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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.
Routinely squeaking by on five hours or less per night increases visceral fat levels, according to a 2010 Wake Forest University study. What’s more, after analyzing 28 different studies, UK researchers found that people who slept 5.5 hours or less per night ate an extra 385 calories the day after compared to those who snoozed for at least 7 to 12 hours. On top of that, they preferred to munch on fatty foods full of empty calories, like chips.
You might have heard the term ‘middle-age spread’. This means, as women progress towards their middle years, the ratio of body fat increases compared to the body weight. During menopause, when the levels of estrogen go down, and the amount of androgens or male hormones increase, then there is an increased risk of fat accumulation in the waist. Hormones actually regulate the fat concentration in the body, and your figure depends entirely on it!
You can read all the “TOP 10 FAT LOSS HACKS YOU AREN’T DOING” articles you want, or stare at motivational quotes by some famous dead person plastered across a pair of random abs or glutes – but until you realise that change depends on you getting off your ass and doing something, nothing’s going to happen because your fat loss is down to you actually wanting to make a change.
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. For that reason, I love snacking on 100-calorie packs of in-shell pistachios," Gorin says. "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. Because you're more in tune with what's gone into your mouth, you may be less likely to have extra servings." In one preliminary study, people snacking on in-shell pistachios ate 41% less calories than those who ate the shelled version.
Fiber—both soluble and insoluble kinds—tends to fill you up so you don’t eat as much, and is prevalent in lower-calorie foods like fruits and vegetables. Though not all of them, Crandall cautions. “Lettuce does not have a ton of fiber” so you can’t get by on salad alone. She recommends adding one cup of fruit or vegetables to every meal or snack to meet your quota. Or try these fiber-filled recipes.
When you eat carby, sugary foods and snacks, you end up with the all-too-familiar sugar spikes and energy crashes. That’s all due to insulin, which skyrockets when you eat carbs. Insulin also tells the body to store calories as fat — and most people trying to lose weight aren’t looking for extra padding in the belly or thighs. Since dietary fat has less impact on insulin levels than carbohydrates or even protein does, you don’t have to worry about sugar crashes, cravings or storing rolls of body fat.
“Poor sleep quality or quantity can make it difficult to lose or even maintain your weight,” says Darria Long Gillespie, MD, a clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine at The University of Tennessee. When you are sleep deprived, your body becomes less sensitive to the effects of leptin, the hormone that usually signals that you’ve had enough to eat. At the same time, the amount of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, increases, so you want to eat more. Together, it’s a recipe for overeating.
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.