There are the obvious changes one can make to help shed fat, from cutting calories to increasing daily activity. But what about the not-so-obvious changes? The ones that make your jaw drop when you realize you could have been doing them all along. We’ve put together a list of lifestyle tweaks that can help increase your Resting Metabolic Rate, or RMR (the calories your body burns at rest), and make a dent in your calorie burn without pounding the treadmill or completely restricting your diet. Here are some day-by-day adjustments with long-term payouts.
How You Eat
Consume Lean Proteins
Studies have repeatedly shown that people following a high-protein diet lost (and kept off) the most weight compared to diets with lower protein content. This is due to many factors: 1) Protein keeps you fuller longer compared to carbs, 2) protein helps to build muscle (stay tuned to see why that’s important), and 3) your body burns more calories breaking down protein than it does breaking down carbs and fat. But remember, not all proteins are created equal. Opt for low-fat varieties, like ground turkey instead of ground beef or chicken breast instead of chicken thighs.
Make a Coffee Shop Stop
As a stimulant, caffeine works by blocking the metabolism-slowing neurotransmitter adenosine and increasing metabolism-boosting norepinephrine. Multiple studies have found that caffeine can therefore help to raise overall metabolic rate and even improve fat breakdown mechanisms.
Coconut oil has been getting a lot of love from the nutrition community lately, thanks to its high content of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), which are almost exclusively used as energy by the liver. And since your liver’s activity accounts for 20-30% of your RMR, you want to keep it happy and working at full capacity. Feeding it MCTs can help do that. An easy swap, try cooking with coconut oil instead of your typical vegetable oil.
How You Move
If you’re an avid reader of fitness articles, you’re probably sick of seeing ‘HIIT’ plastered everywhere. But High Intensity Interval Training isn’t going away any time soon. Multiple studies have shown that HIIT drastically increases Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) compared to steady state cardio. Essentially, once your HIIT workout is long gone, your metabolism is still firing away, burning calories without you even asking. Rather than spending an hour on the treadmill, try to get in a 10 or 20-minute HIIT session 1-3 times per week.
Increase Muscle Mass
Don’t shy away from resistance training. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat. Trade in one of your weekly cardio sessions* for weighted exercises. Even stationary bodyweight moves can help tone and build muscles. Do standing squats while you chat on the phone. Drop and give 10 push ups while you wait for the shower to warm up. Small additions to your fitness routine can pay off in the long run- both strength and calorie-wise.
*Side note- If you enjoy your long jogs or incline walks, keep them in your routine. It’s still great for your heart and respiratory health. But keeping your muscles guessing keeps their upward strengthening trend from plateauing.
Bookend Your Day
Starting your day with some exercise gives your metabolism a kick in the rear end that you then carry through your day. Likewise, ending your day with a slight sweat does the same while you sleep (what more could you want?). We acknowledge how difficult it is to fit one workout in per day, let alone two. So consider splitting your planned training session in half. Just make sure to have some muscle-protecting protein after each portion.
How You Live
Get Enough Shut Eye
As we mentioned in our sleep-related post, improper sleep can lead to out-of-whack insulin levels, which can in turn cause cravings and decreased fat burn. It also prevents your body from regulating hunger hormones, compounding your chances of facing cravings. Low sleep levels also jip your muscles of proper blood flow, preventing them from getting the fuel and oxygen they need to grow, repair and burn calories. Getting enough sleep helps to maintain peak RMR levels, regulate insulin and hunger, and provide you with enough energy to get in a killer workout.
Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals
This method of eating is extremely popular within the bodybuilding circuit, but you don’t have to be gunning for the stage to get on board. Eating small, frequent meals helps keep your metabolism active (mostly in the form of thermic effect) and also prevents your body from storing excess calories as fat, which can happen after a large meal. Eating frequently can help curb overeating; by keeping your hunger at baseline, you won’t go into a meal feeling like you’ll only be satiated by three servings or more.
Water is essential for the majority of bodily functions and processes. So it stands to reason that the less water your body has to work with, the less efficiently it will run. While urine color is a proper day-by-day indicator of your hydration, you can asses your long-term water intake by the moisture of your skin. Skin is the last organ of your body to reap the benefits of proper hydration, so you’ll know if your body is working at max speed if your derma dryness is quenched.