Having a high or fast metabolism is (for the most part) great news. Essentially, it means your body burns energy from food at a faster rate than those with a slower metabolism.
In laymen’s terms, metabolism is the digestive process that turns food into fuel. This energy is then used by your body to function; think hormones, bone, skin, nails, flesh, neurotransmitters, and healthy organs – they all need energy.
If you’ve heard that the speed of your metabolism is genetic, there’s some truth to this. A study from 2001, which has yet to be challenged, discovered that baseline metabolism is determined at birth. What this means is that, yes, you can be born with a slow metabolism, but it doesn’t have to stay this way – which is particularly comforting news for women over 30. After entering your thirties your RMR (Resting Metabollic Rate; the amount of energy – and therefore number of calories – your body requires each day to perform basic functions) decreases at a rate of 2-3 per cent per decade, mainly due to inactivity and muscle loss.
To reverse a sluggish metabolism – and lose excess weight that’s often the result of this – you need to take a holistic approach. If you simply slash your calories, you’re at risk of dialling down your metabolism further.
Keep reading for how to burn more calories without much more effort and boost your fat-burning potential in doing so.
Your high metabolism crib sheet
1. Schedule in exercise
Exercise doesn’t just burn calories—it actually changes your DNA to boost your metabolism immediately.
Experts recommend up to an hour to see these benefits. To make absolutely sure you squeeze in these sweat sessions, schedule them ahead of time.
2. Strength train
Muscle is a fat-burning powerhouse, so stick to your strength-training routine. Aim for 120 minutes of strength sessions a week: try a total-body workout circuit with weights to build muscle, or do a TRX workout the next time you hit the gym.
3. Do cardio
So you’ve swapped your running for a gym workout and are feeling pretty pleased about it. Well, don’t celebrate just yet. Cardio is crucial for keeping your metabolism running smoothly. In one study, researchers found that cyclers increased their metabolism for 14 hours after a tough 45-minute workout.
“If you do just two to three vigorous bouts of exercise per week for 45 minutes, you could lose a pound of fat every two weeks from the combination of calories expended during exercise plus what you burn afterward,” says study author David Nieman, a doctor of public health and professor of exercise science at Appalachian State University.
If you add your total cardio time (3 x 45-minute sessions) to your strength training time (120 minutes) it totals 4.25 hours. That’s still less than a week’s worth of skipping lunch. We say, take a lunch break and work on your body, not your inbox this week.
4. Eat breakfast
After a long night of fasting, your body needs fuel to rev up its metabolism.
Skipping breakfast can slow down your body’s ability to burn fat as it tries to conserve energy, so make sure you eat a healthy breakfast within an hour of waking up.
5. Don’t skip meals
You might think that passing on dinner would translate to a slimmer waistline, but it does just the opposite. Skipping meals can make your body think it’s starving so it stores extra calories instead of burning them.
Eat up to six small meals a day to fend off hunger, keep blood-sugar levels steady, and help your metabolism function properly.
Related article: 20 Simple Exercises That Start Showing Results After One Workout
Stress can do more than drive you crazy — it can actually slow down your digestion and thwart any goals of having a high metabolism.
The stress hormone cortisol is the culprit: When levels are too high, it inhibits your body’s ability to burn fat. Take a few moments to breathe deeply or flow through a calming yoga sequence to keep your metabolism in check.
Short on time? You can still fit in enough exercise to burn 200 calories. A recent study showed that a very short burst of intense exercise (2.5 minutes’ worth) can lead to an after-burn of 200 calories throughout the day.
So even if you don’t have time for a full workout, working up a sweat for a just few minutes is a lot better than nothing.
8. Snack before bed
This isn’t a joke. A 100- to 200-calorie bedtime snack may help keep your metabolism cranking so you burn more calories while you sleep.
9. Eat whole grains
Packed with fibre, whole grains such as brown rice, barley, quinoa, oats and millet fill you up more than other foods with the same number of calories.
This doesn’t just leave you with less room for second helpings, though. High-fibre foods tend to be more difficult to chew. And when your mouth works harder, the act of eating in and of itself can burn up to 10 per cent more calories.
10. Mix up your routine with intervals
If you log cardio at the same pace every day, you could be making better use of your time. Adding high-intensity intervals into your cardio will help burn more calories during each sweat session and in turn, help you achieve a high metabolism.
11. Spice up your food
Cayenne pepper is known for its pungent flavour and healing powers, but the spice can also boost your metabolism by increasing your body’s core temperature.
Don’t worry about smothering your food in hot sauce—a small amount goes a long way.
12. Indulge with dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is a healthy dessert for many reasons. It can boost your metabolism, thanks to two of its ingredients: caffeine and the antioxidant catechin.
Just make sure you stick to a small square a day so the sugar and calories don’t negate dark chocolate’s fat-burning potential.
Related article: To Have A Healthier Day, Start Every Morning Doing This
13. Sprinkle cinnamon
Add this warm spice to any food to pep up your metabolism. Some ideas: put some on a slice of whole-wheat toast, in your bowl of porridge, or onto soup.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR UK.