Boosting Your Metabolism For Dummies
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The phrase "living clean" means a lot of things to a lot of people, but for the sake of this article it's defined as any of the lifestyle choices you make that will boost your metabolic rate.

What you eat affects how you sleep, your energy levels, and how stressed out you may get, and vice versa. All these factors are interconnected, and once you start working on one, you may find the others falling into place as well. If you make some of the clean-living changes below, you'll experience better sleep, less stress, improved immunity, and more energy.

Be careful with plastics

In your best efforts to increase water consumption, you may have picked up the practice of purchasing bottled water. But plastic bottles of water may not be your best bet.

BPA, or Bisphenol A, is a synthetic form of estrogen used to manufacture many products, including bottled water containers and plastic plates, bowls, and utensils. Research has found that too much BPA in your system can increase your risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome.

If you find bottled water has really helped you meet your water needs, great. Getting enough water is very important to keep all bodily functions moving smoothly. But you can replace that plastic bottle with a reusable aluminum steel or glass water bottle to stay hydrated on-the-go. When you do find yourself reaching for the plastic, follow these tips to decrease your risk of BPA exposure:

  • Keep it out of the heat: Heat can jiggle the BPA loose to leach into your water, so don't microwave, put hot water inside, or leave plastic water bottles out in the hot weather for too long.

  • Don't reuse: Reusing plastic water bottles over and over can lead to the release of BPA. Make sure to recycle your bottles when you're done with them to reduce waste. With your aluminum and glass water bottles, reuse as much as you want. Just make sure to wash them out thoroughly each time to cut down on bacterial contamination.

Cut down on caffeine

Caffeine is an all-natural stimulant found not only in coffee but in tea, soft drinks, chocolate, and many popular supplements. It may be your drug of choice that causes a temporary high followed by a low. If you keep reaching for cup after cup, you may consider caffeine to be the fuel that keeps you going all day.

Caffeine can be a short-term fix for fatigue and enhance performance with exercise, but too much can be detrimental for your health and your metabolic rate. Here's what caffeine does:

  • Increases your heart rate, which is harmful if you have a heart condition.

  • Causes anxiety and even feelings of depression during the lows.

  • Increases stomach acids, which can cause stomach upset.

  • Stimulates your stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, resulting in stronger cravings, changes in blood sugar levels, and increased fat storage.

  • With short-term use, caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it will increase water excretion leaving you not as hydrated. However, this effect disappears with long-term use.

  • Interferes with sleep because about half the caffeine content remains in your system for several hours post consumption. It becomes a vicious cycle because then you rely on coffee even more throughout the day.

How much is too much? The Mayo Clinic recommends consuming less than 500 milligrams of caffeine per day. The following table shows how much caffeine is in your favorite food and drinks and where you can make cuts.

Beverage/food Serving size Caffeine content (mg)
Coffee, brewed, decaf 8 ounce 2-12
Coffee, brewed, regular 8 ounce 95-200
Coffee, instant, regular 8 ounce 27-173
Espresso, brewed 1 ounce 40-75
Coca Cola Classic 12 ounce 30-35
Diet Coke 12 ounce 38-47
5-hour energy 2 ounce 207
Red Bull 8 ounce 76-80
Black tea 8 ounce 14-61
Green tea 8 ounce 24-40
White tea 8 ounce 15
Chocolate chips, semisweet 1 cup 104
NoDoz, maximum strength 1 tablet 200
Excedrin, extra strength 2 tablets 130
Coffee ice cream 8 ounce 50-85

Source: The Mayo Clinic

Don't go cold turkey. About half of people who rapidly decrease or cut out their caffeine intake experience withdrawal symptoms like headache, irritability, and even depression. Instead, wean yourself off slowly by drinking a blend of regular and decaf coffee, choosing teas with lower caffeine levels like white tea, steeping the tea bag and discarding the first batch of liquid, or reducing the size of the cup you have with each sitting.

Another reason not to go cold turkey: Having 200–300 mg of caffeine per day can actually help fat oxidation and boost your metabolic rate. Have caffeine early in the day so that it doesn't interfere with your sleep — and choose wisely. A cup of coffee or green tea is your best bet.

  • Coffee contains antioxidants and minerals such as magnesium and chromium. Research shows that drinking a daily cup of joe is linked to improved blood sugar levels, lowered risk for heart attack and stroke, and decreased risk for dementia. These benefits are not from the caffeine content but from the composition of coffee, whether regular or decaf.

  • Green tea's benefit mainly lies in its ECGC (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), a catechin with potential to fight heart disease and cancer. Just two cups of green tea per day have been shown to slow cancer growth, and that's well within your caffeine allotment for the day.

Cut down on booze

Is alcohol your biggest metabolism sabotage? If you're eating nutritiously, staying hydrated, and exercising, but still have difficulty losing weight, you may need to re-evaluate your alcohol consumption.

Alcohol in moderation may have some health benefits, such as reducing risk for heart disease. Moderation is considered one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. One drink equals 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of distilled liquor.

That being said, the small health benefit isn't a reason to start drinking alcohol. The not-so-pretty side of the alcohol equation includes the following:

  • Impaired absorption of vitamins and minerals from what you eat.

  • Your body metabolizes alcohol first and puts sugar and fats second, resulting in increased fat storage, impaired blood sugar control, and weight gain.

  • Increased risk for liver disease.

  • Too much alcohol, and your inhibitions are lowered — meaning nutritious food choices can go out the window.

  • Too much alcohol interferes with a good night's sleep, altering your hunger hormones and energy levels all day long

  • Alcohol contributes excess, non-nutritive calories on top of the sweetened juices and soft drinks it may be mixed with.

Quit smoking

Cut out cigarette smoking and you'll be eliminating the number one preventable cause of illness and death in the United States. It accounts for over one-fifth of deaths per year, including 30 percent of all cancer deaths. You may have a physical and emotional addition to nicotine, associating it with certain behaviors like having your cup of coffee in the morning, after meals, or in response to a stressful experience. But it's never too late to break this habit!

You can experience improvements in your health within days, weeks, and years from quitting smoking.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Rachel Berman, RD is the Director of Nutrition for, a free Web site and mobile app which provides tools to help people lead healthier lives. A nationally recognized nutrition expert, she has appeared on The Today Show, several local television and radio health segments, and is frequently quoted in print and online publications.

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