Looking to kick things up a notch in the weight-loss department? If you've hit a fat-loss slump, don't let those holiday pounds get you down! Cutting out that extra layer of fat might be easier than you think. Most people are missing just a few key elements in their fat-burning arsenal to transform sluggish progress into soaring results.
Get moving in the right direction with these 50 tips and tricks to help jump-start your 2014 transformation!
Cycle Your Carbs
You don't need to cut out all pasta and bread to drop unwanted weight. You just need to time your carbohydrate intake more effectively. Enter carb cycling. It's a simple concept: Boost your carb intake on the days you exercise and cut back on carbs on the days you do not.
Carbohydrate cycling may be a wiser approach than straight low-carb dieting because it will allow you to maintain a higher metabolic rate over time while providing the muscle glycogen needed to fuel intense exercise.
Stick with complex, high-protein carbs such as beans and quinoa, plus vegetables and limited fruits.
Increase Your Protein Intake By 15 Percent
Protein has a higher thermic effect than carbohydrates or dietary fats, which means that you net fewer calories overall because protein costs more energy to digest. Roughly 20-35 percent of calories consumed from protein are burned through the digestive process, compared to 5-15 percent with carbs and 0-5 percent with fats. Protein also has greater appetite suppression properties, helping you calm hunger pangs before they start.
Transition to Interval Training
Kick-start fat loss with intervals! Skip steady-state cardio and alternate between periods of all-out intensity and low-intensity recovery. This form of cardio will have you burning up calories at lightning speed for hours after the workout session is over.
What's the best part? The high-intensity, fast pace means you can trade time on the treadmill for time with family and friends.
Try integrating interval training into your workout 1-2 times each week. Start with 30 seconds of intense activity, followed by 60 seconds or low-intensity recovery, for 15-20 minutes.
Dropset Isolation Movements
Kick up mere isolation movements with dropsets. Instead of sticking to the same weight and doing biceps curls for 3 sets of 8, for example, implement a heavy weight for your first few sets and, when you hit failure on the final set, drop the weight by 20 percent and keep repping until failure.
If you feel really ambitious, you can drop the weigh again and keep repping. Dropsets burn more calories than traditional sets and can help you build muscle.
Switch To A Full-Body Workout
While isolation exercises have their place, full-body workouts are great for fat loss because they allow maximum muscle group stimulation and cause the greatest calorie expenditure both during and after the workout.
Full-body workouts hit multiple major muscle groups and create greater energy expenditure than their split-routine counterparts. They're ideal for fat loss because they get you working each muscle group multiple times per week without requiring a lot in terms of recovery.1
Start Your Day Off With A Balanced, Larger Breakfast
Eat up to lose weight! According to a study published by the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, people who eat a hearty breakfast have a much easier time controlling their food intake than people who skip the morning meal.
Eating breakfast was also tied to consuming fewer calories over the course of the day and, therefore, losing more weight.2 Yes, this is old-school advice, but it can still help if your fat loss has hit a plateau.
Move Around At Least Once Per Hour
Kiss last year's sedentary lifestyle goodbye! Long periods of extended sitting will crush anyone's metabolic rate in a hurry, so make a concerted effort to get up and move around every hour.
A simple solution like an alarm on your phone can provide an easy reminder. A quick jaunt around the building or walk to grab a cup of coffee can be enough to help spark change.
Log 7-8 Hours Of Sleep Each Night
People who don't get enough sleep at night not only suffer from low energy but have a slower metabolism and less insulin sensitivity—all factors that will move you away from reaching your weight loss goals.
Still not convinced those extra z's help? According to the Mayo Clinic, adults who sleep roughly seven hours per night have a lower mortality rate than adults who sleep much more or less.3
Find A Way To De-Stress
Stress just doesn't just cause sleepless nights or lead to unwanted nail biting. It also increases the secretion or cortisol, the so-called stress hormone.
Chronically elevated cortisol levels can cause reduced immune function, increased blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease, and weight gain.
If you lead a high-stress lifestyle, you're that much more likely to succumb to your food cravings and accumulate additional body fat. Don't fret.
In addition to being more physically active, small changes like laughing and listening to music have been shown to lower cortisol levels.4
Skip Rope Between Strength Sets
Channel your inner child for an added burn. Skipping is a fast fat-burning activity that can easily be added between lifting sets.
Add in some light skipping during your rest periods to supercharge the calorie burn you get from each workout.
Switch To A New Piece Of Cardio Equipment
Don't let your workout routine become stagnant! The body needs variation to keep seeing progress, so abandon your cardio of choice and change things up. Not only will you work a new set of muscles, you'll also stimulate your mind.
Focus on Form
One big mistake many people make as they work out is rushing through the exercises. Do this and you can rest assured that you'll see lackluster results. Proper form is the key to any exercise.
Start slowing down in the gym and really focus on each muscle contracting and relaxing. This will instantly boost the effectiveness of the session.
Set A Timer During Your Workout
Maintaining short and snappy rest periods during your workout is one of the best ways to crank the calorie burn up a notch. Set a timer to go off every 30-45 seconds to ensure you aren't letting your rest periods drag on.
Take A Diet Break
It's OK to occasionally treat yourself. Prolonged periods of dieting can cause your metabolism to slow down, making weight loss grind to a halt.
To boost progress, a short diet break is in order. One week at maintenance calorie intake can help you move forward on a long-term diet.
Add Some Caffeine
Caffeine not only boosts your energy level, giving you that extra jolt of energy needed to dominate intense workouts, but, according to a study by "Obesity Research," high caffeine intake is correlated with increased weight loss and fat oxidation and reduced fat-storing hormones in women.5
Caffeine also has a slight metabolic enhancement effect, meaning that adding a cup of Joe daily can boost your calorie burn.
Eat Salmon Twice Per Week
Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can aid the reduction of total body fat mass by increasing the oxidation of fat for energy.6
In fact, eating 4-5 ounces of salmon twice per week provides you with enough omega-3 fatty acids for the entire week. Salmon is also packed with protein, B vitamins, and 100 percent of your daily intake of vitamin D.
Add Coconut Oil To Your Diet
Of all the fats, coconut is the only one to have a thermic effect similar to protein. Just eating it helps your body burn more calories! Coconut also contains medium-chain triglycerides, which can be immediately used as an energy source in your body, enhancing total body fat loss results.
Buy A Step Counter
Looking to drop some pounds? Step it up. A step counter is a great way to start monitoring the total steps you take on a daily basis, as well as your total calorie expenditure. More movement means more fat burning, so get walking!
Drink Three Cups Of Green Tea Daily
Consider swapping out that afternoon coffee or soda for something healthier. Antioxidant-rich green tea not only helps ward off disease, but people who consume three or more cups daily have been shown to have higher metabolic rates over time.
Use Smaller Plates
The simple act of using smaller plates can help you consume less food, therefore enhancing your health and body weight management. According to a Cornell University study, diners given smaller dishes served themselves smaller portions. Stick to plates roughly 8-9 inches in diameter.
Looking for even more visual cues for portion control? Use darker plates. New research shows that an increased color contrast between the plate and food leads people to eat less.7
Drink Whey Protein Daily
Not all proteins are created equal. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that, when it comes to satiety, whey has the upper hand.8 Consider making a post-workout whey protein shake or adding unflavored whey powder to a greens smoothie for an afternoon snack.
Try A Boot Camp Class
Looking for a way to boost your cardio performance? Consider a boot camp class. These classes combine strength and cardio training, which will help to boost your metabolic rate.
Plus, you'll meet like-minded individuals to help cheer you on during a particularly tough routine or a workout slump.
Always Plan Your Meals Ahead Of Time
Fast, easy food doesn't have to be grease-filled and brown-bagged. Planning your meals ahead of time will help you resist the urge to grab a quick snack from a fast food chain.
Try prepping your meals for the week on Sunday night. Having that Tupperware stacked and ready to go will leave little temptation to stray from your nutrition plan.
Cook with Fresh Herbs and Spices
Rather than resorting to high-calorie condiments, take your meals to the next level with fresh herbs and spices. Adding a bit of oregano, a few sprigs of fresh basil, or some crushed peppercorn to a dish is a fast and easy way to spice up your meal's flavor profile and boost its nutritional content.
Not sure where to start? Consider the following: oregano has a high antioxidant capacity, rosemary may help prevent damage to blood vessels, and ginger may relieve swelling.
Wake Up To High-Fiber Carbohydrates
High-fiber carbohydrates are a perfect way to harness energy to begin your day while keeping blood sugar stable throughout the morning. Oatmeal, quinoa, and buckwheat are all great choices for a morning meal. A cinnamon roll, while delicious, will only spike your blood sugar before driving it to the ground.
Sprinkle on the Cayenne Pepper
Your spice pantry can be crucial to your weight loss quest.
Cayenne pepper contains a compound called capsaicin, which will help elevate your metabolic rate for a few hours after consumption.
Add it whenever you can to the meals you serve up.
Sprinkle Walnuts On Your Salad
Sometimes adding to your meal actually helps promote weight loss. Walnuts are rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein. They'll help fill you up and keep hunger for sweeter things at bay.
Track Your Food Intake
Not tracking your calorie intake? That's your first mistake. Keeping tabs on what you eat takes the guesswork out of fat loss. Start tracking and measuring out your meals and you'll fare far better.
Consider investing in a food scale and make sure measuring spoons and cups are a part of your essential kitchen appliances. Sometimes a little portion awareness is all that's needed to jumpstart results.
Take 10 Minutes To Journal Daily
Never keep anything pent up. Journaling about problems that stress you out can be cathartic and save you from emotional eating. Journaling about your food intake can also make you aware of gaps in your diet. Let the pen lead you to more protein.
Never Shop for Groceries Hungry
Grocery shopping hungry is akin to walking through a bakery when you haven't eaten in hours. Everything will seem delicious! You're basically setting yourself up to pounce on the cookies and cakes. Thwart failure by making a concentrated effort to only buy food on a full stomach.
For added direction, shop only the perimeter of the supermarket where fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy are stored. This will increase the likelihood that you'll eat real food as opposed to processed junk.
Banish Sugary Drinks
There's a reason water should take center stage when it comes to what you're drinking: sugar-laden beverages will crush your fat-loss goals. The extra calories and sky-rocketing sugar content are a fast track to weight gain.
Consume a couple of cans of pop a day and you can rest assured that your calorie intake will be higher than it should. Sugar also spikes your insulin, which stops your body's use of fat for fuel.
Make Snacking Simple
To help promote healthy choices, keep some chopped fresh veggies in your fridge at all times. Pair sliced carrots, celery, and peppers with healthy dips such as a salsa and Greek yogurt combo. Raw vegetables are nutrient-dense but low on total calories.
Put your fork down between bites
Speed eating isn't wise when fat loss is your goal. No matter how busy you are, take time to eat slowly and chew between bites. This way, your brain can register you're full before you pack in an unnecessary second or third helping.
Exercise Before Breakfast
Roll out of bed and reach for your sneakers. Exercising in the morning keeps you consistent and allows you to get up and get moving before you're overwhelmed by the day's tasks.
Make time for 10-15 minutes of exercise first thing in the morning. It'll help jumpstart your metabolic rate and keep your appetite in check.
Sit Down To Eat
We live in a grab-and-go culture, which makes unconscious eating—or eating without thinking—a common challenge. Break the cycle of mindless munching by forcing yourself to sit down for meals. That way, you won't do any stroll-by snacking when you shouldn't.
Stick to Single-Ingredient Foods
As a simple guiding rule to boost weight loss, make an effort to consume only single-ingredient—or whole—foods.
These foods will be in their most natural state and will be void of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. They'll be able to best control your hunger, and be more likely to provide the nourishment you need.
Tune out Distractions While Eating
If you eat while watching TV, reading a magazine, or browsing the web—stop. Eating while distracted can reduce the feelings of satiety you get from foods and can lead to overeating as well. Focus on your meal. Think about the smell, taste, and texture so you feel more satisfied at all times.
Calorie cycling is another great dieting strategy. It can help you stick to an otherwise grueling diet. When you stick to a low-calorie intake for a long period of time, your body may eventually adapt to that calorie intake by slowing down energy metabolism.
Couple your low-calorie days with a few higher-calorie days to keep things chugging and make the diet bearable. After all, the only nutrition plan that works is the one you stick with.
Vary Your Workouts
Workout boredom is one of the biggest reasons people fall off training entirely. Surpass this by making one new workout change each week. This doesn't mean you have to consistently dive outside your comfort zone.
The change can be simple. Consider scoping out a new group fitness class or switch up your cardio from interval sprints to uphill running.
In addition to hitting refresh on your stale routine, integrating change into your workout will subject your body to new stimulus and activate different muscles.
Start With Soup
Broth-based soups are excellent for hunger control and for decreasing your total calorie consumption. Make them appetizers before any big meal. If they're loaded with vegetables, they'll also help increase your total daily fiber and antioxidant intake—all great things for a fat-loss dieter.
Try a New Vegetable Each Week
Dietary boredom is a big reason many people fall off a healthful diet. To overcome this, try adding one new vegetable each week.
You'll add new flavors, textures, and tastes to a meal while keeping your calorie count down and nutrient intake high.
Turn seasonal favorites into flavorful sides or, in the case of things like spaghetti squash, use them as healthy carb replacements.
Predict Potential Roadblocks
To push past hard times, anticipate potential pitfalls before they happen. If you can identify any potential roadblocks that might stand in your way, you can do a better job creating a game plan to help you succeed.
Expecting a winter workout slump? Get a workout buddy to cheer you on and keep you accountable. Know you're not a morning person? Prep breakfast the night before for an easy, nutritious grab-and-go meal.
Rate Your Hunger
Before eating, always take a moment to rate your hunger. Before you rummage through the fridge, ask yourself if you're really hungry or if you're just channelling another emotion—boredom, sadness, happiness—into a craving for food. Taking this intermediate step can mean the difference between binge eating and mindful mealtime.
Eat More Beans
When it comes to weight loss, beans are boss. Beans are a slow-digesting source of complex carbohydrates that are high in fiber, rich in protein, and guaranteed to keep you full.
Avoid the Scale
If you want faster fat-loss success, ditch the scale. Using a scale is a fast way to get frustrated at day-to-day fluctuations in water weight—which are bound to occur. Instead of relying on wavering numbers, opt for a body fat test. Options like the BodPod and underwater testing are far more effective ways to measure your progress.
While you may not need to ditch gluten for health reasons, doing so could help you eliminate some of the foods in your diet that typically cause trouble. Gluten-free diets are high in protein and healthy fats. Fruits and vegetables are stressed as a top priority, so you'll have a healthy intake of fiber and antioxidants. Just don't cram your menu full of gluten-free baked goods.
Read Restaurant Menus Online
Before ordering in a restaurant, check the menu online. Restaurants often post nutritional stats so you can pinpoint the healthiest options ahead of time. Also, remember the basics: Skip creamy dressings, cream-based sauces, fast carbs, and sugary treats.
The minute you put alcohol in your system is the minute fat burning comes to a halt. Not only is alcohol packed with empty calories, but it inhibits fat-burning hormones. If you want to see optimal results, it's vital that you keep alcohol out of the picture as often as possible. Doing so will help keep you leaner and help minimize recovery time between workouts.
Blast Beats While You Exercise
Want a fast and easy way to crank up the intensity of your workout sessions? Pick up the pace by pounding some tunes. Upbeat music has been shown to increase the intensity and speed of your workout. Try tuning in to burn more calories both during—and after—your exercise session.
Smell (And Sip On) Peppermint Tea
The scent of peppermint can have appetite-reducing properties, so take a big whiff of a hot cup of peppermint tea when you crave dessert.
Sugar-free peppermint gum can also help, though tea is significantly more awesome.
- Hill, J.O. et al. (1992). The Role Of Breakfast In The Treatment Of Obesity: A Randomized Clinical Trial. The American Society For Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 55, No. 3
- Delarue, C. et al. (1997). Effect of dietary fish oil on body fat mass and basal fat oxidation in healthy adults. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders. 21(8).
- Hall, et al. (2003). Casein and Whey Exert Different Effects On Plasma Amino Acid Profiles, Gastrointestinal Hormone Secretion and Appetite. British Journal of Nutrition. Vol. 89, 239-248.