Though calorie control is a must, hormonal control is nearly as important. Coupled with calories, hormones govern fat-burning. Suppress fat-storing hormones and you can expect a significant amount of body fat to melt away. The ideal way to control these hormones is to keep your carbohydrate intake in check, since carbs kick up insulin, a hormone that inhibits fat breakdown and drives fat storage. Eat fewer carbs and insulin levels tend to moderate, leading to fat loss.
Women who wake up and go to bed at the same time each day have lower levels of body fat, according to a study of more than 300 women from Brigham Young University in Utah. Chaotic sleep habits cause your internal clock to go haywire, which in turn causes your body to secrete fat-storing hormones like cortisol. The sweet spot? Try not to stray an hour from your usual sleep pattern, the study authors say. More than a 90-minute difference in sleep and wake times were linked to more body fat. (Tossing and turning? Check out these 100 tips to sleep better every night.)
Moving isn’t just for the gym. Americans tend to sit too much in general. You can combat that, finds research, by engaging in “spontaneous physical activity”—fidgeting, tapping, and getting up from your desk or the couch frequently. Make moving a habit by standing when you take calls, for instance, using the stairs when possible, or bouncing your legs when you’re seated. Every calorie burned helps.
You know that protein can keep you full longer and burn more calories during digestion. Choose your protein carefully. Dark meat tends to be high in fat, which could cancel out some of the benefits. Skinless chicken breast is a great choice. And some cuts of beef can make the grade. Flank steak, eye of round, and top sirloin are extra-lean with less than 4 grams of saturated fat per serving. Stick with a 3- to 4-ounce portion.
Say cheese! Adding some extra calcium to your diet could be the key to getting that flat stomach you’ve been dreaming about. Over just 12 months, researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville found that obese female study subjects who upped their calcium intake shed 11 pounds of body fat without other major dietary modifications. To keep your calcium choices healthy, try mixing it up between dairy sources, calcium-rich leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds.
You don’t have to be the next Usain Bolt in the making to enjoy some serious belly-slimming results from hitting the track from time to time. Even a moderate-rate jog a few times a week can blast through that belly fat; in fact, a study conducted at Duke University Medical Center found that, over the course of an eight-month study, overweight adult study subjects who jogged 12 miles a week lost the most belly fat and burned 67 percent more calories than participants who did an equivalent amount of resistance exercise, or a combination of cardio and resistance work.
Arteries (are-te-rease): The blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood away from your heart for delivery to every part of your body. Arteries look like thin tubes or hoses. The walls are made of a tough outer layer, a middle layer of muscle and a smooth inner wall that helps blood flow easily. The muscle layer expands and contracts to help blood move.
To banish stubborn belly fat, you have to ramp up your workouts. In a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, people who completed a high-intensity workout regimen lost more belly fat than those who followed a low-intensity plan. (In fact, the low-intensity exercises experienced no significant changes at all.) "You need to exercise at full intensity because the end goal is to burn more calories, and high intensity exercise does just that," says Natalie Jill, a San Diego, Calif.-based certified personal trainer. High intensity workouts mean you're going all out for as long as you can. If this sounds intimidating, think of it this way: you'll burn more calories in less time.
Lack of sleep throws your body’s hormone levels off balance which then impacts your hunger levels the next day. The 2 hormones that affect our appetite are ghrelin (the hormone that makes us feel hungry) and leptin (the hormone that makes us feel full). When we don’t get enough sleep, the level of ghrelin rises while our leptin levels drop. This causes you to feel hungry and overeat.
A calorie isn’t always a calorie. Eating 100 calories of high fructose corn syrup, for example, can have a different effect on your body than eating 100 calories of broccoli. The trick for sustained weight loss is to ditch the foods that are packed with calories but don’t make you feel full (like candy) and replace them with foods that fill you up without being loaded with calories (like vegetables).
Once your body adapts to the stress you put on it, it's time to change the stress. Personally, I'd only run for a long distance if I were being chased by a hungry lion, so it's unlikely you'd catch me on the treadmill. I prefer to do weight training circuits combined with calisthenics, sprints, and jumps to keep things interesting. You can mix things however you wish, as long as you find it challenging.
Here’s a thought: Take a 10-minute break from your busy day of present wrapping or online shopping to walk up and down the stairs in your house or apartment—you’ll say goodbye to about 100 calories, says Donavanik. You’ll also feel less tense and cramped up. Want to maximize your calorie burning potential? Run up and down those stairs instead and you’ll zap the same number of calories in half the time.
To prevent that from happening, says Jessica Crandall, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and personal trainer, aim for between 20 and 30 grams first thing. She likes an egg scramble with veggies, cheese, and black beans or fills to-go coffee cups with a mix of Greek yogurt, chia seeds, nuts, and berries. Don’t miss these 13 things experts won’t tell you about weight loss.
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.
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.