SOURCES: WebMD Feature: "With Fruits and Veggies, More Matters." 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author, The Pocket Idiot's Guide to the New Food Pyramids. Elaine Magee, MPH, RD,author, Comfort Food Makeovers. Brian Wansink, PhD, professor and director, Cornell Food and Brand Lab, Ithaca, N.Y.; author, Mindless Eating. Barbara Rolls, PhD, professor of nutritional sciences; and director, laboratory for the study of human ingestive behaviors, Penn State University; and author, The Volumetrics Eating Plan.
It’s a little counterintuitive, but consuming calories after you’ve just burned them appears to be vital to fat-burning. Your muscles need a combo of protein and carbs to replenish energy stores and build new muscle. In one study, people who downed a 270-calorie shake with 24 grams of protein and 36 grams of carbs after their workout lost about four more pounds of fat and built more lean muscle than those who didn’t refuel post-exercise. Eating protein after a workout may help with lean muscle gains and could also help to prevent overeating later in the day, says Lesli Bonci, RD, a nutritionist and owner of Active Eating Advice. Find out what fitness instructors eat post-workout.
Speaking of intervals, high-intensity interval training (otherwise known as HIIT) has been shown to be incredibly effective for weight loss. Because the workouts are so intense, you don't need to put in an hour — or even 30 minutes — at the gym. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, seven minutes is all you need to get in the best shape of your life.
However, due to the intense exercise, the total calorie consumption is higher. We burn more calories due to the hard muscle work – even AFTER the run. The body needs more energy for recovery, thereby burning even more calories. That’s how you benefit from post-workout fat burning and the afterburn effect (EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption).
To prep his patients for success, Dr. Seltzer tells them to plan around a large evening meal by eating a lighter breakfast and lunch—NBD since most people who eat a meal before bed tend to wake up feeling relatively full, he says. Research suggests balanced bedtime meals may also promote steady next-day blood sugar levels, which also helps with appetite regulation.
Of all the foods you eat, the high-protein ones are the most important for losing fat. First, they keep you feeling full, which prevents overeating and needless snacking. Second, they boost your calorie burn throughout the day because protein takes more energy to digest than carbs or fat. Third, when accompanied with weight training, a high-protein diet prevents muscle loss that might otherwise happen when you suddenly cut calories.
Cut back on carbs: Remember how insulin has the biggest impact on fat storage? Well, carbs have the biggest impact on insulin. ”Too many carbohydrates leads to a spike in the hormone and then to more fat storage,” Seedman explains. Not only should you cut back on carbs, but your insulin will spike even more from processed ones, so cut any carb that’s not a whole grain or from real produce completely. And don’t worry: Carbs are traditionally thought of as your body’s main source of energy, but your body also has the ability to fuel from fat, so if you’re increasing your fat and protein intake, your body doesn’t need as many carbs to run. You still need some amount of carbohydrates to regulate certain biological processes, like your muscles’ ability to stay hydrated and maintain structural integrity, so don’t cut the macronutrient completely, Seedman warns. For a high-fat, low-carb diet, aim for at least .5 of your bodyweight (so a 200 lb person would eat at least 100 grams of carbs per day), he suggests. For a more balanced calorie-restricted diet, that number jumps to .75 to 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight.
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.