How not to sabotage your own efforts to keep your body lean.
The Mistake -- You take your coffee decaf.
Why That's a Problem -- You're missing out in a simple (and delicious) way to temporarily increase your metabolic burn. "Caffeine stimulates your central nervous system," explains Marisa Moore, RD, in private practice in Atlanta and a past spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "It's estimated that drinking caffeinated coffee can increase your metabolism by about 15 percent for up to 3 hours." Add that to the ever-expanding tally of java's health benefits: lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cognitive decline and, most recently, a decreased risk of premature death.
The Mistake—You eat breakfast...but it's typically oatmeal or a bagel.
Why That's a Problem -- You're doing the right thing by eating in the morning, as regularly scheduled meals keep your metabolism humming along, but a little protein would go a long way toward helping the cause. It takes more energy to digest than carbohydrates, and it promotes muscle mass.
The Fix— Add 20 grams of protein at breakfast, recommends Jessica Crandall, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, roughly the amount in one container of plain low-fat Greek yogurt.
The Mistake -- You rely on your trusty fitness tracker to keep tabs on your strength training.
Why That's a Problem -- You know the more lean muscle you have, the more energy your body uses at rest, and that using weights is an efficient way to build that muscle. Recent research from Iowa State University reports that fitness trackers aren't so great at measuring strength training, though—the four popular models tested were all off on their energy expenditure estimates by at least 25 percent when it came to resistance work. That means you may end up with an inflated sense of how hard you're pushing yourself in the weight room.
The Fix—Listen to your body instead. A good guideline: For any given set of any given exercise, you should feel like you could do 2 more reps when you stop. So if you're doing 12 reps of bicep curls, you'll know you're using the correct weight if you feel like you could make it to 14 reps but not more than that.
The Mistake -- You don't feel hungry after you exercise, so you don't eat.
Why That's a Problem -- Workouts deplete muscle stores, and eating the right mix of nutrients within an hour after you finish helps them recover, which is essential for increasing lean muscle mass.
The Fix— Crandall recommends refueling with a snack made up of 10 to 15 grams of protein and 15 grams of carbs.
The Mistake -- You get up at the same time every day, but you throw caution to the wind during the weekend.
Why That's a Problem -- Yes, we're talking about sleep hygiene, and we know you've heard it a million (and one) times, but there's new reason to get on board. Just one night of sleep loss can throw off the circadian rhythms of genes that help keep your metabolism moving at a quick pace, according to a recent small study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
The Fix—Make bedtime the same across the board, or at least try to get close to that goal.
The Mistake -- It's often mid-afternoon by the time you realize you haven't had much water.
Photo: Diane Diederich/iStock
Why That's a Problem -- Your metabolism is the sum of all the processes in your body that use energy -- digestion, muscle contraction, elimination of bodily waste, etc. Guess what? Hydration plays a big role in most, if not all, of them, says Moore. If you're dehydrated, those systems can slow down or start working at less than optimal levels, which could in turn slow down your metabolism.
The Fix—Urine should stay a light yellow color, and whatever trick gets you to drink more H2O is the one you should use. Two simple but effective ones: set periodic alarms on your phone to get up and head to the faucet or keep a reusable bottle on your desk as a visual reminder to keep drinking.
While drinking regular water boosts your metabolism by <a href="http://www.bhg.com/health-family/weight-loss/12-ways-to-boost-your-metabolism/#page=9" target="_blank">helping you feel full</a>, ice water can also help you burn large amounts of calories. It takes work for your body to return back to normal temperature after drinking ice water, which burns calories. One study found that drinking two cups of water increased a person's metabolism by 30 percent for over 30 minutes, according to <a href="http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20040105/drinking-water-may-speed-weight-loss" target="_blank">WebMD</a>.