Feel like your metabolism is stuck in slo-mo? Coaxing your body to burn calories more efficiently doesn't require daily Spinning sessions or hours at the weight rack (though being in shape and building more muscle definitely helps). From adding an extra ingredient to your smoothie to watching a funny YouTube video, you can fan your metabolism's flames in just minutes a day by adopting these research-backed habits.
Add whey protein to your smoothie
When you're tossing fruit, ice, and other smoothie mix-ins into your blender, take an extra second to add one more metabolism-boosting ingredient—whey protein powder. "Whey protein increases calorie burn and fat utilization, helps the body maintain muscle, and triggers the brain to feel full," says Paul Arciero, a professor in the Health and Exercise Sciences department at Skidmore College who has studied whey's effects on the body. All types of protein rev up your metabolism—protein has a thermogenic effect, meaning it makes your body produce more heat and, in turn, burn more calories—but whey may be the most effective non-animal protein. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that fat oxidation and the thermic effect was greater with whey than with soy or casein.
Health.com: 26 Smoothie Recipes You Need to Try
Drink before you eat
Drinking two glasses of water before every meal helped dieters lose an average of 15.5 pounds (five pounds more than the non-water drinkers) over three months in a study presented at the American Chemical Society's annual conference. Taking quick hydration breaks throughout the day also boosts your metabolic machinery, says JJ Virgin, celebrity nutritionist and author of The Virgin Diet Cookbook, and research shows staying properly hydrated keeps you feeling energized. Try to consume half your body weight in water ounces, Virgin suggests; a 150-pound person would drink 75 ounces a day.
Don't stop yourself from fidgeting
When your annoyed coworker tells you you're bouncing your leg, perhaps you can explain that you're just doing some non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)—the expert term for fidgeting. Research shows that NEAT may help you burn an additional 350 calories a day. "Small bursts of activity, like running up stairs, pacing while you're on the phone, or shifting around in your seat all count," says Tom Holland, an exercise physiologist and author of Beat the Gym. "It adds up quickly, so take advantage of any chance to move more throughout your day."
Health.com: 24 Fat-Burning Ab Exercises
Brew a cup of coffee
Caffeine's ability to speed up the central nervous system makes it a powerful metabolism booster. "In addition, coffee beans provide antioxidants and real health value," says Amy Goodson, RD, a dietitian for Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine. "Provided your cup is not laden with cream and syrup, coffee can be a great way to give you energy as well as some antioxidants." Coffee has been shown to improve energy levels during exercise, especially endurance activity, and help people work harder longer, which therefore burns more calories. Drinking coffee after a workout can also be beneficial. Consuming caffeine after exercise increased muscle glycogen by 66% in endurance athletes, enabling them to more quickly replenish energy stores used through exercise, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
Need more caffeine? Swap in green tea
If you're like an average American and drink three cups of coffee a day, consider swapping in green tea for one of them. In addition to giving you the metabolism-boosting caffeine jolt you crave, green tea is a rich source of antioxidants called catechins. And, in a study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, drinking green tea combined with a total of three hours of moderate exercise a week reduced abdominal fat in subjects over a three-month period. "Unsweetened, brewed green tea was shown to increase calorie burn by about 100 calories per day," says Michelle Dudash, RD, author of Clean Eating for Busy Families. For best results, Dudash recommends fresh-brewed green tea only—it takes just a couple minutes to make. "Bottled green tea tends to have a lower concentration of the beneficial compounds," she says, not to mention that many are loaded with added sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Health.com: 12 Surprising Sources of Caffeine
Snack on yogurt
Probiotics, the healthy bacteria found in yogurt, pickles, and other fermented foods like sauerkraut, may help you lose weight—if you're a woman, shows a new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. Overweight men and women followed a 12-week weight loss diet; half of the volunteers also took a probiotic pill every day. Women in the probiotic group lost more weight than those in the placebo group and continued to lose weight during the 12-week maintenance period afterward (the probiotic didn't make any difference for men).
Consuming probiotics in food form has other waist-friendly benefits: "Yogurt, like other full-fat dairy, also has a fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) that studies show can improve fat burning," says Virgin. Avoid fruit-on-the-bottom varieties, which can have as much sugar as a candy bar.
Take a laugh break
Go ahead, minimize your Word documents and Excel spreadsheets. Taking a quick break to look at funny cat videos on YouTube or take a Buzzfeed quiz doesn't just feel good—you're also burning calories in the process. A study from the International Journal of Obesity showed a 10 to 20% increase in energy expenditure (calories burned) and heart rate during genuine laughter. This translated to an increase of 10 to 40 calories burned within 10 to 15 minutes of laughter.
Health.com: Best Superfoods for Weight Loss
14 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism Right Now originally appeared on Health.com.