to get your combo meal, the appeal of fast food swiftly declines. Plus, by keeping the food away from the driver's seat, you'll avoid dripping Arby's sauce on your tie and stockpiling empty soda cups in your backseat, and you'll probably drive more safely.
Step 2: Embrace the boneless, skinless chicken breast. You're more likely to skip the drive-thru if you have a cooked chicken breast waiting at home. They're high in protein, low in fat, and cheap. MH "Muscle Chow" author Gregg Avedon cooks several each Sunday to eat throughout the week, and you should, too.
Rub 2 pounds of chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and olive oil, and lay them on a broiler pan. Cook under the broiler or in a 500°F oven for 5 minutes, then flip them over and cook for another 5 minutes, until they're Nerf-football firm. Let them cool, then store them in a resealable bag in your fridge.
Step 3: Cook a tasty, healthy meal for one in less time than you'd have to wait at the drive-thru. We're not saying you have to eat chicken every night, but look what you can do with your precooked chicken.
Cobb salad: Dice one chicken breast and toss it in a salad of romaine lettuce with crumbled blue cheese, low-sodium bacon bits, and a sliced hard-boiled egg. Dress with a tablespoon of balsamic vinaigrette.
Chicken fajita: Sauté 1/3 cup each of sliced green bell pepper, red bell pepper, and onion in olive oil until tender. Slice a chicken breast into 1/4-inch strips and add the chicken to the pan, along with a pinch of cumin and cayenne pepper. Cook for 60 seconds (you can even do that ahead of time), then serve the mixture on whole-wheat tortillas topped with shredded Cheddar cheese and a dollop of low-fat sour cream. Even full-fat sour cream is okay, because it'll keep you satisfied longer.
Pesto Pasta: Cook a cup of penne pasta according to the package directions. Bonus points if you decide to use whole-wheat pasta. At the same time, reheat one chicken breast in the microwave for 60 seconds, then slice it into 1/4-inch strips. Toss the chicken and pasta with 1 1/2 tablespoons of prepared basil pesto, and eat with store-bought salad-in-a-bag.
Barbecue-chicken pizza: Spread 1 tablespoon of barbecue sauce on a large pita and layer with diced chicken, sliced red onion, a dash of dried oregano, and shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake in a 400°F oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese melts.
Conquer your cravings and stop bingeing
Healthy eating isn't about deprivation — it's about simple planning and smart decisions. This year, skip the rice cakes and sprouts, and eat real food that satisfies your hunger and your body's nutritional needs.
Here's your four-step game plan:
1. Outsmart your cravings. "People tend to eat around their cravings, snacking and nibbling until they've taken in 500 calories and still aren't satisfied," says D. Milton Stokes, M.P.H., R.D. Don't fight the urge —find a healthier way to satisfy it. Sweet tooth? Try a Stonyfield Farm Smoothie: big on protein and creamy flavor, low in calories and fat. "You curb the craving, and you get solid nutrition," says Stokes.
2. Eat well on the road. To avoid a Cinnabon relapse at the airport, pack mixed nuts, energy bars, and granola bars. Make your own trail mix by combining 1/2 cup each Bran Chex, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, unsalted cashews, and raisins. Bag small servings and go.
3. Snack smarter. It's not snacking when you're elbow deep in a Doritos bag--that, friend, is gorging. Control the quantity. Buy prepackaged portions, like 1-ounce bags of Baked Lay's and snack-size Pacific Gold jerky. Warehouse stores like Costco and Sam's Club have huge boxes of these. Even ice cream comes in small cups. "For most guys, the carton becomes a trough," says Stokes.
4. Control late-night bingeing. Use the "set snack" trick. People who ate the same snack 90 minutes after dinner for 1 month dropped 4 pounds in a Wayne State University study. (They ate cereal.) And beware hunger spurred by boredom or TV ads. "Take the dog for a walk; do anything to buy some time for your brain to tell you you're not really hungry," Stokes says. Or brush your teeth and gargle: "Nothing tastes good after that."
Eat more fiber
Drinking your roughage is more efficient than eating it. You'd have to consume three heads of lettuce to ingest the 38 grams (g) of fiber per day that the USDA recommends for men. But adding fiber to something you take in every day can cut your goal in half before you even leave the house. Fibersure, a new supplement from the makers of Metamucil, packs 5 g fiber per teaspoon and dissolves flavorlessly into any liquid. Add a spoonful to each of three cups of coffee in the morning, and you're already 15 grams to the good. Other easy ways:
1. Read the box. Pick a cereal that contains more than 10 g fiber per serving. We like Fiber One, which packs 28 g fiber per cup.
2. Snack on berries. One cup of raspberries or blackberries contains 8 g fiber. Fill a bowl with a cup of each and top them with yogurt or milk for a sweet alternative to cereal.
3. Bulk up your smoothies. Mix 1/4 cup of flaxseed into any blended beverage to add 12 g fiber.
4. Make everything Mexican. One whole avocado contains 13 g fiber, along with loads of mono-unsaturated fats. Slice one on top of a salad, a sandwich, or even scrambled eggs.
Eat less sugar
This is both obvious and tricky.
The obvious: Avoid soda, juice, sweetened teas and coffees, sugary cereals, and candy.
The tricky: Sugar hides on ingredient labels behind such names as: barley malt, brown-rice syrup, corn syrup, dextrose, evaporated cane-juice invert syrup, fructose, fruit juice, galactos, glucose, high-fructose, corn syrup, honey, lactose, maltodextrin, maple syrup, molasses, organic cane juice, sorghum, sucrose, turbinado.
Our advice: Try an experiment.
For 1 month, use this list to avoid any sugar unless it naturally occurs in a food (like the kind in milk or fruit).
When scientists at Cornell University examined the eating patterns of more than 14,000 people, they observed that those who ate the most baked confections and candy also ate the most fruit; so try satisfying your sweet tooth with the natural sugar in a peach or melon instead of a candy bar. As nutritionists like to say, "No one ever got fat from eating fruit."
Also, start substituting protein-rich snacks (string cheese, hard-boiled eggs) for seemingly harmless fare like bagels, popcorn, and pretzels. The latter are primarily composed of starch, which your body quickly breaks down into sugar. So, technically, you're still feeding your body high amounts of the sweet stuff.
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