“Essentially, we know of no way to burn more calories or up our metabolism than to move more,” says Barry M. Popkin, PhD, director of the Interdisciplinary Obesity Program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Still, research suggests that there may be a few other ways you can increase calorie burn. Here are eight possible ways to burn more calories and fight fat:
1. Exercise to Burn Calories.
Indeed, obesity expert George Bray, MD, with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., believes that taking a brisk walk every day is probably the single most important piece of advice for anyone wanting to burn more calories. Obviously, when you exercise, your body burns calories to fuel your activity. But exercise is the gift that keeps on giving. That’s because even after your workout has ended, your body is still burning more calories.
While it’s hard to pinpoint just how long this effect lasts (it varies depending on body composition and level of training), “itâs safe to say metabolic rate can be elevated with aerobic exercise for at least 24 hours,” says Wharton. If you want to prolong this calorie-burning effect, Wharton advises exercising for longer periods. “Studies have shown that with increases in exercise time, the elevation in resting metabolic rate is prolonged,” he says.
2. Do Strength Training to Build Muscle
Strength training becomes especially important as we get older, when our metabolisms tend to slow down. One way to stop this is to add some strength training to your workout at least a couple of times a week. The largest muscles (and therefore the largest calorie burners) are in the thighs, abdomen, chest, and arms.
3. Drink Caffeinated Green or Black Tea
“Even older studies have suggested that 250 milligrams of caffeine consumed with a meal can increase the calories spent metabolizing the meal by 10%,” says Jamie Pope, MS, RD, LDN, a nutrition lecturer at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. Over time, this could be significant, Pope says in an email interview: “About 75 calories per day translates to over 2,100 calories in a month’s time.”
Over the past few years, some studies have hinted that green or black tea may have benefits beyond the caffeine they contain. One study noted a reduction in food intake in rats that were given a polyphenol found in green tea. Another study, in humans, concluded green tea had heat-producing and calorie-burning properties beyond what can be explained by caffeine. When 31 healthy young men and women were given three servings of a beverage containing green tea catechins, caffeine, and calcium for three days, their 24-hour energy expenditure increased by 4.6%, according to the research from Lausanne University in Switzerland.
Drinking tea with meals may have another fat-fighting effect. Tea extract may interfere with the body’s absorption of carbohydrate when consumed in the same meal, according to a study published in the September 2006 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
While all these possible effects are slight, there is yet another bonus to drinking tea. Having a zero-calorie cup of tea instead of a beverage with calories (like a soda) will certainly reduce the number of calories you take in. Keep in mind, though that adding cream and sugar to these beverages, adds calories and negates the fat-burning effects.
4. Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals
There isn’t much solid evidence for this effect, McCrory notes in an email interview. But many experts believe that, compared to eating one or two very large meals, this is a more healthful way of eating anyway. And if it leads to even a few extra calories being burned, even better!
5. Don’t Skip Breakfast
6. Eat Low-Fat Dairy
7. Drink 8 Cups of Water a Day
That may not sound like much, but it could add up to 700 calories a week or 2,800 calories a month. And that’s by doing something we should do anyway to keep our intestines and kidneys happy, and to help keep us from confusing thirst with hunger. (Pope does add a caution not to overdo it; it is possible to drink dangerous amounts of water.)
Diet and exercise are good topics to discuss with your doctor. Before starting a new exercise regimen or supplementing your diet, it would be good to talk it over with your doctor. If you have certain medical conditions or are taking certain medications, there may be activities or dietary supplements that you should avoid.