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.
Replace your weekly cardio session with circuit resistance training to whittle your middle. “High-intensity circuit training with dynamic movements is one of my favorite ways to build muscle and burn fat all over the body, says Rich. “There is no possible way to spot-reduce fat, so it’s important to train the entire body to lose fat overall. Performing moves like burpees, jump squats, mountain climbers and fast push-ups are great examples. If you have 40 minutes to work out, do twenty minutes of cardio and twenty minutes of circuit resistance training. You’re sure to see the difference in your body.”
A common misconception amongst many female fitness enthusiasts is that steady-state cardio in the "fat burning zone" is ideal for weight loss. Spending two hours on the treadmill may seem like it'll get you bikini-worthy bod—more minutes, more calories, right? However, while steady-state cardio has many benefits, it isn't the most effective way to reduce body fat.
Do the Mediterranean diet. Any diet will work at first if you consume fewer calories than you burn. This does not mean that the diet is necessarily sustainable or healthy, but you will lose weight in the short term. A plan like the Mediterranean diet may be able to help you sustain weight loss. It is based on the traditional ingredients and cooking styles of people living near the Mediterranean sea. Research has shown that people adhering to this diet have reduced risk of heart disease - plus it helps you shed pounds and look lean and trim. Focus on eating the following foods (and eliminate bread, dairy, and processed foods):
When a client is looking to shed fat, registered dietitian and personal train Jim White will often suggest that they keep a food journal. “This really makes a person more aware of what and how much they’re eating and prevents mindless munching,” says White. “Food diaries also help people identify areas where they can make changes that will help them lose weight and inches. Food diaries can also help people discover patterns that lead to overeating.”
Many women fall short in their protein intake, according to Precision Nutrition, but getting enough protein can actually help you shed pounds. Protein takes more energy to digest than carbs or fats, so including more of it in your diet actually boosts your metabolism. And protein also provides nutritional support for your workouts, so you can build sleek, lean muscle tissue to get a toned appearance.
Create a calorie deficit through your diet. Eating fewer calories than you use makes your body use the fat storage in your belly to provide energy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories daily for 1 to 2 pounds in weight loss. To lose belly fat fast, aim for at least a calorie reduction of a 1,000 calories daily.
But just because belly fat comes off a bit more easily doesn’t make it less dangerous. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. “Belly fat is unfortunately the most dangerous location to store fat,” says Dr. Cheskin. Because belly fat—also known as visceral fat, or the deep abdominal fat that surrounds your organs—is more temporary, it’s more active in terms of circulating in the bloodstream. That means it’s likely to raise the amount of fat in your blood (known as blood lipid levels) and increase your blood sugar levels, which as a result raises your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
While you can get tests to evaluate the cortisol level in your blood, only you can determine your own innate level of stress. Take some time to evaluate if you are living in a constant (or close to constant) state of stress. You might also notice increased anxiety levels, mood swings, trouble sleeping, fatigue (including feeling tired but unable to wind down) and high blood pressure.
A 2012 study in the Journal of Functional Foods found that people who drank one and a half cups of green tea enriched with a total of 609 milligrams of catechins (a group of antioxidants that have been shown to help burn fat cells) every day for 12 weeks lost almost 16 times as much visceral fat as those who consumed green tea without the added antioxidants. To achieve similar results with store-bought green tea, you’ll need to brew two to four cups daily (many varieties can contain 160 to 470 milligrams of catechins per cup).
Similar to the CICO diet, the Body Reset has gained popularity via social media, and there isn’t any definitive research that suggests the approach is safe and effective. Celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak created the plan, which is essentially a three-phase liquid diet comprised of smoothies and moderate exercise. While U.S. News notes you may lose weight on the diet, it may be tough to stick with, and isn’t safe for people with diabetes and heart disease. (38)
Swapping out unhealthy foods for nutritious ones gives you benefits beyond just losing weight. "I cleaned up my diet, swapping deli sandwiches with high-sodium meat and mayo for Tupperware containers or big butter-lettuce salads topped with carrots, walnuts, feta, and homemade dressing," says Jennifer Lasher, who lost 75 pounds. "I found that ditching processed foods left me with more energy, a clear head, and better skin, too."
If you’re routinely skimping on the recommended seven to nine hours, or you have difficulty falling or staying asleep, it’s time to get serious about your bedtime rituals. Your better-sleep strategy includes: limiting caffeine past the early afternoon; sticking to alcohol caps of one drink for women, two for men (since alcohol can interfere with the quality of your sleep); and staying off the phone and iPad within an hour of bedtime.
5. Start with one small change. "I realized that a lot of sugar and calories that I consumed came from drinks, so I challenged myself to drink only water—no sugary drinks!—for 30 days. After just one successful week, I decided to add another challenge: to cut back on the carbs I was eating. When I did eat bread, I switched to wheat bread and when I wanted rice, I used brown rice."
And that’s not just the junk food sabotaging your diet, or the time suckers keeping you from working out. We’re also talking about the fad diets, fitness trends and questionable studies that have made reaching and maintaining a healthy weight more confusing than ever by promising this superfood or that super intense workout is the quick fix to tip the scale in your favor. (They’ve also spawned a $66 billion weight loss market.)
Fibrous foods are as close to a “miracle belly flattening pill” as we have. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, particularly those high in soluble fiber, have been proven to reduce fat around your midsection. In addition, these foods fill you up so you eat less, flattening your stomach over time. Try one of these 5 easy ways to turn off your fat genes and keep the weight off for good.