The human body is a remarkably adaptable machine. Even if years and years of neglect have allowed pound after pound of fat to fill out your frame, you can rid yourself of that lard at a much faster rate than you brought it on board. In that sense, time is your side!
Take these 17 effective tips to heart, and progress will come in a hurry!
1. Do Strength Training
Strength training is a type of exercise that requires you to contract your muscles against resistance. It builds muscle mass and increases strength. Most commonly, strength training involves lifting weights to gain muscle over time.
Evidence showed that strength training has multiple health benefits, especially when it comes to burning fat. It can reduce visceral fat in 78 people with metabolic syndrome. Visceral fat is a type of dangerous fat that surrounds the organs in the belly (1). A 12-week strength training paired with aerobic exercise was also more effective at reducing body fat and belly fat than aerobic exercise alone (2).
Resistance training may help preserve fat-free mass, which can increase the number of calories your body burns at rest (3). Evidence showed that 10 weeks of resistance training could help increase calories burned at rest by 7% and may reduce fat weight by 4 pounds (4).
Doing body-weight exercises, lifting weights or using gym equipment are a few easy ways to get started with strength training.
2. Be A Mindful Eater
It’s easy to overdo it when you’re eating something delicious and that’s why it’s good to focus on foods that will force you to slow down. Slowing down can help you check in with your hunger levels. Try snacking on 100-calorie packs of in-shell pistachios.
Shelling the pistachios helps you slow down your snacking, and the shells leave a visual cue to remind you of how much you’ve eaten. This makes you more in tune with what’s gone into your mouth and you may be less likely to have extra servings.
Evidence showed that people snacking on in-shell pistachios ate 41% less calories than those who ate the shelled version (5).
3. Start Meal Prepping
Meal prepping takes a few hours a week, but it’s worth it! By getting your meals ready ahead of time, you won’t be so tempted to order your go-to food when you’re tired and hungry after work.
When you plan an entire week of dinner in advance, you’re way less likely to go off course and indulge in foods that aren’t good for you. And since you planned things out, you’ll actually get the protein, fruit, and veggies your body needs, which will help you lose weight in the process.
4. Get More Sleep
Going to bed a bit earlier or setting your alarm clock a little later can help boost fat burning and prevent weight gain.
Several studies have found an association between getting enough sleep and weight loss.
Women who slept five or fewer hours per night over a period of 16 years were more likely to gain weight than those who slept for longer than seven hours per night (6).
Another evidence showed that better sleep quality and getting at least seven hours of sleep per night increased the likelihood of successful weight loss by 33% in 245 women enrolled in a six-month weight loss program (7).
One study showed that a lack of sleep may contribute to alterations in hunger hormones, increased appetite and a higher risk of obesity (8).
Although everyone needs a different amount of sleep, most studies have found that getting at least seven hours of sleep per night is associated with the most benefits when it comes to body weight.
Stick to a regular sleep schedule, limit your intake of caffeine and minimize your use of electronic devices before bed to help support a healthy sleep cycle.
5. Curb Your Sugar Habit
Eating sugary foods might be satisfying in the moment, but they can increase your cravings for more sugary foods in the future and that only leads to trouble. Many foods high in added sugar are also higher in calories and fill you up less than lower-calorie, still-sweet alternatives like fruit. But there are still ways to satisfy your sweet tooth without overdosing on sugar.
When you’re baking, cut out some of the sugar in recipes by adding in vanilla extract or cinnamon, blend unsweetened cocoa powder into a smoothie instead of honey, top your French toast with unsweetened frozen fruit instead of syrup, and nosh on a slab of watermelon instead of cookies.
6. Cut Back on Meat
There’s a reason you’ve been hearing so much about cutting meat out of your diet lately. It’s not just great for your body, but also a quick way to shed some extra pounds. Consider swapping a few meat-centric meals each week for ones centered on vegetarian proteins or give a full-fledged vegetarian diet a try if that’s of interest to you.
Research shows eating a vegetarian diet may boost and speed up weight loss, resulting in a loss of up to 10 pounds (9). Experts recommend topping a salad or filling a veggie taco with vegetarian protein sources like pulses, which are beans, chickpeas, lentils, and dried peas to give your weight loss a boost.
One study also found that eating ¾ cup of pulses daily led to a loss of close to a pound over about six weeks, versus people not eating pulses daily (10).
7. Increase Your Cardio
Cardio, also known as aerobic exercise, is one of the most common forms of exercise and is defined as any type of exercise that specifically trains the heart and lungs.
Adding cardio to your routine may be one of the most effective ways to enhance fat burning.
A review of studies found that the more aerobic exercise people got, the more belly fat they lost (11).
Most research recommends between 150–300 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise weekly, or roughly 20–40 minutes of cardio each day (14).
Running, walking, cycling and swimming are just a few examples of some cardio exercises that can help burn fat and kick-start weight loss.
8. Try Intermittent Fasting (IF)
Intermittent fasting is a diet pattern that involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting.
Research shows that intermittent fasting may help enhance both weight loss and fat loss.
One review looked at the effects of intermittent fasting, including alternate-day fasting, a method that involves alternating between days of fasting and eating normally.
They found that alternate-day fasting over a period of 3–12 weeks reduced body weight by up to 7% and decreased body fat by up to 12 pounds (15).
Another small study showed that eating only during an eight-hour window each day helped decrease fat mass and maintain muscle mass when combined with resistance training (16).
There are several different types of intermittent fasting, including some where you eat only on certain days of the week and others where eating is restricted to specific hours of the day.
Popular types of intermittent fasting include Eat Stop Eat, the Warrior Diet, the 16/8 method and the 5:2 diet.
Find a variation that fits in with your schedule and lifestyle and don’t be afraid to experiment to find what works best for you.
9. Pump and Eat Iron
Weight training is the ultimate way to burn calories fast. A pound of muscle burns up to nine times the calories of a pound of fat. Weight training increases your resting metabolic rate, which is the number of calories you burn while sitting on your butt.
What’s more, it gives your metabolism an added boost after you exercise, staying in overdrive for up to two hours after the last bench press. Strapped for time? Try squats, bench step-ups, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups and planks. In a pinch, just do single sets of 10 for each exercise and you’ll get optimal results for the time invested.
You also need to increase your iron intake. If you don’t have enough of this mineral, your body can’t get enough oxygen to your cells, which slows down your metabolism.
If you’re feeling symptoms like fatigue and weakness, ask your doctor to test you for anemia. Treating iron deficiency can allow your metabolism to work more efficiently and can fight off fatigue to help increase your activity level.
Evidence found that women who were treated for iron deficiency experienced reductions in body weight, waist circumference and body mass index (17).
Unfortunately, many people don’t get enough iron in their diets. Women, infants, children, vegans and vegetarians are all at a higher risk of iron deficiency.
Most multivitamins contain around 18 mg, the RDA for adults. You can also get your fill by eating three to four daily servings of foods rich in iron, such as lean red meat, chicken, fortified cereal, and soy nuts.
10. Take Probiotics
Probiotics are a type of beneficial bacteria found in your digestive tract that have been shown to improve many aspects of health.
In fact, the bacteria in your gut have been shown to play a role in everything from immunity to mental health (18).
Increasing your intake of probiotics through either food or supplements may also help rev up fat burning and keep your weight under control. People taking probiotics are experiencing significantly larger reductions in body weight, fat percentage and body mass index (19).
Another evidence showed that taking probiotic supplements can help people following a high-fat, high-calorie diet prevent fat and weight gain (20).
Certain strains of probiotics in the genus Lactobacillus may be especially effective at aiding weight and fat loss. Eating yogurt containing either Lactobacillus fermentum or Lactobacillus amylovorus bacteria can help reduce body fat by 3–4% (21).
Taking supplements is a quick and easy way to get in a concentrated dose of probiotics every day.
Alternatively, you can try adding some probiotic-rich foods to your diet, such as kefir, tempeh, natto, kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut.
11. Avoid Alcohol
Want to keep your favorite meals from going straight to your hips, thighs, and belly? Wash them down with water, not wine. Alcohol slows your metabolism by depressing the central nervous system. When alcohol is added to a high-fat, high-calorie meal, less dietary fat will be burned off and more are stored as body fat.
12. Follow A High Protein Diet
Not in an extreme, Atkins sort of way, but having protein at every meal fires up your metabolism.
Including more protein-rich foods in your diet is an effective way to reduce your appetite and burn more fat. In fact, multiple studies have found that eating more high-quality protein is associated with a lower risk of belly fat (22, 23).
However, keep protein levels to between 20 and 35 percent of your diet because eating too much of it can cause kidney strain and may cause your body to store too much fat.
13. Skip the Starch
Carb crazy? Refined carbohydrates, such as bread, potatoes and rice, create a surge in insulin that in turn drives down your resting metabolic rate. It’s important to keep carbohydrates in your diet, but really focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which have less of an effect on insulin levels.
When buying whole-grain breads and cereals, make sure the first ingredient listed is whole wheat, whole oat or cracked wheat.
14. Eat More Healthy Fats
Although it may seem counterintuitive, increasing your intake of healthy fats may actually help prevent weight gain and help you maintain feelings of fullness.
Fat takes a while to digest and can help slow the emptying of the stomach, which can reduce appetite and hunger (26).
Following a Mediterranean diet rich in healthy fats from olive oil and nuts was associated with a lower risk of weight gain compared to a low-fat diet (27).
Evidence also found that coconut oil is more effective than soybean oil when it comes to weight loss (28).
Olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds are just a few examples of healthy types of fat that may have beneficial effects on fat burning.
However, keep in mind that healthy fat is still high in calories, so moderate how much you consume. Instead of eating more fat overall, try swapping the unhealthy fats in your diet for these healthy fat varieties.
15. Fill Up on Fiber
Soluble fiber absorbs water and moves through the digestive tract slowly, helping you feel fuller for longer (31). Increasing your intake of high-fiber foods may protect against weight gain and fat accumulation.
A 10-gram increase in soluble fiber intake per day can help you lose 3.7% of your belly fat over a five-year period, even without any other changes in diet or exercise (32).
Another evidence found that increasing fiber intake promoted feelings of fullness and decreased hunger. In fact, an increase of 14 grams of fiber per day was associated with a 10% decrease in calorie intake. Not only that, but it was also linked to nearly 4.4 pounds of weight loss over a four-month period (33).
Fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds are a few examples of high-fiber foods that can boost fat burning and weight loss.
16. Load Up on Citrus Fruits
The vitamin C found in these fruits can increase your metabolism and help you burn fat faster and more efficiently. Freshen your diet by eating oranges, tangerines, or grapefruit for a snack, using lemons or limes to flavor your water, or adding any of them to a salad.
17. Stock Up On Green Tea and Coffee
Green tea isn’t known only for its cancer-fighting benefits because it may help boost your metabolism, too! People who took green-tea extract three times a day increased metabolic rate.
You could burn an extra 60 calories a day, which equals about six pounds a year! It may be because green tea contains catechins, which increase levels of the metabolism-speeding brain chemical norepinephrine.
The caffeine found in coffee acts as a central nervous system stimulant, increases metabolism and boosts the breakdown of fatty acids (34).
Caffeine intake can temporarily increase energy expenditure and enhance metabolism by 3–11% (35, 36). Increased intake was associated with less weight gain over a 12-year period (37). It was also linked to a higher rate of success with weight loss maintenance (38).
To maximize the health benefits of coffee, skip the cream and sugar. Instead, enjoy it black or with a small amount of milk to prevent the extra calories from stacking up.
Body fat gets a bad rap, but it’s essential for your health. Fat keeps your metabolism in check and your hormone levels balanced. You definitely want some fat to stick around.
Luckily, there are plenty of options available to help you shed excess fat while keeping your health in check.
Incorporating some healthy habits into your routine and switching up your diet can make a big difference. Even minor changes to your lifestyle can have powerful effects on fat burning.