Kicking Your Metabolism in High Gear

Can the way you eat really have an effect on your metabolic rate? Are there types of foods that will burn fat more efficiently than others? The answer to both questions is yes.

Beyond the calorie in-calorie out theory, you can help control the timing of your eating and how your body responds to food. Check out the following guidelines to see if you are practicing any of these healthy eating habits. If you're not, it's time to start.

Eat lots of small meals

Split up your calories between breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
Don't make dinner your largest meal.
Eat every three to four hours. Your body works hard to digest and absorb the food we eat, and your metabolism revs up in response.

Don't skip breakfast
Eat a healthy breakfast to jumpstart your metabolism.
Have breakfast within two hours of waking. Studies show that if you do this, you are more likely to control your weight.
Don't let coffee ruin your appetite.

Never starve yourself
Don't skip meals. It's like going on a mini-diet. Going long periods of time between meals each day may slow your metabolic rate so that you burn calories more slowly.
Stop dieting. The same metabolic slowdown that kicks in when you skip breakfast also works against you whenever you drastically cut back on the amounts of food you eat.
Don't take in too few calories or your body will try to store more fat.

Don't eat late at night
Your metabolism is slowest in the evening, so don't overeat then. Give your body at least three hours before bedtime to digest.
Remember, you are going to eat within one hour of waking up.
If you do shift work, your metabolism will fall in line with your eating and sleeping schedule, not the clock.

Eat protein with almost every meal/snack
Eating protein boosts your metabolism more than carbohydrates or fats.
Eating enough protein will help you maintain and build muscle mass.
Keep protein intake anywhere from 0.5 gram to 0.8 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Use the higher end only if you exercise vigorously.
Good sources of low-fat protein include lean meats, turkey breast, skinless chicken breast, fish, cottage cheese, low-fat yogurt, tofu and beans.

Balance your other nutrients
Choose whole-grain carbohydrates instead of refined. That means oatmeal, brown rice, whole-wheat bread, barley, sweet potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, beans, etc.
Eat enough healthy fats. These include avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds, natural peanut butter, ground flax seeds and fatty fish.
Round out your diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. The more color and fiber, the better.

Exercise to burn calories and speed up your metabolic rate.
Move your body to stimulate fat-burning enzymes to break down fat.
Do aerobic exercise (at least 30 minutes) four or five times a week. Your metabolism rises every time you work out.
Do strength training at least twice a week. Lifting weights and doing push-ups or crunches will help you increase muscle tissue, which burns slightly more calories than fat.

Sample Meals
Cottage cheese or yogurt with fresh fruit
One or two eggs and a slice of whole-grain bread
Turkey burger on a whole-grain bun and a salad
Salad with grilled chicken and small amount of dressing
Fish with vegetables and a baked potato
Shrimp and vegetables over a small amount of brown rice or pasta
1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter on a large rice cake
A pear and a piece of low-fat string cheese

(Information provided by Jane Harrison, R.D.,

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