Boosting Metabolism

Boosting metabolism is a key topic on the mouths of weight watchers everywhere. How fast your body burns calories depends on several things. Some fortunate souls inherit a speedy metabolism. Men tend to burn more calories than women, even while resting. And for most people, metabolism slows steadily after age 40. Although you can't control your age, gender, or genetics, there are other ways to improve your metabolism.

1. Exercise more often. Working out is the No. 1 way to keep your furnace cranking. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn all day. That's because muscle uses energy even when you're resting. Exercise enough and you can help prevent the natural metabolic slowdown that can begin as early as your late 20s.

2. Kick up your cardio. Aerobic intervals will help you maximize your burn, doubling the number of calories you torch during a workout. Intervals also keep your metabolic rate higher than a steady-pace routine does for as long as an hour after you stop exercising! The ideal metabolism-boosting interval routine is to "go hard” for a couple of minutes, then take it down to an easier pace for a minute or two, and keep alternating like that throughout your workout.

3. Put some muscle behind it. A head-to-toe strength routine will turbocharge your calorie-blasting quotient. Add five pounds of muscle to your body and you can zap as many as 600 calories an hour during your workout. Be sure to choose a weight-lifting routine that targets your core, legs, arms, chest and shoulders; challenging numerous muscles will help your body function like a calorie-burning machine,

4. Don't skip meals. We know you're super busy, but the more frequently you eat, the more often it revs up. Conversely, missing a meal, or going too long between meals, brings your metabolism to a crawl. Your body switches into starvation mode and your system slows down to conserve energy. Having three healthy meals of 300 to 400 calories and two snacks of 200 to 300 calories every day will be helpful!

5. Fill up on smart foods. Start by serving yourself protein at every sitting. Not only does your body need it to help build lean muscle mass, but protein also takes more calories to digest. To get your fix, have low-fat yogurt at breakfast, chicken in your salad at lunch and salmon for dinner. Between meals, snack on protein-rich walnuts they contain Omega 3 fatty acids as well! While you're at it, eat more foods that are high in fiber, like fruits and veggies and whole-grain breads and pastas.

6. Eat breakfast. It will switch your metabolism from idle to high speed. That's because your level of cortisol, a hormone that helps you use calories to build muscle, is highest just before you get up in the morning. When you eat an a.m. meal, your body is primed to turn those calories into muscle pronto — the only time during the day this happens. Take advantage of the natural torching process by having a healthy breakfast of scrambled eggs, low-fat turkey bacon and a piece of whole-grain toast.

7. Get off your butt. Sitting too much — at the computer at work, at home in front of the TV — slows your metabolism, even if you're exercising regularly. An easy fix is to stretch, stroll and fidget throughout the day. Take advantage of every opportunity to walk and climb stairs, stand up when on the phone or even try pacing around your desk whenever you can and walking to your co-worker's cube instead of e-mailing.

8. Go to bed earlier. Deprive yourself of sleep and your body starts to respond as if it were under siege. When you get two hours less shut-eye than you normally do, your system becomes stressed and produces about 50% more cortisol, that in turn will trigger your appetite.

9. Schedule a nighttime workout. Do a 20- to 30-minute moderate-intensity cardio routine before you hit the hay to keep your metabolism humming all night. You can take the dog for an evening walk or go for a bike ride with your family after dinner.