“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.
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.
A 2014 Harvard study found that men who did twenty minutes of daily weight training had less of an increase in age-related abdominal fat compared with men who spent the same amount of time doing aerobic activities, and other studies have shown similar levels of success when guys hit the gym to cut down on fat. The implication: Guys can cut belly fat most efficiently with weight training.
That said, a Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise study found that runners lost more weight than walkers over a six-year period, possibly because of the afterburn effect. “Running at a high intensity will create an afterburn, which is when your body continues to burn calories when you’re no longer moving,” Rubin says. She suggests starting with three 30-minute runs a week, sprinting for 30 seconds then recovering for 30 seconds to a minute.
A diet that’s low in fat and carbohydrates can improve artery function, according to a 2012 study by Johns Hopkins researchers. After six months, those on the low-carb diet had lost more weight, and at a faster pace. But in both groups, when weight was lost—and especially when belly fat shrank—the arteries were able to expand better, allowing blood to travel more freely. The study shows that you don’t have to cut out all dietary fat to shrink belly fat. For heart health, simply losing weight and exercising seems to be key.
Caffeine and other stimulants do have a down side though. Since stimulants act upon the central nervous system if used too often or for too long of a time period they can begin to cause overtraining effects. These effects would be much the same as if you were working out too long and too often. This can lead to decreased energy, muscle loss, and ultimately, a lowered metabolism since your body will be trying to preserve energy.
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.
One study from the University of Adelaide in Australia suggests you may lose more weight when you work out towards the end of your menstrual cycle, as opposed to right when a new one begins. That’s because the hormones estrogen and progesterone tell your body to use fat as an energy source. "Women burned about 30 percent more fat for the two weeks following ovulation to about two days before menstruation," study author Leanne Redman says.
Now that you know exactly how much to eat everyday you will now need to figure out which foods to eat. Contrary to popular belief, the type of foods you choose to eat is far less important than how much you eat everyday. This does not mean that choosing foods for your diet doesn’t matter though. Some foods are still better than other for certain purposes.
If you’re actively watching your weight this season, know this: Research from the University of Chicago found that dieters lost 55% less fat when they slept for 5½ hours than when they slept for 8½ hours. To settle into slumber more easily, avoid lit screens, food and, yes, booze for a full two hours before bed, and fill your plate with foods that help you fall asleep earlier in the night (think cherries, jasmine rice, and bananas).
The upshot of all these chemicals floating around is big trouble for big-bellied guys. In a study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, researchers took 137 men of all ages and sizes and used seven different measurements to determine their risks of cardiovascular disease. The single best sign of multiple heart-disease risks? No, it wasn't the guys' family histories or their cholesterol profiles. It was the amount of abdominal fat they carried.
One area of confusion of regarding nighttime eating involves the consumption of carbs. Many people are under the assumption that eating carbs at night will cause them to be stored as fat since they will not be used. This is simply not true. Carbohydrates are obviously not necessary before bed from a performance standpoint but their consumption late at night will not translate into fat gain.
There’s a reason people are obsessed with apple cider vinegar for weight loss. Some research shows that it may have very modest weight loss benefits. For instance, in one 2009 study, researchers had 144 obese adults drink a placebo or 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (ACV) daily for 3 months. They found that people who downed 2 tablespoons lost nearly 4 pounds, while those who sipped on 1 tablespoon dropped 2.5 pounds. The placebo drinkers? They actually experienced a small weight gain.
A different way of viewing weight loss identifies the problem as not one of consuming too many calories, but rather the way the body accumulates fat after consuming carbohydrates—in particular the role of the hormone insulin. When you eat a meal, carbohydrates from the food enter your bloodstream as glucose. In order to keep your blood sugar levels in check, your body always burns off this glucose before it burns off fat from a meal.
Do you even lift, bro? If you’re serious about getting rid of that belly fat fast, resistance training might just be the key. A study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that adding weight training to adult male test subjects’ workouts significantly reduced their risk of abdominal obesity over a multi-year study period, although doing the same amount of cardio had no such effect. Research from the University of Maryland even found that just 16 weeks of weight training boosted study participants’ metabolic rates by a whopping 7.7 percent, making it easier to ditch those extra inches around your middle.
Standing with feet hip-width apart, hold the barbell at chest height with palms facing up and your elbows extended out in front of you. Keeping the barbell rested at your chest, squat deep. In one explosive movement, push up into standing, tilting head back slightly to surge the barbell straight overhead so knees and elbows are both locked straight. Lower barbell back down to shoulders and repeat.