While rolling out of bed earlier than usual isn’t always appealing, running first thing in the morning is a great habit to form for a few reasons. First, it guarantees you won’t skip out on your mileage later when work runs late, or you have an unexpected obligation. Plus, the morning miles might make you more productive and communicative with your colleagues and friends, as studies have found that running can sharpen your focus and critical thinking skills.
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.
Not in an extreme, Atkins sort of way, but having a little protein at every meal fires up your metabolism. "Your digestive system uses more energy to break it down, so you burn more calories," explains Lisa Dorfman, R.D. However, keep protein levels to between 20 and 35 percent of your diet; eating too much of it can cause kidney strain and may cause your body to store too much fat.
That’s basically what I did. I counted calories for a while using good old spreadsheets. That made me realize that foods like pasta and rice where high calories, so I should watch with that. Now I haven’t counted calories and years, and watch out with carbs. That’s how I’ve been able to keep my weight stable and visible abs over the past 10 years or so.
Historically, fat storage worked well for humans. The energy was stored as small packages of molecules called fatty acids, which are released into the bloodstream for use as fuel by muscles and other organs when there was no food available, or when a predator was chasing us. Fat storage actually conferred a survival advantage in these situations. Those with a tendency to store fat were able to survive longer periods without food and had extra energy for hostile environments.
Sleep quality matters as much as quantity, according to Gillespie. In general, an uninterrupted seven hours is better than 12 hours of tossing and turning. Of course, for new moms or others for whom sleep is hard to come by, naps are better than nothing. But if it’s possible to get your nightly sleep done in a solid block, that’s your best bet, she says.
When you hit the gym, the body releases a fat-liberating messenger called epinephrine, which attaches itself to fat cells and allows fat to be burned as fuel. And, you guessed it, carbohydrates come into play here. Refined carbs consumed before training suppress the exercise- and supplement-induced rise in epinephrine compared to eating the same amount of slower-digesting carbs. Refined carbs also boost insulin levels, further hampering fat-burning during the workout. Bottom line, avoid refined carbs altogether before training.
That’s not to say you won’t run into tough times in your weight-loss efforts. Any new eating plan is hard to adjust to, and your brain resists change, which doesn’t help matters. Still, the most successful diet is one that you can stick with long-term. Read on for weight-loss tips and tricks to help you get past the hard times and keep your new diet plan on track.
Usually work out for 30 minutes? Exercise for a third of that—but go hard! "An intense 10 minutes jump-starts your metabolic furnace and equals about 20 or 30 minutes at a moderate intensity," says Jordan Metzl, MD, author of Dr. Jordan Metzl’s Workout Prescription. If you can’t spare the full 10 minutes, you can sweat for even less time: According to a 2013 study from Colorado State University, exercising for just 2 ½ minutes at a high intensity (think running or biking sprints) can help you burn 200 more calories over the rest of the day.
At its core, burning fat comes down to the process of lipolysis—the breaking down of fat lipids, explains Seedman. This happens in the mitochondria of the muscles, or the powerhouses of the cells, responsible for generating the energy our cells need to do their jobs. Exercise has been shown to improve mitochondria function, which then promotes fat breakdown, Seedman adds. Plus, working out helps regulate pretty much all the hormones that optimize fat loss.