April 22, 2009

There's a lot of metabolism mythology out there. We investigated three often-touted beliefs – about the types of foods that speed metabolism, the predictability of meals and the role of water – to see how they stacked up.

Strategy # 1 to Speed Up Metabolism: Eat enough protein and whole grains

Your body expends more energy digesting protein than fat or carbohydrates. When you eat fat, only 5 percent of the calories are used to break down the food, but when you eat complex healthy carbs, like whole grains, up to 20 percent are used. For protein, it's more like 20 to 30 percent. To maximize the calories burned through digestion and stave off hunger, get plenty of complex healthy carbs to fuel your body throughout the day and eat a little protein with every meal. It doesn't need to be meat; nuts, lowfat dairy, tofu, and beans are all good vegetarian protein sources.

Strategy # 2 to Speed Up Metabolism: Schedule meals at the same time each day

Animals that were put on predictable diets so they could anticipate when they were going to eat experienced hormonal changes that helped them better process and burn the calories they consumed, says Deborah Clegg, Ph.D., R.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati. Animals that didn't know when their next meal was coming were much more likely to store calories as fat.

Strategy # 3 to Speed Up Metabolism: Drink more water

In a small German study, subjects who drank 16 ounces of water at a time experienced a 30 percent increase in metabolic rate in the hour afterward, burning an extra 24 calories. The researchers recommended cool water because the body expends extra calories warming it to the body temperature. This was one study with only 14 people, so it's uncertain how effective this strategy is, but staying hydrated will keep you healthy no matter what.