2. When You're At Work
Pick protein for lunch: Cramming protein into every meal helps build and maintain lean muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories than fat does, even at rest, says Donald Layman, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois. Aim for about 30 grams of protein—the equivalent of about one cup of low-fat cottage cheese or a four-ounce boneless chicken breast—at each meal.
Brew up some green tea: "It's the closest thing to a metabolism potion," says Tammy Lakatos Shames, R.D., author of Fire Up Your Metabolism: 9 Proven Principles for Burning Fat and Losing Weight Forever. The brew contains a plant compound called ECGC, which promotes fat burning.
In one study, people who consumed the equivalent of three to five cups a day for 12 weeks decreased their body weight by 4.6 percent. According to other studies, consuming two to four cups of green tea per day may torch an extra 50 calories. That translates into about five pounds per year. Not bad for a few bags of leaves, eh? For maximum effect, let your tea steep for three minutes and drink it while it's still hot.
Undo damage with dairy: Hey, it happens. There are days when no salad on earth can possibly overcome the seductive power of French fries. But you can make up for it with a calcium-rich afternoon snack, like eight ounces of milk or six ounces of low-fat yogurt.
Calcium helps your body metabolize fat more efficiently by increasing the rate at which it gets rid of fat as waste (yes, that kind), reports a study from the University of Copenhagen. Sorry, supplements don't have the same effect.
3. When You Go Food Shopping
Choose organic produce: You wouldn't fill your car engine with pesticides, right? Hell, no. Researchers in Canada found that dieters with the most organochlorides (chemicals found in pesticides) stored in their fat cells were the most susceptible to disruptions in mitochondrial activity and thyroid function.Translation: Their metabolism stalled.
Can't afford a full organic swap? Go to foodnews.org/fulllist for the most (and the least) contaminated foods, then adjust your shopping list accordingly.
Seek heat: It turns out capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their mouth-searing quality, can also fire up your metabolism. Eating about one tablespoon of chopped red or green chilies boosts your body's production of heat and the activity of your sympathetic nervous system (responsible for our fight-or-flight response), according to a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology. The result: a temporary metabolism spike of about 23 percent.
Stock up on chilies to add to salsas, and keep a jar of red pepper flakes on hand for topping pizzas, pastas, and stir-fries.
Grab some metal: Women lose iron during their period every month. That can throw a wrench into your metabolic machine, because iron helps carry oxygen to your muscles. If your levels run low, muscles don't get enough O2, your energy tanks, and your metabolism sputters, Shames says.
Stock up on iron—fortified cereals, beans, and dark leafy greens like spinach, bok choy, and broccoli.