We think about food around 16 times a day. And that’s according to self-reporting participants, from a study performed at Ohio State University—which, note the researchers involved, probably means that number is even higher.
Our constant fixation on when and what to eat might be what makes it so hard for dieters to be successful. Turning down a warm, gooey brownie once? Totally possible. But saying no to that same decadent dessert after a day of deprivation, in which we’ve probably said “no” to 15 other not-so-healthy foods? Way more challenging. This principle—called decision fatigue—is why dieters have a harder time making better choices in the evening.
Take advantage of how much easier it is to opt for “healthy” in the morning, and make smart choices that will rev up your metabolism.
Here’s how to start on the right foot, so that even if you do slip up after a long day you won’t totally sabotage your hard work.
1. Get plenty of sleep
If you’re not getting at least six hours of sleep a night, consider canceling those sunrise workouts. Sleep deprivation has a nasty effect on the body’s metabolism, slowing down overall calorie burning abilities while simultaneously decreasing the hormone leptin (which is responsible for making us feel full) and increasing the hunger hormone ghrelin. That causes us to eat more after a rough night of sleep—not ideal for those trying to lose weight.
For a more efficient metabolism, it might be smarter to skip some of the morning workouts in order to get a solid eight to 10 hours.
2. Eat a protein-packed breakfast
Once you’re up, it’s on to breakfast. The best thing that you can have on your plate for ultimate metabolism-boosting? Protein. Because a high-protein meal requires more energy to break down and digest, it increases the body’s overall calorie-burning by 15 to 30 percent for the next few hours.
Eating eggs or chugging a shake first thing could help you eat better all day long, too—researchers have found that dieters use up to 440 calories more per day when their diet is at least 30 percent protein.
3. Sip green tea or coffee
Wash down your breakfast with green tea or coffee. Both are loaded with caffeine (which can increase metabolism by 3 to 11 percent), but green tea narrowly beats out the dark roast because of its extra health benefits. Not only does a cup boast beneficial antioxidants, sipping some before a workout can increase the amount of body fat burned by 17 percent. You can’t go wrong with either—just make sure your drink isn’t spiked with sugar and dairy, two factors that can negate the benefits of these performance-enhancing drinks.
4. Eat spicy food
Wanna break a sweat, but hate working out? Add a little spice in your life. A dash of cayenne or paprika revs up the metabolism thanks to capsaicin, the compound that gives spices fiery flavor. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, capsaicin can cause a slight increase in total body temp, which in turn increases the body's metabolic rate.
Sprinkle a little cayenne on breakfast for an extra calorie kick—and for bonus points, try it in this spicy apple-lemon tonic. It also gets a boost from apple cider vinegar, just two tablespoons of which could help the body burn 3.7 pounds over 12 weeks. ACV’s probiotic content also supports healthy gut bacteria—if they’re working well, they digest food quickly and efficiently, effectively increasing your metabolic rate. The cinnamon helps equalize blood sugar levels, too—perfect first thing in the morning.
Spicy Apple Lemon Tonic
Total time: 2 minutes
Yields: 1 serving
Mix all ingredients together with a spoon, or in a shaker cup. Drink immediately.
5. Eat coconut oil
Truly, coconut oil can do no wrong. Moisturizer, cooking fat, weight loss supplement? Yep, everyone’s favorite kitchen staple can even help you feel the burn throughout the day. Coconut oil is high in medium-chain triglycerides, a type of fatty acid that’s easier for the body to use as fuel than store as body fat. Medium-chain fats have been studied for their ability to raise the body’s metabolic rate 12 percent higher than long-chain fatty acids.
Sub in coconut oil for long-chain fats (like soybean oil or vegetable oil) when you’re frying up eggs and bacon, and throw a little coconut oil into your favorite smoothie, too!
6. Try a HIIT workout
Exercising is one of the easiest ways to ignite your metabolism all day long for a few reasons:
- It builds muscle mass, which burns more calories than fat. Replacing fat mass with lean muscle will automatically increase the amount of fuel and energy your body utilizes daily.
- The harder the work, the more calories you use. Technically, you’re using calories as energy even when you’re sleeping. At your laziest (think eight-hour-Netflix-binge), your body is still probably burning upwards of 1,000 calories over the course of a day. The more you move around and make your bod work, the more energy you’ll use up (aka calories).
OK, so any kind of exercise is excellent for torching calories during a sweat session. But when it comes to encouraging your metabolism to use up more calories all day, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the best way to exercise. Not only is it a really efficient way to train—everyone has time for a 10-minute HIIT workout that’s proven to be just as effective as a standard 45-minute cardio workout—but it’s clinically proven to increase resting energy expenditure. In layman’s terms, it means that if you do a HIIT workout in the morning, you can literally sit on your butt all day and your metabolism will still work faster than if you went for your usual three-mile run.
Interested? We knew you would be! Check out celebrity trainer Nikki Sharp’s favorite morning HIIT workout:
Are you going to try all six of these tips in one morning? Probably not. But even if you do just one or two, you’ll be doing your bod a big favor—and hey, you might just make healthier choices all day long.