With the holidays here, it can seem like diet sabotage is around every corner. But it's not just about sugary office treats and endless holiday party spreads; some of the most common Fall and Winter foods actually help, not hurt, your waistline. Want to know which ones? Read on for five fat-burning foods you should be eating this holiday season!
If you choose wisely, the spices you cook with can boost your metabolism and help your body burn more fat, like the four we've rounded up here: ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, and turmeric. If you're not sure how to cook with these, here are two tasty recipes for each spice.
The Spice: Ginger
High in antioxidants, ginger offers big health benefits. Dr. Oz says that ginger can increase your metabolism by about 20 percent for three hours! This is namely because of ginger's gingerols and capsaicin, two compounds known to boost metabolic rates.
Taste This: Ginger-Carrot Soup
A bowl of this detoxifying ginger-carrot soup is high in vitamin A, vitamin C, and manganese, which aids digestion.
Taste This: Orange-Ginger Smoothie
Fire up your metabolism with a sweet smoothie that makes use of a piece of fresh ginger. This orange-ginger smoothie is perfect for a day when you're feeling under the weather.
The Spice: Cinnamon
Cinnamon is one of those warming spices that makes every cool-weather recipe a little more delicious — and healthier, too! Cinnamon boosts your metabolism, aids in digestion, and can even help regulate blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes.
Taste This: Cinnamon-Spiced Chickpeas
Boost your energy levels and metabolism with this treat: cinnamon-spiced chickpeas. Once roasted, chickpeas offer a satisfying crunch, and this creative spice blend makes it a tasty, low-calorie sweet snack.
Taste This: Cinnamon and Green Tea Smoothie
Not only will the caffeine in the green tea smoothie give you much-needed energy, but cinnamon and green tea have both been shown to have metabolism-boosting properties.
Keep reading for two more spices that can boost your metabolism.
When you're pressed for time, even fitting in just 20 minutes of exercise is an excellent way to help you get to your weight-loss goals; after all, just 20 minutes of exercise has been shown to boost your metabolism. Even so, when you're going for a short session, every minute counts. Here's how to set yourself up for success.
Do keep the intensity up: Twenty minutes of reading a magazine on the treadmill isn't going to give you the results you want. Make sure your short workouts are high-intensity in order to pack as much calorie burn as you can into just a little bit of time. These sweat-inducing high-intensity workouts will have you burning up to 400 calories in just 20 minutes.
Don't take too many breaks: A few short breaks may be necessary to regroup before continuing your workout, but don't make the mistake of taking too many long breaks. You should aim to keep your heart rate within the optimal zone throughout your workout in order to get the most benefits. Wear a heart-rate monitor to keep track; learn what your target heart rate should be here.
Don't oversnack: You want to ensure that you have enough energy for your entire workout, but since it's relatively short, you probably don't have to refuel before you start. If you're trying to lose weight, eating too much before a workout just counteracts what you're trying to accomplish. If you are feeling famished, stick to a small high-carb snack like a few crackers or a banana to help you exercise effectively and safely, and remember to drink water before and after your workout.
Do warm up and cool down: Just because you are pressed for time doesn't mean you should skip the warmup or cooldown. These few minutes are essential for priming your body for your workout or helping it recover correctly. Start your workout with a few minutes of light jogging, jumping jacks, or the elliptical; end with a couple minutes of cooldown stretches to ensure you'll be ready for your next workout.
Don't overcompensate: You're sweaty, feeling good, and proud that you can check off your workout for the day, but don't use your 20-minute workout as an excuse to grab that extra cookie. While the calorie burn of 20 minutes of exercise is nothing to sneeze at, it takes just a few minutes and one tantalizing baked good to undo the work you just put in. Not that you shouldn't reward yourself for a job well done — here are some nonfood ways to celebrate your healthy accomplishments.
When it comes to exercising, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who work out in the morning and those who'd rather not get up before the sun. No matter which category you fall into, what you do in the morning can help or hurt your metabolism; just ask trainer Yumi Lee, co-owner of Reebok CrossFit Lab who's known for getting Jessica Alba into shape. While you can count Yumi in the morning exercisers club, she has a recommendation for those who don't: eat breakfast almost as soon as you wake up. "Either start off with a good breakfast or a good workout," she says. "If you're going to work out within an hour of waking up, then don't eat. But if you can't work out within an hour of waking up, then eat. Either your workout or eating a healthy breakfast is going to jumpstart your metabolism."
If you are a morning exerciser, Yumi recommends not eating anything before a workout, especially if you normally experience stomach discomfort while you exercise. If you do need fuel before a workout, she suggests a small protein shake, a piece of toast with a protein, or a small bowl of oatmeal, but "not too much; if you can burn off what's in stores from the day before, then you're better off than just burning off what you ate for breakfast," she says.
Metabolic rate is affected by several factors including age, weight, and genetics. Although there's not a whole lot you can do about those things, there are still choices that can cause metabolism to fire up or fizzle. If losing weight is your goal, avoid these metabolism-slowing mistakes in the morning.
- Eating too late: Skipping breakfast is one of the worst things you can do for weight loss since it causes your metabolism to slow down. When you don't eat, the brain sends a message to the rest of the body to conserve energy, signaling it to hold onto the stored fat that you're trying to get rid of. Eating within an hour of waking sparks the metabolic process called thermogenesis that turns the food you eat into energy. And no — a cup of coffee does not count as breakfast! Instead choose one of these high-protein breakfast ideas under 350 calories. Make sure to eat throughout the day to maintain blood sugar levels since any drops can cause the body to burn muscle for fuel.
- Not exercising: Research shows you continue burning calories up to 24 hours after working out, and studies also show that morning exercises burn more calories than those who sweat it out during other times of the day. If you're planning on exercising anyway, for maximum calorie burn, your best bet is to get it done in the a.m. Include high intensity cardio intervals since challenging yourself is proven to activate fat-burning genes, which translates to an increased post-workout calorie burn — 100 to 200 more.
- Not pumping iron: Lean muscle mass burns calories, and just adding five to 10 pounds of lean muscle to your frame will increase your daily calorie burn by 100 calories. Include strength training in your morning routine such as this 10-minute metabolism-boosting workout.
Want to turn your body's fat-burning potential up a notch? Check out these five ways to wake up and up the calorie burn.
- Exercise: That dawn workout doesn't just put a pep in your step; exercising in the morning also helps boost your metabolism, more than exercising at other times of the day. Studies have shown that people who exercised in the morning burn more calories than those who exercise at other times of the day, so lace up your sneaks and greet the sun for an added calorie burn.
- Add intensity: Good news for the time-strapped: a recent study found that a simple intense 2.5-minute burst of exercise can lead to an increased afterburn all day — up to 200 calories worth, in fact. Need ideas on how to add intensity to your workouts? Here are five short exercises that will help you burn extra calories fast.
Three more ideas after the break!
Between its metabolism-boosting powers and ability to prevent colds, green tea is a miracle in your mug. While there are several reasons to sip it each day, many wonder if one glass alone can provide you with the acclaimed benefits. Before you go to town guzzling, learn if it's possible to have too much of a good thing (the results may surprise you).
If you find yourself drinking a cup or two of green tea a day, you're doing things right! Dr. Zuo Feng Zhang, a cancer epidemiology researcher at UCLA, and the University of Maryland Medical Center recommend two to three teacups (not mugs) a day, which will prove beneficial to your health.
However, drinking up to five cups a day has been shown to decrease risk for stomach cancer. In fact, if you're trying to lose weight and to boost your metabolism, the best results have been seen with drinking seven cups a day (this study, though, has not been tested directly on humans). Additionally, many other medical studies have shown that the more green tea consumed daily the greater the benefits, with 10 cups being the upper limit. If you are sensitive to caffeine, or suffer from insomnia, 10 cups of green tea is probably going to be too much for your system, regardless of the benefits.
There are a few negative consequences to drinking lots and lots of green tea. The tannins found in both green and black tea can decrease absorption of folic acid, an important vitamin that helps decrease birth defects. If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you should definitely limit your green tea consumption to two cups a day, or skip it altogether. Green tea can also interfere with the absorption of iron, too, so it's recommended that you avoid drinking green tea with meals and just drink it between them.
How many cups of green tea do you drink a day?
— Additional reporting by Emily Bibb
When stress levels are too high, it hinders the body's ability to burn fat. That's where yoga comes in — it's the perfect way to fight off stress, regardless of your level. These easy-to-follow poses do more than just relax; they stimulate the parts of the body responsible for metabolic function. Breathe deep as you try each asana, and start burning more calories and fat with your practice.
Side Fierce Pose
Detox and twist with this variation on Fierce Pose. It brings heat to the whole body and works to release toxins:
- Begin in Fierce Pose. Exhale and cross your right elbow over the outside of the left knee. Press your palms together and actively push your bottom elbow against your thigh to lift and rotate your chest up, increasing the twist. Pull your right hip back slightly, making sure both knees are parallel.
- If you're feeling comfortable and balanced in Side Fierce with your palms together, go for a more advanced shoulder opener. Reach your right hand to the mat, and place your palm flat on the ground. Let your left arm float up towards the ceiling with the palm facing forward.
- Stay for five breaths, then inhale as you press into your feet and lift your torso, rising back into Fierce Pose. If you can, refrain from straightening your legs to keep your quads and glutes engaged.
- Exhale to cross your left elbow over your right outer knee, holding for another five breaths on this side.
Bow Pose draws energy into the core and massages the internal organs responsible for digestion:
- Lie flat on your stomach, pressing your belly button into the ground.
- Bend your knees and grab onto the outside edge of your right ankle, and then your left.
- Once you have a firm hold of each ankle, try to keep your toes together, either pointing or flexing your feet. Now lift your feet up as high as you can, and shift your weight forward so that you're resting on your naval instead of on your pubic bone.
- Hold for five deep breaths and then slowly lower and lie flat. Turn your head to one side and shake your hips from side to side to release your lower back.
Keep reading for two more poses that boost your metabolism.
While the concept of burning fat might feel elusive, reaching your goals could be easier than you think. Boosting your metabolism plays an essential role in the process, and these techniques are all specifically linked to burning fat. Take these four tips to heart to see big results.
Go for the big burn: When it comes to the workout that truly blasts the most fat, Len Kravitz, Ph.D., puts it simply: "To burn more fat, burn more calories." Your lengthy leisurely walk or restorative yoga class is a great start, but they're not necessarily going to help you take off weight. If you're not sure where to start, then check out these exercises that burn the most calories in 15 minutes to have an idea of what you should be looking for when choosing a new workout.
Drink green tea: Green tea does more than calm you down and prevent sickness. According to a study from American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, drinking tea may have fat-fighting effects. The combination of green tea's high content of caffeine and catechins stops the body from absorbing carbohydrates and helps burn more fat. The warm weather doesn't suit a hot cup of tea, so enjoy green tea's benefits in this refreshing iced green tea cooler. The addition of citrus ups the antioxidants in your cup and gives the drink a pleasant flavor.
Keep reading for two more ways you can burn more fat.
If you're looking for a way to burn more calories without much more effort, you've come to the right place. We've got over 25 simple ways you can boost your body's fat-burning potential. Here's how you can boost your fat burn, from starting the day out with a mug of green tea to exercising for just three minutes!
— Additional reporting by Michele Foley, Lizzie Fuhr, and Jenny Sugar