When I was in the Navy, one of the most common questions military spouses asked me was, "How do you stay so fit working these long hours?" Well, many of them worked long hours, too. While we were out in the field, they were raising young families and managing a household, often as a full-time job.
Not everyone has the time, energy, and resources to hit the gym every day and prepare planned out, nutritionally balanced meals. My first bit of advice was always to start with simple metabolism boosters.
Making sure your metabolism is revved to the max is a good way to implement subtle changes that pay dividends over time. A highly functioning metabolism helps your body burn more calories throughout the day. Some people inherit a great metabolism and don’t need too much help. Others aren’t that lucky.
Tried, true, and scientifically proven methods can help you get close to being that lean, mean machine you’ve been aiming for. Here are five ways to get on the road to your leanest, fittest, self.
Build muscle. The holy grail metabolism is having muscle on your skeletal system to burn calories for you, even while you rest. Every pound of muscle utilizes six calories per day just to exist, and when you activate those muscles all over you body, it raises your metabolic rate even more. By packing more muscle, you burn more calories sleeping; totally worth it. You can build muscle at home by just doing a consistent routine of air squats and push-ups. Hold a baby while you do those squats.
Hydrate. If you are even mildly dehydrated, which can come from not getting enough fluids, taking in too much salt, or boozing too much, your metabolism is affected. Water processes the calories that you take in and helps flush fat from your system. As a baseline, the 8x8 rule is easy to remember. Take in eight eight-ounce glasses of water per day, which is about half a gallon. If you are an excessive sweater or ultra active, up that amount.
Spice up your life. Studies suggest that adding spices and hot peppers to your diet can increase that metabolic rate, mainly by raising body temperature. The biggest bang for your buck comes from capsaicin, which gives hot peppers like jalapeños, habanero, and red chili pepper their powerful kick. These spicy foods burn calories well after you’re done eating. Ginger, black pepper, and cayenne pepper also fit the bill and are thought to be appetite suppressants as well, keeping your snack hand at bay until the next meal.
Get down on green tea. Fat absorption — the movement of glucose into fat cells after eating a meal — is inhibited by green tea, which also inhibits the insulin spikes that lead to fat storage. Green tea has also been shown to curb appetite and boost metabolism by 4% over a 24-hour period. Theoretically you can burn an additional seven pounds a year just by ingesting three cups of green tea each day. That might just be worth it.
Eat additional small meals each day. If you’re tied to your “three squares a day” routine, you can still add some seriously beneficial snacks to raise metabolism. Your body’s act of digesting food requires energy, so adding healthful, and especially fibrous small meals or snacks to your day will continuously spike metabolism. On another note, when your body doesn’t get regular amounts of food, it’s pre-programmed to slow your metabolism to protect you from starving.
Bumping your metabolism up a notch can put you in a great mental state of mind. Aside from being energized, you'll gradually shed some unwanted weight, which can make anyone feel good.
My last bit of advice for burning calories: laugh, a lot. It burns calories, tightens your abs, and brings up your mood. What is there to lose?