Weight Loss Studies Show Best Metabolism Boosters, From Coffee To Protein To Chocolate, Plus Fasting Diet Benefits

Joanne Eglash

As bikini season approaches, weight loss and diet fads abound. But when it comes to the best ways to shed pounds safely and permanently, boosting the metabolism has been shown to rank as one of the most effective weight loss methods, according to the Medical Daily.

And while diet is key, fitness counts, too. By doing strength training exercises to build muscle, you can increase your metabolism by as much as 15 percent? How often: Start with twice a week, taking a day off between strength-training sessions.

Cardio helps, but not just any form of cardio. Instead, doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can keep your calorie burn high up to 36 hours after you've ended that session at the gym. HIIT training involves going all out for short bouts of exertion.

Skipping breakfast has become a common practice, but when it comes to what works for weight loss, eating more often rather than eliminating meals is what has shown to be most effective for the metabolism. Go for quality foods (think unprocessed options such as nuts and vegetables) in smaller portions.

Say hello to protein power and java joy. Eating foods rich in protein such as meat, eggs, cheese, beans, and nuts demands more energy from your system, which in turn boosts your calorie burn. Coffee also can boost the metabolism, but limit it to one to two cups daily.

If you're longing for something sweet keeps getting in the way of achieving your weight loss goals, consider chocolate, according to Fitness magazine.

But before you race to the vending machine at the office, make sure you understand which type of chocolate is most effective for weight loss and why.

Among the foods that shift the body into fat-burning mode is dark chocolate. How much: One and a half ounces of dark chocolate daily lowers the stress hormone cortisol, according to researchers, which in turns helps the metabolism function more effectively.

Another sweet study in the Archives of Internal Medicine compared adults who consumed moderate portions of chocolate to those who skipped it. Those who nibbled on chocolate were slimmer, despite the fact that they ate more calories overall and did the same amount of exercise.

When you purchase chocolate, check the label to make sure it has a minimum of 70 percent cocoa.

In addition to dark chocolate, eggs, sesame seeds, smoothies made with whey protein powder, yellow bell peppers, peanuts, and plenty of water have been shown to boost your weight loss.

In researching alternate-day fasting, Krista Varady, associate professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago, discovered that although it's touted for allowing dieters to eat whatever they want on their days off, they usually consume only 10 percent more than usual.

"In terms of weight loss, we found people lose in general about 10 to 30 pounds in eight weeks," revealed Varady.

And fasting can help with more than taking off the pounds, added the researcher.

"People also tend to see reductions in bad cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure," she noted.

But that doesn't mean that fasting should be used as a general prescription for weight loss. During Varady's study, 10 percent of participants exited the project in the initial 10-day period.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also issued a caution when it comes to women and fasting, noting that alternate-day fasting could cause metabolism problems as well as lower glucose tolerance.

Despite that, those for whom it works rave about the results, such as Jennifer Stewart, who revealed her constant battle of the bulge.

"I lose weight very slowly and don't lose weight like normal people," explained Stewart. "I had tried all kinds of diets. I went to a nutritionist in my late teens. I would lose like a half a pound a week and it didn't quite make sense."

Then a few years ago, the 54-year-old learned about intermittent fasting. She alternated a day of limiting her calorie intake to 500 calories with a day of feasting (2,200 calories of whatever food she desires).

"I still get in 100 grams of protein (on the feast day) which for me is important and on the fast day I would eat almost all non-carb foods because that helps curtail cravings," clarified Stewart.

Now in maintenance mode, Stewart consumes 1,000 calories on her fasting days and 2,000 on feasting days, which took off 20 pounds more. And for her, it's been a path to weight loss success at last.

"I feel content, that's how I feel," explained Stewart. "Now I don't have the biggest rear end in the room and I think that's a wonderful accomplishment."

Note: Check with your healthcare provider before changing your exercise or diet.

[Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images]