Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These are essential fatty acids you have to get from food or supplements because your body cannot produce them. Since you'll be reducing fat early in your dieting phase, supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids will make sure you get the essential fats you need to optimize your recovery, heart health, and cognitive function. Research suggests regular omega-3 fatty acid consumption can even enhance fat loss, as long as you're eating and exercising properly.
Since muscle mass actually increases your metabolic rate, building muscle through weight training increases your caloric burn, says Alberty Matheny, C.S.C.S., R.D., and co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab. To increase your muscle mass, he suggests doing three to four sets of exercises like bicep curls, triceps pull downs, squats, lunges, bench presses, and upright rows. Perform eight to 12 reps per set, taking a 45 to 90 second breaks between sets. Tackle this sequence three times per week and increase the weight and sets to keep making progress as you get stronger, he says.
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.
The ideal divide between high- and low-intensity exercise depends on each person’s fitness levels, training history, and more. As a general rule, when trying to lose fat, use low-intensity cardiovascular exercise to warm up and cool down from high-intensity, circuit-style, or heavy strength workouts as well as a form of active recovery on rest days.
Not all fat is bad. Healthy or “good” fats can actually help to control your weight, as well as manage your moods and fight fatigue. Unsaturated fats found in avocados, nuts, seeds, soy milk, tofu, and fatty fish can help fill you up, while adding a little tasty olive oil to a plate of vegetables, for example, can make it easier to eat healthy food and improve the overall quality of your diet.
Foods that are rich in water take up more room in your gut. This signals the body that you've had enough to eat and leaves less room for other foods. Many raw fruits and vegetables are full of water and nutrients and low in calories. Watermelon is a great example. It's a good source of the antioxidant lycopene and gives you some vitamin A and C, too.
If you feel like any extra calories you eat go straight to your belly or thighs, you're not imagining things. Those are usually the areas where you store fat because of your genes, hormones, age, lifestyle, and other factors. Your body tends to hoard calories as fat to keep you alive and safe. The challenge is learning how to get rid of that extra fat.
These fatty acids rocketed to fame for their ability to decrease the harmful inflammation that is associated with many chronic diseases—including obesity. Crandall is quick to point out that researchers have yet to find a cause-and-effect link—so don’t expect to pop a fish oil supplement, for example, and drop 10 pounds. But, she says, getting omega-3s from whole foods such as nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon is a good way to hedge your bets. And bonus: If you’re suffering from other kinds of inflammation, that can lessen your willingness to be active, omega-3s might help there, too. Find out the fat-burning foods you should add to your diet.
When you start reducing your calories to create a healthy calorie deficit, you may start to feel hungry as you adjust to your new calorie intake. You don't want to ignore physical cues of hunger such as dizziness, headaches, the inability to concentrate, and extreme fatigue, but one of the reasons people struggle to lose weight is because they don't eat satiating meals and instead allow themselves to feel hungry all day. This isn't sustainable and such restriction often ends in binge-eating or giving up.
Real talk: It could take weeks or months to see the metabolic effects of exercise on the scale, and even then, building muscle, which is denser than body fat, could lead to weight gain. "Do what you like because it’s good for you," Dr. Seltzer says, noting the way exercise is awesome for your heart, mental health, and more—and that not all measure of progress can be seen on the scale.
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.
Science backs these ideas up when it comes shedding belly fat: In one study published in The Journal of Nutrition, researchers had overweight men and women follow a high-protein diet (30 percent protein, 40 percent carbs, and 30 percent fat) or a high-carb diet (15 percent protein, 55 percent carbs, and 30 percent fat). After one year of weight loss and maintenance, they found that the high-protein group experienced a 21 percent greater weight loss and 27 percent greater body fat loss on average than the high-carb group.
In the study described above, the participants had to shut down the kitchen after 7 p.m. What’s so magical about this time? By 7 p.m., the researchers found that most participants had likely already consumed dinner (so there was no need for the study participants to skip meals and totally deprive themselves and their metabolism). You’ll likely agree that once dinner is over, your late-night snack options aren’t always healthy choices. By shutting down the kitchen (at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. or even 8 p.m.), you’ll be more likely to eliminate consumption of late-night empty calories.
It may seem like a no-brainer that regular exercise can help you burn fat and lose weight. But it's not just about the calories you're burning. It's also about the adaptations your body makes when you exercise on a regular basis. Many of those adaptations lead directly to your ability to burn more fat without even trying. When you exercise regularly:
The runner’s high is real: a Journal of Experimental Biology study shows that running releases endocannabinoids, which are associated with pleasure and could keep you coming back for more. But don’t worry if the idea of a runner’s high feels more distant than a marathon finish-line. You just need to move past the point in which running totally sucks.
Green Tea is an excellent fat loss supplement and as an added bonus, it contains potent ployphenol antioxidants. The power of green tea comes from the polyphenols contained within. The most potent metabolism booster of these is called epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG for short. This polyphenol has the ability to increase thermogensis much like caffeine but without the stimulant effect or taxing of the nervous system.
In addition to fat, you need to eat nourishing foods so you’re not hungry. When certain nutrient levels like iron, zinc, or B12 drop, your brain signals you to eat everything under the sun until you get it. (Really, look up pica. People with iron deficiency have turned to chewing on toilet paper to get it. Your brain doesn’t know that TP doesn’t have iron. It just tells you to keep eating until you run into iron.)
Most people will be able to quickly lose a few pounds when they start a cardiovascular program. Usually, this "program" is a long, drawn out battle with the treadmill or my most-hated machine, the elliptical. The initial drop in body fat is due to the new stimuli, but that trend quickly begins to taper off until eventually the individual is able to go longer and longer distances without any change in body composition. As you get "better" at doing cardio, your body makes specific adaptations to the stress being placed on it in order to become more efficient. Your body will increase your ability to transport and use oxygen, create more capillaries to deliver blood and oxygen to the needed muscles, and will strengthen the bones and muscles being used.
Yes, you can dance your way slim! Grooving hard while celebrating with pals can blast even more calories than running, swimming, or cycling, per recent research from the University of Brighton in England. Dancing for an hour can burn anywhere from 200 and 600 calories, while also helping to build strength, increase flexibility, and even slow the aging process.
All of those things are great for weight loss, but they have a higher barrier to entry compared to running. You need a pool, a bike, and a six-figure salary, respectively. But if you can afford a pair of sneakers (like these running shoes for less than $100) then you can run. You can run in hot weather. You can run in cold weather. You can run in the snow. You can run in the rain. You can run with a friend. You can run by yourself. You can even run every single day if you’re smart about recovery.
Do this: To ensure that your body is in optimal fat-burning mode, do 30-60 minutes of cardio first thing in the morning before breakfast 4-6 days per week. Feel free, however, to drink your morning coffee (without cream or sugar) and take 6-10g of mixed amino acids or a small amount of whey protein powder mixed in water beforehand. The caffeine will help you burn more fat, as will the amino acids (whether from a supplement or whey protein), as research from Kanazawa University in Japan has found. The aminos will also help prevent muscle breakdown during cardio.
Doing crunches until the cows come home? Stop it! When you're down to your final inches of belly fat, the dreaded crunch won't be the exercise that finally reveals your six-pack. "You can't spot reduce," Jill says. Instead, she suggests doing functional exercises that use the muscles in your core—abdominals, back, pelvic, obliques—as well as other body parts. "These exercises use more muscles, so there is a higher rate of calorie burn while you are doing them," she says. Planks are her favorite functional exercise—they activate not just your core muscles but also your arm, leg, and butt muscles.
Carbohydrates also regulate muscle cell volume. You will notice that when carb intake is low your muscles will appear flat and smaller, because cell volume is diminished when carbs are restricted. This is because carbs are stored in muscle tissue as glycogen. Every gram of glycogen is stored with 2.7 grams of water. This can drastically effect the size of muscle cells.
Our increasingly slothful lifestyles are partly to blame for skyrocketing obesity rates, so it’s no surprise that being more active is a simple fix for belly fat. In 2003, a first-of-its-kind study from Duke University showed that sedentary adults accumulated abdominal fat surprisingly quickly — and that sedentary women stacked on fat more visceral fat than sedentary men, even though they added less fat overall.
Some antidepressant medications can cause weight gain, especially the older tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) such as Tryptizol, Saroten, and Clomipramine; as well as newer drugs such as Remeron (Mirtazapine). Lithium (for manic-depressive disorder) often causes weight gain. The most common antidepressants known as SSRI’s (for example Citalopram and Sertraline) usually don’t impact weight significantly. More on depression
Do this: Limit your total carbs on two consecutive days every two weeks or so to less than 100g per day. This will require you to know how many grams of carbohydrates are in the foods you eat and have the discipline to be very strict on your intake. Your diligence will be rewarded with a noticeable difference in body fat. After two days, you can return to a more normal, though not excessive, carb intake.
6. Fast once a week: While regularly underfeeding your body completely messes with your hormone balance, there’s sufficient research to suggest that intermittent fasting (IF)—or going without any food for set intervals—can actually help your insulin sensitivity and burn more fat. Researchers at LSU, for example, found that when people fasted all day, every other day, their fat oxidation increased and they actually lost 4 percent of their body fat in just 22 days. There are a lot of ways to go about IF, from fasting for 12 to 16 hours every day, to going 24 hours once a week. (Learn more about it here.)