Too many tough days at the office or ongoing arguments with family members can sabotage your weight-loss efforts, says Jeremy Shore, C.S.C.S., a group education director for Matrix Fitness. When your body is stressed, your cortisol levels rise, telling your body to store fat for protection, says Shore. While that might be helpful in the Amazon, it's not going to save you from your boss's emails. Shore recommends deep nasal breathing to relax. "This directs air into the lower lobes of the lungs where there are a greater number of parasympathetic nervous system receptors—stimulating repair and recovery while calming the mind," he says. Inhale and exhale deeply from the nose, spending five to eight seconds on each inhale and five to eight seconds on each exhale.
Historically, fat storage worked well for humans. The energy was stored as small packages of molecules called fatty acids, which are released into the bloodstream for use as fuel by muscles and other organs when there was no food available, or when a predator was chasing us. Fat storage actually conferred a survival advantage in these situations. Those with a tendency to store fat were able to survive longer periods without food and had extra energy for hostile environments.
• If you’re in a caloric deficit: you’ll be better off choosing foods that are low in energy density and high in nutrient density. These foods will help keep you full when calories are low. Energy-dense foods like cereal, chocolate bars, ice cream, Pop-Tarts, etc. are less filling and thus less satiating. This is why you can eat a chocolate bar and be hungry again ten minutes later, while a [calorically] comparable meal filled with protein and veggies will keep you fuller for longer.
After you train, it's difficult to gain body fat. Why? Depleted, broken-down muscles soak up both protein and carbohydrates for growth and recovery. If you eat too little at this time, you may actually set yourself back by impeding recovery; supporting recovery and growth actually increases metabolism while impeding it slows metabolism. In terms of spurring recovery and growth, just about the most counterproductive thing you can do after a hard workout is starve yourself.
Usually work out for 30 minutes? Exercise for a third of that—but go hard! "An intense 10 minutes jump-starts your metabolic furnace and equals about 20 or 30 minutes at a moderate intensity," says Jordan Metzl, MD, author of Dr. Jordan Metzl’s Workout Prescription. If you can’t spare the full 10 minutes, you can sweat for even less time: According to a 2013 study from Colorado State University, exercising for just 2 ½ minutes at a high intensity (think running or biking sprints) can help you burn 200 more calories over the rest of the day.
Useful goals should be (1) specific; (2) attainable (doable); and (3) forgiving (less than perfect). "Exercise more" is a great goal, but it's not specific. "Walk 5 miles every day" is specific and measurable, but is it doable if you're just starting out? "Walk 30 minutes every day" is more attainable, but what happens if you're held up at work one day and there's a thunderstorm during your walking time another day? "Walk 30 minutes, 5 days each week" is specific, doable, and forgiving. In short, a great goal!
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.
Some studies have shown that a protein shake consumed immediately after training can produce up to 25 times higher levels of protein synthesis when compared to a protein shake that is consumed 3 hours post workout. This shows how important it is to get this shake in right away. Since timing is so important in the post workout state it is important to choose a protein that is quickly digested.
I started my first round in March, just a few weeks into recovery, and the results I have seen are incredible. My doctor could not believe how well I healed and how fast I was able to bounce back. Amanda's program truly made that possible. I feel so much better about myself. I have so much more confidence. I'm not nearly as stressed, and I have more energy. Before I started doing Amanda's program, I was obsessive about the scale. I would get on the scale several times a day. I would work out because I thought I was gaining weight. That first day when I took my measurements and then got rid of my scale 14 weeks ago, I had a burden lifted off of me. It has been absolutely liberating. Realizing that there is more to me than a number on the scale and seeing my results in a different light has been one of the biggest successes of this program. I have had so many non-scale victories.
Protein. Deciding how much protein to eat at each meal is simple. Take the total protein you are supposed to consume during the day and divide it evenly among the essential eating times. Let’s say, for example, you are supposed to be eating 200 grams of protein per day. Since there 5 essential eating times you just need to divide 200 by 5. This means that you will need to take in 40 grams of protein at each meal.
"Anytime you’re stressed, you probably go for food," Dr. Seltzer says. (Have we met?!) That’s because cortisol, the stress hormone, stokes your appetite for sugary, fatty foods. No wonder it’s associated with higher body weight, according to a 2007 Obesity study that quantified chronic stress exposure by looking at cortisol concentrations in more than 2,000 adults’ hair.
If you want to lose weight, you’d better avoid special “low-carb” products that are full of carbs. This should be obvious, but creative marketers are doing all they can to fool you (and get your money). They will tell you that you can eat cookies, pasta, ice cream, bread and plenty of chocolate on a low-carb diet, as long as you buy their brand. They’re full of carbohydrates. Don’t be fooled.
Another crucial time for protein is before bed. While sleeping the body releases a flood of anabolic hormones such as growth hormone and testosterone. This is yet another time when steps can be taken to preserve muscle while dieting. During the night we typically go several hours without eating. For this reason a slowly digesting protein would be best. This will allow a longer steady flow of amino acids that will continue to feed muscle tissue for hours.
Make sure to program your cardio exercise in with your weight training the right way, though — a 2017 study found that performing cardio and weight training workouts on alternate days was far more effective for burning belly fat than stacking the workouts on top of each other in the same session. Put the two together, and watch that unhealthy midsection shrink.
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.
The good news is, running may help you fall asleep easier and more deeply. Numerous studies have found that daily aerobic exercise—specifically the moderate to intense type, like cardio, strength training, and yoga—improves our sleep quality, which helps us avoid the consequences of sleep deprivation such as increased risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolism issues. If you run in the evening, make sure to leave enough time before bed to let your body temperature and heart rate lower, so you don’t feel too revved up to fall asleep.
An increase in fiber intake is also recommended for regulating bowel movements. Other methods of weight loss include use of drugs and supplements that decrease appetite, block fat absorption, or reduce stomach volume. Bariatric surgery may be indicated in cases of severe obesity. Two common bariatric surgical procedures are gastric bypass and gastric banding. Both can be effective at limiting the intake of food energy by reducing the size of the stomach, but as with any surgical procedure both come with their own risks that should be considered in consultation with a physician. Dietary supplements, though widely used, are not considered a healthy option for weight loss. Many are available, but very few are effective in the long term.
When you’re cutting calories, it can be tough to make sure you’re still getting enough of all the good stuff your body runs on. “Nutrient deficiencies can stall or halt weight loss,” says Crandall. She sees lots of patients with low levels of vitamin D, for example, a nutrient that is critical to parathyroid hormone function—it helps with weight regulation. If you’re not eating a well-balanced diet, a multivitamin can be a good way to bridge those nutritional gaps and make sure you’re not missing anything that could impede weight loss or muscle building, such as calcium or iron.
The main advantage of the low-carb diet is that it causes you to want to eat less. Even without counting calories most overweight people eat far fewer calories on low carb. Sugar and starch may increase your hunger, while avoiding them may decrease your appetite to an adequate level. If your body wants to have an appropriate number of calories you don’t need to bother counting them. Thus: Calories count, but you don’t need to count them.
"Protein is great for fat loss. It helps build and preserve lean muscle tissue and can increase the amount of calories you burn. It’s also a great source of energy that helps you feel fuller for longer, so you’re less tempted to snack. Good sources include chicken breast, tuna, eggs, milk and chickpeas. And if you’re finding it difficult to avoid snacks that are high in carbohydrates, try substituting them for protein shakes or bars. Remember also to opt for the lean sources of protein because some sources can be high in saturated fat."
According to a small study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, people who slept for 8.5 hours a night for two weeks lost nearly twice as much weight on average than participants who slept 5.5 hours per night, despite the fact that they followed the same diet and workout plan. That's because when you get a good night's sleep, your hunger hormones, like ghrelin and leptin, stay in check. That means you're not going to wake up with a sudden hankering for a bacon, egg, and cheese. (Start working towards your goals with Women's Health's Body Clock Diet.)
Meal prepping takes a few hours a week, but it's worth it: By getting your meals ready ahead of time, you won't be so tempted to order your go-to Chinese takeout when you're tired and hungry after work. "When you plan an entire week of dinner in advance, you're way less likely to go off course and indulge in foods that aren't good for you," says Pamela Salzman, a certified holistic health expert and cooking instructor. And since you planned things out, you'll actually get the protein, fruit, and veggies your body needs — and you'll lose weight in the process.
1. Thermogenic fat loss supplements: These capsules are typically loaded with ingredients that help build heat in the body and increase your fat burning abilities. In a new study in Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, guys who took supps like this saw their resting metabolic rate increase by 7 to 9 percent compared to taking a placebo.