It’s that kind of accessibility that makes running one of the best workouts for weight loss. “You just need a pair of decent shoes, some creativity, and maybe a friend or two to develop a walking or running plan,” says Daniel O’Connor, Ph. D., professor of health and human performance at the University of Houston. “It’s less expensive than joining a gym or having a personal trainer.”
3. Caffeine: Coffee is good for more than just a jolt in the morning. A study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that consuming caffeine an hour before you hit the gym can help you burn about 15 percent more calories than normal. What’s more, other research has found that sipping on the stimulant before the gym can help you eat fewer calories afterward.
• Body Fat %: I’ve touched on this in detail in a previous meditation essay. Simply, your body fat levels will dictate what sort of macro composition you should be using. Due to things like insulin resistance, people with higher a body fat % tend to fare better on a lower carb diet. And conversely, someone with a lower body fat % tends to fare better with a carb-focused diet – there are, of course, exceptions. But this holds true for most.
Getting your workout in first thing can burn more fat than sweating it out later in the day. When you first wake up, carbohydrates, your body’s preferred energy choice, are in short supply, so your muscles are forced to burn fat for fuel, a process known as ketosis. For men, they’re an added boost because testosterone levels are highest in the a.m., allowing guys to push a little harder during their workouts. Here’s how many minutes you need to exercise to burn fat all day long.
In general, a good weight-loss goal is to lose 0.5-1.0 percent of your body weight each week. If your weight-loss stalls, it's because your body has learned how to function on fewer daily calories. To reignite fat loss, reduce your current calorie intake by 15-20 percent. (In the example above, the person could consume 2,000 calories a day. To lose weight, they would have to reduce that by 300-400 calories a day.)
Researchers have debated the role of dairy foods in weight management. Diets with at least three daily servings of [low-fat] dairy products speed weight loss and body fat loss in obese people compared to a diet with little dairy, according to Michael Zemel, PhD, of the University of Tennessee, who has published his results of the value of dairy in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition and other journals.
Carbohydrates are a primary fuel source during training. Since glucose and stored glycogen are used for energy they are absolutely necessary for optimal performance. When glycogen is not available due to carb restriction the body will turn to alternative sources such as amino acids for energy. This will lead to muscle tissue breakdown, but since amino acids are not converted to energy as efficiently as carbs performance will be hindered.
High blood sugar levels coupled with high blood ketones, on the other hand, will mean that you have a pathologically low level of insulin – something non-diabetics do not suffer from. This can lead to ketoacidosis – a potentially life-threatening condition. If this happens, you’ll need to inject more insulin; if you’re at all unsure of what to do, contact a medical professional. Coveting really high blood ketones for weight control is not worth the risk for type 1 diabetics.
During low-intensity workouts like steady-state cardio, your body realizes the demand for energy isn’t urgent, so it taps into fat metabolism. The fats in your body (which contain vastly more energy than carbs) exist as triglycerides that float through your bloodstream and hang out within adipose or fat tissue. Because fat offers a slow-and-steady stream of energy, you’ll feel like you can sustain that effort for a long time, says Alex Zimmerman, CSCS, Los Angeles-based director of Equinox’s Tier X program.
Weight loss occurs when the body is expending more energy in work and metabolism than it is absorbing from food or other nutrients. It will then use stored reserves from fat or muscle, gradually leading to weight loss. For athletes seeking to improve performance or to meet required weight classification for participation in a sport, it is not uncommon to seek additional weight loss even if they are already at their ideal body weight. Others may be driven to lose weight to achieve an appearance they consider more attractive. However, being underweight is associated with health risks such as difficulty fighting off infection, osteoporosis, decreased muscle strength, trouble regulating body temperature and even increased risk of death.
When it comes to the rate at which progress can be made fat loss is far different from muscle growth. Whereas building muscle is a slow process, fat loss can take place at a pretty rapid pace. We have all seen the commercials that promise to help you lose 10-20 lbs. in a few weeks. While it is entirely possible to lose huge amounts of weight in short periods of time, this is not what we are aiming for.
Glycogen is the unused and stored form of carbohydrates in muscles. When glycogen stores begin to peak from eating plenty of carbs, the body upgrades its fat-storing ability. Conversely, as glycogen stores are depleted, fat-burning increases. One way to kick-start the fat-burning process is to go extremely low-carb on two consecutive days every couple of weeks. This ensures that you tap into your glycogen stores for fuel, which signals the body to burn more fat.
Thanks to the hormone estrogen, the female body likes to hold on to fat, too. A study in Obesity Reviews shows that women store fat more efficiently than men in an effort to prepare the body for pregnancy. But while it seems like women may have drawn the short-end of the stick, the stereotypical pear-shape is actually considered healthier than boasting a beer gut, because belly fat is a red flag when it comes to your health. “Visceral fat is associated with increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome,” says Harris-Pincus.
For our purposes here, high-intensity cardio falls between about 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR) or, if you're not using heart rate zones, about a 6 to 8 on a 10-point perceived exertion scale. What this translates to is exercise at a level that feels challenging and leaves you too breathless to talk in complete sentences. But you're not going all out, as in sprinting as fast as you can. There's no doubt that some high-intensity training work can be helpful for weight loss as well as improving endurance and aerobic capacity.
While you may or may not wish to weigh yourself frequently while losing weight, regular monitoring of your weight will be essential to help you maintain your lower weight. When keeping a record of your weight, a graph may be more informative than a list of your weights. When weighing yourself and keeping a weight graph or table, however, remember that one day's diet and exercise patterns won't have a measurable effect on your weight the next day. Today's weight is not a true measure of how well you followed your program yesterday, because your body's water weight will change from day to day, and water changes are often the result of things that have nothing to do with your weight-management efforts.
Are you like Old Faithful when it comes to your morning walk or evening jog? Know this: The more you do an activity, the more your body adapts to it, so you burn fewer calories. If you want to light a fire under your metabolism, consider cross-training. For example, if you normally walk, try biking instead. "Since you're not used to working all those different muscles, it's a more intense workout, which can translate into a greater metabolic after-burn because your body is working harder to recover and get oxygen to all your tissues," says Carol Espel, M.S., an exercise physiologist for Equinox Fitness Clubs in New York City.
All animal proteins are also a good source of tryptophan, which is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. “If you struggle with mood or stress, it’s important to boost the production of serotonin to stabilize your mood, curb emotional eating, and keep stress-induced snacking at bay," especially when you’re trying to lose weight, says Cording. But when it comes to portions, opt for a 100 gram serving, which is about the size of a deck of cards, for reference.
REALITY: Bro-scientists will insist that eating small portions every 2-3 hours will increase your metabolism. They base this on the thermic effect of food (TEF), which refers to the energy (calorie) cost of your body processing the food you consume. On average, 15 percent of the calories you consume are burned by processing them (although the rate varies by macronutrient). Someone took this idea and assumed that the more frequently people consume their meals, the more frequent TEF will take effect and thus increase fat oxidation.
If you want to keep burning fat, you’ve got to get moving. Whether you’re able to hit the gym first thing in the morning (after your snack from tip #1) or just taking the stairs throughout the day at work and going for a lunchtime walk – the important thing is to get moving and find simple ways to squeeze fitness into your busy day. Since your body will need carbs to recover from your workout, save your larger, healthier meal for afterward.
For this lightning-fast Tabata workout, pick four total-body moves (plank jacks, jump squats, etc.). Do one for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, then do it again. Continue to the next move and repeat. The routine is just four minutes long—and you’ll torch 13½ calories a minute and double your calorie burn for half an hour afterward, per research from Auburn University in Alabama.
Luckily, exercise can help spur things along when it comes to that pesky stomach fat. “Visceral fat responds well when… [you] start exercising and watching your calories and what you eat,” Harris-Pincus says. And while endless crunches aren’t your ticket to a flat stomach, it is still important to train your ab muscles. “Everything radiates from the center of your body – your balance, your posture, your functional movement,” says Joe Ardito, founder of Fit Crush NYC. “You can perform better when you have a strong core.”
Several studies suggest green tea may promote weight loss by stimulating the body to burn fat. Green tea contains catechins, a type of phytochemical that may briefly affect the metabolism. To get the most benefit, you may need to drink green tea several times a day. Try taking your tea hot, because it takes longer to drink, providing a soothing, mindful experience.
Do more HIIT: High intensity interval training (HIIT) is as close to a magic pill as we have (except it involves a whole lot more work than just swallowing a capsule—sorry). Not only does it surge your body to max intensity during the workout, but because you’re working so hard, your body can’t deliver enough oxygen in the moment, explains personal trainer Jeremey DuVall. Your muscles accumulate a “debt” of oxygen that then has to be repaid post-workout. This throws your body into a phase of fat burning for hours after you’re done sweating, known as post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. Plus, super intense circuits like this activate muscle-building hormones like growth hormone and IGF-1, he adds.