More women perform cardio as a means to lose weight than men. This is not a stereotype—it’s reality. That’s not to say men aren’t equally guilty. (We spent part of an entire chapter in Engineering the Alpha busting the cardio-fat loss myth.) It's true cardio helps you burn calories… but so does eating. So that’s not the issue; you want to find the most efficient ways to burn calories and more importantly fat. And you want to build a body that makes it easier for you to enjoy the foods you love, right?
Weight training is the ultimate way to burn calories fast. "A pound of muscle burns up to nine times the calories of a pound of fat," explains Richard Cotton, M.A., chief exercise physiologist for myexerciseplan.com. Weight training increases your resting metabolic rate, which is the number of calories you burn while sitting on your butt. What's more, it gives your metabolism an added boost after you exercise, staying in overdrive for up to two hours after the last bench press, according to a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Strapped for time? Try these quick moves: squats, bench step-ups, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups and planks. In a pinch, just do single sets of 10 for each exercise — you'll get optimal results for the time invested.
The equation is simple: Protein builds muscle. More muscle = more fat burning. And fish is one of the healthiest sources of lean protein—especially wild salmon, says dietitian Lauren Minchen. It’s a rich source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which fuel fat burning, block fat storage and aid weight loss, she explains. But that’s not all: “Getting enough protein and healthy fat also helps to reduce cravings and has been shown to help keep weight off for longer,” adds Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Alissa Rumsey. Just make sure you’re buying the right kind of fish by reading this special report: 8 Mistakes You’re Making When Buying Salmon!
If you don’t have an established exercise routine, simply walking is the best first step toward weight loss. “Walking is a pretty good entry point for people,” says Gagliardi. This is particularly true if you have been out of the gym for a while and want to ease back into a workout routine. One small study published in The Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry found that obese women who did a walking program for 50 to 70 minutes three days per week for 12 weeks significantly slashed their visceral fat compared to a sedentary control group.
The trick here is not only to avoid all obvious sources of carbohydrate (sweets, bread, spaghetti, rice, potatoes), but also to be careful with your protein intake. If you eat large amounts of meat, eggs and the like, the excess protein will be converted into glucose in your body. Large amounts of protein can also raise your insulin levels somewhat. This compromises optimal ketosis.
Dairy products contain varying amounts of lactose (milk sugar), which slows down weight loss. What’s more, part of the protein in milk generates a significant insulin response, which can have the same effect. Consequently, cutting back on dairy products may accelerate weight loss. This applies especially to dairy products typically lacking in fat, such as regular milk and various yogurts, but be careful with full-fat dairy such as cream and cheese all the same. And don’t forget whey protein powder, which is pure milk protein.
Losing belly fat shouldn’t mean strict dieting or deprivation. “People often think that you have to eat certain foods or avoid certain foods [to lose weight] and in reality, it comes down to eating more of a balanced diet that is portion- and calorie-controlled,” says Zeratsky. “This allows your body to have enough energy to do what it wants to do while managing weight.”
A $70 billion industry has grown fat off answering the question of what is the best way to lose weight. Scientists at the University of Toronto studied 59 weight-loss research articles and clinical studies from 48 randomized control trials to answer this question, and their conclusion was simple: The best diet is whatever you can stick to. The scientists found that each diet program produced similar weight loss on average. The success of the diet was based on how well the participants were able to adhere to it. Ultimately it doesn't matter if the diet is low-carb, high-fat, paleo, vegan or a point system like Weight Watchers; the most effective weight-loss diet is the one you’re able to stick to in the long term.
Luckily, that doesn’t mean you need to dedicate even more time exercising. In fact, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts can slash the time commitment while boosting results. HIIT workouts last about 20 minutes and combine bursts of super-intense exercise with slower recovery phases. This type of workout has been found to help people lose more fat once the workout is over, even though they burn less calories during the workout (since workouts are shorter) and also build muscle, rather than break it down the way conventional cardio does. (3)
Getting your workout in first thing can burn more fat than sweating it out later in the day. When you first wake up, carbohydrates, your body’s preferred energy choice, are in short supply, so your muscles are forced to burn fat for fuel, a process known as ketosis. For men, they’re an added boost because testosterone levels are highest in the a.m., allowing guys to push a little harder during their workouts. Here’s how many minutes you need to exercise to burn fat all day long.
Researchers gave healthy but obese men one of two “high protein” diets. Protein was kept to 30% of total calories in both diets, but the amount of carbohydrate and fat was varied. In the first diet—which they called “low carbohydrate”—the carbohydrate content was kept to a very low 4%, with the rest of the calories coming from fat. In the second diet—which they called “moderate carbohydrate”—the carbohydrate content was kept to 35%, with the rest coming from fat.
There’s a large spectrum of where people can fall on a vegetarian diet: For example, vegans consume no animal products, whereas ovo-lacto vegetarians eat both dairy and eggs. The eating style may help with weight loss, suggests a review published in August 2017 in Nutrients, but some vegans and vegetarians may become deficient in specific nutrients, such as calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, according to an article published in December 2017 in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. (23,24)
Processed foods are one of the biggest sources of salt in Americans’ diets—and the scary part is you probably don’t even realize it. Because of the way these addictive foods are formulated, salt is hidden in everything from soups to pasta sauces to even sweet things like boxed cakes. Swap out processed foods in favor of fresh fare and your tummy will thank you. Not only will you lose the salt-bloat but you’ll also lose the extra empty calories and lose weight. Learn about these 50 more ways you can lose weight without a lick of exercise.