"Protein is the building block of muscle," says Roberta Anding, R.D., a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). "The more lean muscle you have, the more calories you expend."Bump Up Your Burn
Your muscles can use only 30 grams of protein at any time, a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association notes. Any more than that gets stored as fat. Aim for a minimum of 46 g of protein per day. A sample menu:
Breakfast: 6 ounces lowfat yogurt with 1/2 cup berries and a medium skim latte (23 g)
Lunch: Spinach salad with 2 oz chicken and 1/3 cup black beans, served with pita with 2 tbsp hummus (30 g)
Dinner: Asian stir-fry with 1/3 cup each tofu, snow peas, red bell peppers, bok choy, bean sprouts and 3/4 cup brown rice, sprinkled with 2 tbsp slivered almonds (23 g)
Soothe Your Stress
It's impossible to live in a worry-free bubble, but constant anxiety can cause your adrenal gland to pump out too much cortisol. High levels of the stress hormone change how your metabolism stores fat, sending flab to the belly, where it affects vital organs (and your bikini confidence).
Bump Up Your Burn
By signaling to your brain to lower cortisol levels, according to a review in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. There's evidence that meditation and tai chi may have the same effect. To find your version of Zen-ercise, sign up for group-buying sites to get deals on classes. Pick your fave and make it a regular habit.
Be a Cardio Queen
Just one 45-minute high-intensity workout can help increase your RMR by 37 percent for up to 14 hours post-exercise, a study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise indicates.
Bump Up Your Burn
"A vigorous workout raises your internal temperature, creates some inflammation and depletes your energy stores," says David C. Nieman, Ph.D., professor at Appalachian State University. "Afterward, it takes extra energy for your body to bounce back to its normal resting state." Intervals are great for upping calorie burn during your workout, but to keep metabolism high hours after you've left the gym, you need to exercise once or twice a week for 45 minutes at a steady level that makes it difficult to converse (about a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the hardest you could go). Relax after the tough workout, and revel as you burn nearly 200 more calories from your couch.