We won’t deny that making fitness part of your routine is incredibly important for health and wellness, but sometimes working out every day just doesn’t, well, work out. The good news is there are countless other habits you can embrace – from how you work to what you eat – that can boost your metabolism and kickstart your weight loss 24 hours a day.
Yes, you read that right: You can boost your metabolism without exercise. Here’s how, according to experts.
1. Drink Two Glasses of Ice Water as Soon as You Wake Up
The water itself jump-starts your body from sleep mode into awake mode, while the coolness of the water starts shunting water from the internal organs to the peripheral muscles. “That gets your blood pumping and flowing, which boosts your metabolism 1 to 2 percent,” says Kian Ameli, owner of the Concord, California location of Momentum Fitness.
Water is the single most important thing our bodies need to sustain good health and wellness, but so many of us walk around mildly dehydrated every day.
“Our bodies will become metabolically sluggish without getting the water they need,” says Deborah Orlick Levy, M.S., R.D. and Carrington Farms health and nutrition consultant. In fact, “German researchers found that drinking six cups or 48 ounces of very cold water a day requires the body to expend more calories in trying to warm the water to body temperature. This can result in an increase in resting metabolism by 50 calories a day,” Levy says.
This may not seem like much, but if you do this every day for a year, you can lose up to five pounds just by making this change alone.
2. Get a Standing Desk
You can also just put your laptop on a high table if a standing desk isn’t practical.
“The requirements of standing versus sitting are profound, because while we are sitting, we don’t have to use any muscles. Standing does not need to be done all day either – one- to two-hour standing sessions can boost your metabolism,” says Ameli.
3. Try “Contrast” Showers
A contrast shower is one where you start off with warm water for two to three minutes, then change the water temperature to cool for 30 to 45 seconds.
“While this may sound slightly unpleasant,” and yes, it very well may be, “the contrast shower will relax blood vessels during the warm phase and contract them during the cool phase,” says Ameli. This has a major impact on your body’s circulatory system, as well as having a relaxing effect on our fight-or-flight reflexes. The latter helps us sleep deeper, and better sleep leads to improved energy throughout the day and increased metabolism.
4. Check Your Sleep Schedule
Getting enough sleep and adopting a consistent sleep schedule can help improve your metabolism.
“The body is a machine and needs efficient rest to reboot. Sleep is the best way to look and feel better from the inside out,” says Shanna Israel, lifestyle and wellness expert and CEO of Vertical Wellness.
5. Try Intermittent Fasting
It sounds crazy, but you may want to try an eating schedule where you eat all of your meals in a short period of time and fast during the rest of the day. “I have my clients finish eating dinner at 6 p.m. and drink water for the remainder of the evening. They wake up, drink cold water, and skip breakfast. The eating phase begins at lunch time. It takes a while to get used to this, but you will see great results,” says Dr. Rawle Shewprashad, a personal trainer.
6. Eat Spicy Foods
Hot peppers have been linked to reducing obesity and related disorders because they increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation by increasing the metabolism. Cayenne pepper, for example, improves digestion, blood circulation, and increases energy levels.
“This precious pepper creates heat in the digestive tract that helps your body store food more effectively, improving digestion and aiding in feelings of satisfaction,”says Carina Sohaili, board certified celebrity nutrition and health counselor and creator of Vibrant Healthy Life. “Cayenne pepper also contains high amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A, and essential minerals.” Add cayenne pepper to your salads, soups, and meals for a zesty kick and huge health benefits.
7. Eat Celery
It’s been said it takes more calories to digest celery than celery actually contains. For example, a stalk of celery contains six calories, but takes seven calories for your body to process it, making it a “negative calorie” food. This isn’t 100 percent proven, however, and many claim it’s outright false. In any case, celery is still a healthy food worth eating.
8. Cook with Coconut Oil
The benefits of coconut oil range from a useful moisturizer to promoting oral health and everything in-between. But can it boost metabolic rate? The answer seems to be yes.
“Ideally, choose extra virgin coconut oil to ensure you are consuming the purest form of the oil with all of its natural benefits,” says Levy. “Coconut oil is comprised of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that are easy to digest and quickly absorbed into the body to be used for energy and not stored as fat.”
“On the contrary,” she explains, “vegetable oils are comprised of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) which have longer chains linked together and require the help of liver enzymes for digestion.”
9. Use Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a great natural metabolism-boosting spice.
“I carry a small container of cinnamon in my purse and sprinkle it on everything,” says Sohaili. “This saucy spice is great for stabilizing energy levels because it does not spike your blood sugar. Cinnamon also helps with stomach cramps and nausea.”
Get in the habit of sprinkling some in your morning coffee or tea, on your whole wheat toast, or on your afternoon snack.
10. Eat Garlic
Hello, fat-burning, metabolism-boosting nutrition powerhouse! Garlic is great for lowering blood glucose levels. It also helps to curb cravings for unhealthy foods. Garlic also builds up your immune system, and helps dissolve blood clots.
“Another added bonus is that it is packed with a powerful antioxidant that has been proven to help fight off infectious diseases,” says Sohaili.
11. Eat Grapefruit
Not only does grapefruit contain an enzyme that aids in burning fat, but it’s also a great source of vitamin C and vitamin A, two vitamins that have been proven to contribute to clear skin, a more even complexion, and a reduction in dark circles under your eyes.
“It’s the perfect afternoon pick-me-up when you’re losing focus and hanger (hunger-anger) starts to kick in,” says Sohaili.
Grapefruit is also fantastic for digestion; it helps the body break down protein in order to be used more efficiently. Need an easy grapefruit recipe? Try a simple baked spice grapefruit. Sprinkle half of a medium grapefruit with cinnamon, nutmeg, and 1/2 tablespoon of stevia (an all-natural sweetener that does not spike your blood sugar levels). Bake for five minutes at 375 F until the top is a golden-brown.
12. Consume High-Fiber Foods
These require the body to work extra hard in the process of digestion, while low fiber foods are digested easily without much effort.
“This occurs because fiber is indigestible and, although it is futile, the body expends great effort to try to break it down. This results in increased caloric burn from the process,” says Levy.
Choose wild rice (which has nearly twice the amount of fiber per serving than brown rice), whole wheat pasta, and legumes to get a high-fiber fix.
13. Drink Green Tea
Green tea contains many healthy nutrients and is credited with boosting metabolic rate.
“Clinical studies suggest that catechins in green tea are responsible for speeding up metabolism and weight loss,” Levy says. “Researchers believe five eight-ounce cups a day may increase caloric burn by 90 calories.”
Sound hard to do? If you drink two cups in the morning, you can get the benefits of both the catechins and caffeine to maximize metabolic boost. (Caffeine is also believed to boost metabolic rate.) Then, add brewed decaf iced green tea to drink throughout the day to get the additional thermogenic effect from the very cold water, maximizing your metabolic output. It’s that simple.
14. Eat Plain, All-Natural Greek Yogurt
Protein and calcium are nutrients that do wonders for metabolism. “Greek yogurt contains double the amount of protein than normal yogurt, and is a great source of calcium,” says Sohaili.
Try a chunky pineapple cream cup: Combine 1/2 cup of plain non-fat Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup of pineapple and 1 tablespoon of stevia for a refreshing afternoon snack.
15. Eat Salmon
Salmon is a great lean protein source and metabolism booster.
“Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy fat that the body does not produce on its own. Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease, irregular heartbeats, and help lower blood pressure levels,” says Sohaili. “These healthy fats also increase your ability to focus and improve your mood.”
Try a steamed salmon entrée for dinner, a couple of brown rice salmon rolls, or salmon seaweed wraps: Roll three ounces of smoked salmon (wild-caught Alaskan is best) in a couple of sheets of seaweed (which you can buy at any local market).
A version of this article was originally published in May 2016.