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Metabolism Hacks: Tap into Your Calorie-Burning Power

What you eat does affect your metabolism.

Your body uses slightly more energy to digest protein, but loading up on eggs, yogurt, and steak isn't the key to long-term weight-loss success. "You need carbohydrates and fat for energy too," Jamieson-Petonic says. "Whole-grain carbs like brown rice and whole-wheat bread are more slowly metabolized by the body than refined ones found in white bread and pasta, so they keep you feeling full and energetic longer." And if you want to keep that metabolic fire burning, don't skip — or skimp on — breakfast. "Women mistakenly think they're 'saving' calories for later in the day, but they actually end up overeating and gaining weight," notes Jamieson-Petonic. Several studies show that high-protein, high-carbohydrate breakfasts actually aid weight loss by jump-starting your metabolism and helping you feel full longer. Try yogurt as your morning meal, or eggs with fruit or oatmeal and a glass of milk. Hitting Starbucks may also help: Studies suggest that drinking three cups of caffeinated coffee revs your metabolic rate 10 percent (just stick to plain java and steer clear of the high-cal mocha lattes).

One thing your body doesn't need is one of those so-called "metabolism-boosting" dietary supplements or drugs. A review of studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no evidence to suggest that weight-loss supplements, including the popular chromium picolinate, actually help shed pounds; meanwhile, the FDA has banned products such as ephedra and Hydroxycut for causing dangerous side effects such as liver damage and even death. Put your money toward a gym membership or hand weights to use at home instead. In the end, your best bet for boosting your metabolism is to keep moving. It really works, and in these roller-coaster times, it's at least one thing you can control!

How many calories should you eat a day?

When you know how many calories your body needs for basic functions like breathing and cell repair (your resting metabolic rate, or RMR), you can more accurately determine how many calories you should consume each day to properly maintain your body's functions and still lose weight. One of the most precise ways to determine your RMR is with a handheld calorimeter, which many gyms have. The device measures how much oxygen you consume when breathing (oxygen is used in the metabolic process to create energy) and provides a reading of how many calories your body requires each day. If your gym doesn't have one, you can get a rough estimate of your RMR by using this formula:

RMR = 655 + (4.35 x your weight in pounds) + (4.7 x your height in inches) - (4.7 x your age)

Keep in mind that this equation doesn't factor in lean-muscle mass, body fat, or how much you exercise — so trim, athletic people likely will need more calories a day, while overweight folks probably need fewer. For instance, someone with an RMR of 1,400 calories who burns roughly 300 calories in daily activity would need 1,700 calories a day to maintain her current weight. Slashing 15 percent of your RMR from your daily diet (so about 200 calories in this example) should trigger weight loss.

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