The heat is on, which means your clothes will be coming off. Are you looking your best? Here are 16 ways to burn more calories and lose fat faster this summer.
Water is the best weight-loss agent on the market. Dehydration slows the fat-burning process and has negative effects on your muscles and joints.
Your weight, diet, workouts, metabolism, and even altitude will influence your hydration needs. Judge hydration by the color of your urine. If it's pale yellow or clear, you're good.
Staying well hydrated can also keep you from feeling hungry. "Thirst is often mistaken for hunger," says Gaspari athlete Ashley Kaltwasser, an IFBB Bikini pro. "If you're feeling hungry, you could actually be slightly dehydrated. If you suspect this may be the case, drink a few glasses of water before you eat."
2. Don't Be A Crash-Diet Dummy
Although fad diets can help you shred quickly, your lean body won't last long. As soon as you increase your calories to a reasonable level, you'll be worse off than you were before.
Using a diet you can maintain is the best way to lose fat. Legitimate diets may not bring overnight results, but they will mean safe, effective, and long-lasting gains.
3. Eat Frequently
Try spreading your calories across smaller, more frequent meals. Bodybuilding legend Rich Gaspari explains, "When my goal is to shed fat, I make sure I eat 6-8 times per day and keep my portions small. The increased meal frequency is great for boosting metabolism."
But eating frequently isn't as important as the quality of your food. Gaspari athlete Collin Wasiak, an IFBB pro, says, "Quality is key. Complex carbs, healthy fats, and lean proteins spaced evenly throughout your day gives your metabolism a boost, which in turn promotes fat loss."
4. Dial In Your Nutrition
Make sure you're covering your bases in the nutrition department. Read labels and keep track of your protein, carb, and calorie intake. Make sure to get plenty of protein to lower hunger, increase your metabolism, and maintain lean tissue.
Steam your food or sauté in a little avocado oil. To add flavor, use vinegars, herbs, and spices instead of fatty, sugary sauces.
When you dine out, ask to have your food grilled, steamed, or broiled instead of fried. Avoid heavy dressings, frilly desserts, alcoholic drinks, and fatty appetizers, which tend to be calorie bombs. Go places that have healthy options and read the menu before you go.
5. Lift Better
The harder you train and the more muscle you have on your body, the more energy you burn. But don't sacrifice good form for heavier weight. Kaltwasser advises: "If you aren't using good form, you aren't stressing the muscles as you need to in order to benefit."
The more muscle fibers that you stimulate during a movement, the more calories you burn and the more mass you build. Include compound lifts like the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, and row in your program.
Another way to activate more muscle fibers is to do exercises that require balance. Your stabilizing muscles will be recruited to keep you from falling over.
6. Don't Skip Pre- and Post-Workout Meals
Skipping your pre-workout meal can decrease calorie burning because you won't be able to exercise as intensely. It's OK to do fasted cardio when you don't need to go all out, but running on empty can hold back your lifting and other workouts that require a lot of power.
The post-workout meal is also critical for improving recovery, building muscle, and re-energizing after a tough lifting session.
7. Be Strategic About Cardio
Being intentional about your cardio workouts can help you burn body fat. Try one of these strategies to get the most out of your treadmill time.
Post-Workout Cardio: When Wasiak really wants to dial-in for a show, he does cardio after he lifts. "Performing cardio post-workout has helped me increase my fat-burning potential because I'm burning through my glycogen stores," he explains.
Fasted Cardio: Gaspari has a different style: "I prefer to do cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. When I want to get ripped, I start with 20-30 minutes, five times per week. As fat loss slows, I add 10 minutes each session."
HIIT: Instead of slogging away on the treadmill for an hour, do high-intensity interval training (HIIT). By alternating periods of all-out effort and recovery, you can shred maximal calories in minimal time. Check out the full guide to HIIT to learn more.
8. Shorten Your Rest Periods
Gaspari lives by this rule. "In the weight room, I shorten my rest periods and use advanced techniques like supersets, compound sets, and dropsets to build muscle and burn fat. The key here is to keep training hard and heavy," he says. "Don't trick yourself into thinking that you have to use really light weights and high reps. If you put your mind to it, you can still train just as heavy at a fast pace."
Aim to lift a weight that fatigues you within 8-10 reps, using rest periods of 45-60 seconds.
Cardio Acceleration: You can even eliminate your rest periods altogether with cardio acceleration. It basically turns your regular strength workout into HIIT by doing extra exercises when you would normally rest.
A 2008 study at the University of California found that cardio acceleration was better for increasing strength and dropping body fat than traditional resistance and aerobic training.
Add 1-2 minutes of high-intensity cardio between each straight set and superset, or between transitions from one exercise to another.
- Running in place
- Jumping jacks
- Mountain climbers
- Jumping rope
- Kettlebell swings
- Battle ropes
9. Move More
Too much sitting is correlated with weakened gluteal (butt) muscles, poor hip function, and lower-back pain. Find ways to break up long periods of sitting, like when you're at work or watching TV at night.
During the work day, look for any excuse to be more active: Pace while you're on the phone, walk to speak to a co-worker, go get a glass of water, or just stand up and stretch for a minute.
Take the same approach at home. When you're binge-watching TV, get up and move around between episodes or during commercials. If you tend to be glued to your phone, try stretching or doing wall sits while you scroll.
10. Sleep More
People who sleep less at night suffer a slower metabolism, a lower testosterone release, and a higher level of hunger throughout the day. All of these factors will work against you if you're trying to lean down.
Prioritize sleep like you would your workouts. The more high-quality sleep you get, the more energy you can throw into your training.
11. Stress Less
Too much stress can cause you to binge eat, drink more alcohol, and sleep poorly. Stress also causes a surge in the fat-storing hormone cortisol. High cortisol can translate into muscle breakdown and extra belly fat.
Schedule some stress-beating activities. Read, chat with a friend, or take a nap. The better you can control stress, the faster you'll see progress in your fat levels.
12. Stack These Supplements
Protein: Any time you make fat loss your goal, you risk losing fat-burning muscle tissue along with the soft stuff. A whey protein powder can help you hold on to lean mass, which is beneficial for fat loss.
BCAAs: Taking BCAAs before and after your workout can help preserve lean muscle tissue. Plus, they can aid recovery and encourage you to stay hydrated.
Fat Burners: Fat burners will help accelerate your metabolism and get your body in a thermogenic state. They will also help keep your energy up throughout the day. Fat burners are supplements, meant to enhance a proper training and nutrition program. They won't do the work for you.
Green Tea: Consider swapping your coffee for green tea. A study published by the American Journal for Clinical Nutrition shows that consuming green tea slightly lifts overall 24-hour energy expenditure and increases rates of fat oxidation throughout the body. What this means for you is more efficient fat burning and a higher metabolism all day.
13. Ditch The Scale
"The number on the scale is just a mind game," says Kaltwasser. "Don't let it determine what kind of day you'll have." Remember: Your weight can fluctuate daily, and you can gain muscle weight while losing body fat.
Instead, use the mirror, your clothes, and how you feel to measure your improvements, and don't stress about day-to-day fluctuations.
14. Carb Up Now And Then
Eating very low-carb for a long time can slow your metabolism and make you hungrier. One or two carbohydrate refeeds per week will keep you sane and keep your weight loss moving forward.
This technique is a type of carb cycling, or varying the amount of carbohydrates you eat. Eat high-carb on your hardest workout days, like leg or back day.
Researchers at University Hospital in South Manchester, England, found that women who followed a very low-carbohydrate diet two days a week—and included carbs the rest of the week—lost an average of 14 pounds over six months. Women on a steady calorie-restricted diet lost 12 pounds in that time.
Another option is to drop carbohydrates in the evening. You need carbs for energy to make it through the day, but you don't need them to sit on the couch and watch movies at night. If this approach affects your sleep, try eating low-carb early in the day and having your carbs in the evening instead. You'll still end up eating fewer carbs than if you were having them at every meal.
15. Cheat Wisely
Keep your cheats reasonable so they don't derail your progress. Exercise portion control, remember to stay on a cheat schedule, and don't cheat when it isn't cheat day! Having your cheat day pre-planned keeps you motivated and makes it easy to prevent those out-of-control, all-night cookie benders.
If possible, find healthy ways to satisfy cravings, like low-calorie ice cream and protein brownies. But if these imposters don't quite do it for you and you really just want some ice cream, then have some ice cream—but follow the guidelines above.
16. Keep Your Head in the Game
Make sure to set realistic goals and monitor your progress. "I'm a big proponent for reaching for the stars, but at some point you have to respect your limitations," says Kaltwasser.
Your physique goals should be attainable. If you have 50 pounds of fat to lose, don't expect to lose it this month. If you focus on smaller steps as you go, you'll find better long-term success. BodySpace is a great tool for watching your progress and staying motivated.
Progress requires consistency, so stay focused. Wasiak explains, "Maintaining proper nutrition and training programs that are catered to your body and your goals will consistently promote fat loss." If you stick to your plan for at least a month, the quality of your results will surprise you.
Check out Bodybuilding.com All Access for fat-loss workouts and nutrition plans at all levels. The free articles on Bodybuilding.com also have a ton of information and motivation.
Losing body fat to get shredded may not always be easy, but it's always worth it. Keep your eyes on the prize!
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- Davis, W. J., Wood, D. T., Andrews, R. G., Elkind, L. M., & Davis, W. B. (2008). Concurrent training enhances athletes' strength, muscle endurance, and other measures. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 22(5), 1487-1502.
- Dulloo, A. G., Duret, C., Rohrer, D., Girardier, L., Mensi, N., Fathi, M., ... & Vandermander, J. (1999). Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 70(6), 1040-1045.
- Harvie, M. N., Pegington, M., Mattson, M. P., Frystyk, J., Dillon, B., Evans, G., ... & Howell, A. (2011). The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: a randomized trial in young overweight women. International Journal of Obesity, 35(5), 714-727.