“One of the most under-appreciated magic fat-burning elixirs is water,” says Ajia Cherry, personal trainer and Founder at Functional Innovative Training. “As soon as you wake up in the morning, grab a glass. Every time you eat, drink a full glass of water before and during bites. The more water you drink, the fuller you will feel, the easier it is to cut back on unnecessary calories. That’s an essential element of weight and fat loss,” she explains. Other trainers concur. “Every chemical reaction in your body needs water,” celebrity trainer and creator of Methodology X Dan Roberts notes. “Even if you’re just mildly dehydrated, that could affect your fat metabolism and your performance in the gym.”
‘Lastly, if your nutrition is on point but you still have excess tummy fat, then you need to look at your training. There’s a real craze for high-intensity workouts and really pushing yourself at the moment, but training is a stress on the body, and if you’re not giving it the tools to manage that stress and recover from it, then it can lead things like excess belly fat.
Like protein, fiber slows the rate at which your body plows through carb calories so you feel full for longer and maintain steadier blood sugar levels, one reason why research consistently links fiber intake to weight loss. That means fibrous whole grain bread tends to be a better choice than white bread and also explains why fruits, which contain fiber and valuable vitamins in addition to sugar, beat straight-up candy every time.
Once you’ve established a regular cardio routine, add two or three weight training sessions on nonconsecutive days to your weekly workouts; everyone naturally gains some fat as they age, but building muscle tone can significantly slow the production of belly fat. In a study conducted at the University of Minnesota, overweight women who did twice-weekly strength training routines that included eight to 10 exercises of major muscle groups, from biceps curls to leg presses, gained 67 percent less visceral fat over two years than women who didn’t do strength training regularly.
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?
Try adding apple cider vinegar to your daily diet. “Foods that help keep blood sugar stable aid fat loss,” says Lauren Slayton, MS RD founder of Foodtrainer in NYC. “When blood sugar rises, insulin is secreted. The more insulin secreted, the more fat we store.” Slayton recommends mixing 1 tablespoon ACV in water and topping it with a little cinnamon, while Bonnie Micheli and Tracy Roemer, Co-Founders of Shred415, like to mix hot water with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, ½ tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of honey. “It suppresses your appetite and reduces water retention,” they explain.
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.
The upgrade is a touch steeper than it is for other tracking app upgrades — most run $4–5 per month. But we found that those inexpensive alternatives were chaotically organized and slow to respond, elements that had us avoiding opening them at all. SparkPeople and Lose It! both came with lots of lag time and finicky search bars that made us hesitant to launch the apps, let alone log in three or more times a day.
Foods are given a certain point value, which is determined by how many nutrients it provides. As long as you stay within your point limit, you should lose weight. Weight Watchers is known for having a large community that is active and vibrant. You can attend weekly meetings near you or online, and the Connect app gives you further opportunities to connect with other users. If you want additional assistance, you can pay more for personal coaching. Like with many other online dieting services, there is a start-up fee in addition to the monthly payments. Our testers found this service to be very motivating and satisfying. Part of this motivation comes from company-hosted weight loss challenges, exercise plans, portion control tools and a dining-out guide. Weight Watchers doesn't provide a calorie tracker since it works on a points system, which makes it different from most other diet services out there. It helps you track your eating and activity, and it allows you to view progress reports, but there are no exercise tips.
When it comes to food, there is evidence that men and women’s brains are wired differently. In a study published in the January 2009 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, even though women said they weren’t hungry when asked to smell, taste, and observe treats such as pizza, cinnamon buns and chocolate cake, brain scans showed activity in the regions that control the drive to eat (not the case for men).
Markwald, R. R., Melanson, E. L., Smith, M. R., Higgins, J., Perreault, L., Eckel, R. H., & Wright, Jr., K. P. (2013, April 2). Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(14), 5695–5700. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3619301/
Yeah, we just told you to pump iron, but you also need to eat it. "If you don't have enough of this mineral, your body can't get enough oxygen to your cells, which slows down your metabolism," explains Samantha Heller, R.D., a nutritionist at the New York University Medical Center. Most multivitamins contain around 18 mg (the RDA for adults); you can also get your fill by eating three to four daily servings of foods rich in iron, such as lean red meat, chicken, fortified cereal, and soy nuts. If you're feeling symptoms like fatigue and weakness, ask your doctor to test you for anemia (it's a simple blood test) at your next physical.
There’s also the impact fiber has on your gut health. By now you’ve likely heard of the microbiome—the trillions of bacteria that live in your digestive tract. It turns out that a predominance of certain strains of bacteria may encourage inflammation and weight gain, and eating fiber-rich foods can favorably shift this balance. While it’s too soon to say that changing your microbial makeup will prompt weight loss, it’s likely to send a “hey, stop gaining weight,” message.
And some emotional eaters, in an effort to feel better, are prone to reach for foods that will ignite the reward center of the brain, which tend to be the sugary, fatty, salty, hyper-palatable foods that can lead to weight gain, says Pamela Peeke, author of the “The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction.”
To prep his patients for success, Dr. Seltzer tells them to plan around a large evening meal by eating a lighter breakfast and lunch—NBD since most people who eat a meal before bed tend to wake up feeling relatively full, he says. Research suggests balanced bedtime meals may also promote steady next-day blood sugar levels, which also helps with appetite regulation.
Then, there’s biochemistry. In women, ghrelin — the “I’m hungry” hormone — spikes after a workout, while leptin — which tells the brain ‘I’m full!’ — plummets, according to a 2009 study in the American Journal of Physiology — Regulatory, Integral and Comparable Physiology. Not so in men. So post-workout, women tend to eat more, which puts them at risk to gain weight. Men don’t experience this same hormonal fluctuation.
After dinner, wash all the dishes, wipe down the counters, turn out the light, and, if necessary, tape closed the cabinets and refrigerator. Late-evening eating significantly increases the overall number of calories you eat, a University of Texas study found. Learning how to stop late-night snacking can save 300 or more calories a day, or 31 pounds a year.
"I use low-fat Greek yogurt in place of mayo in recipes, and it tastes great," says Krystal Sanders, who went from 185 pounds to 110 by coming up with healthy versions of her favorite restaurant foods. "It can also be used as a sour cream substitute." The possibilities are endless when it comes to this tasty staple, but you can start with these dessert recipes.
Women usually need fewer calories than men, especially as they age. That's because women naturally have less muscle, more body fat, and are usually smaller than men. On average, adult women need between 1,600 and 2,400 calories a day. As you age, you need to take in fewer calories to maintain the same weight. You can also keep your weight healthy by increasing how much physical activity you get.
With this eating style, you’re looking at a lot of menu planning and preparation. A review published in August 2017 in Nutrients suggests the diet could lead to weight loss, but the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics warns the plan could also cause certain nutrient deficiencies, such as in calcium and vitamin D. (3,4) And, therefore, according to an article published in the January–February 2016 issue of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, anyone at risk for osteoporosis should avoid it. (5)
People were not asked to count calories at all. Over the course of a year, both groups attended 22 classes reinforcing these very sound principles — and all participants had access to health educators who guided them in behavioral modification strategies, such as emotional awareness, setting goals, developing self-efficacy (also known as willpower), and utilizing social support networks, all to avoid falling back into unhealthy eating patterns.
It’s a well-known fact that simple carbohydrates like white sugar and the corn syrup found in many commercial soft drinks is a leading cause of weight-gain, particularly around the midsection. However, less known is the fact that many sugar substitutes contain chemicals that – when ingested – are stored in and preserve your fat cells (as well as a long list of other health detriments!) For an all-natural alternative to sugar, try adding Stevia to your food. This leaf extract has virtually no calories and is free of harmful chemicals found in most sugar substitutes. While refined Stevia is widely available in most grocery stores, whole leaf offers more health benefits!
Marie Rose Yardis, 38, wishes she'd known from the start that there's no need to go as low as possible with calories. "I worked with a trainer that told me I had to increase calories to support my workouts," she says. "It felt impossible, but I did it and lost a good amount of weight as a result! We all see in the media that cutting calories equals a smaller body. But when you are combining your nutrition habits with tough training sessions, you can really do a disservice to your body by underfeeding it!" (More on that here: Exactly How to Cut Calories to Lose Weight Safely)
As funny as it sounds, sleep deprivation may make you fat — and not just because you're susceptible to cases of the late-night munchies (although there's that too). There's tons of research that demonstrates getting less than the desired amount — about 7 hours — of sleep per night can slow down your metabolism. Plus, when you're awake for longer, you're naturally more likely to nosh. So don't skimp on your ZZZs, and you'll be rewarded with an extra edge when it comes to shedding pounds quickly.
People often cut out dairy when dieting, but cow’s milk has a lot of the nutrients that are essential to fat burning, including vitamin D and calcium. It’s also a great source of protein, which you need to build lean muscle, which is why experts say milk is a better post-workout drink than other beverages. Some research suggests that chugging moo juice after exercise results in more muscle gain and fat loss than drinking energy drinks. Find out more calcium-rich foods that are natural fat-burners.
Since muscle mass actually increases your metabolic rate, building muscle through weight training increases your caloric burn, says Alberty Matheny, C.S.C.S., R.D., and co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab. To increase your muscle mass, he suggests doing three to four sets of exercises like bicep curls, triceps pull downs, squats, lunges, bench presses, and upright rows. Perform eight to 12 reps per set, taking a 45 to 90 second breaks between sets. Tackle this sequence three times per week and increase the weight and sets to keep making progress as you get stronger, he says.
Studies show that eating breakfast plays a part in successful weight loss — almost 80 percent of people who successfully keep weight off chow down on this meal, according to a study published in Obesity Research. "Your metabolism slows as you sleep, and the process of digesting food revs it up again," explains Heller. Aim for a 300- to 400-calorie breakfast, such as a high-fiber cereal (another metabolism booster) with skim milk and fruit.
After a cancer diagnosis sent her normally healthy lifestyle off-course, flight attendant Tracey Z. Dickson was heavier than she had ever been. When she was declared cancer-free, she hopped back on the treadmill and got her diet in order—and went from 158 pounds to 117. One of her diet secrets? "Instead of dessert, I'll have a baked sweet potato sprinkled with cinnamon," she says. "It tastes like I'm eating sweet potato pie, but for a ton less calories." For more healthy ideas on how to get your sugar fix, check out these desserts with 150 calories (or less).
You don’t have to go low-carb to ditch those extra pounds around your waist in a short period of time. In fact, opting for more whole grains might just get you there faster. Researchers at Tufts University have linked eating three or more daily servings of whole grains to as much as a 10 percent reduction in visceral body fat, the kind that ups your risk for chronic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Good news: You might not be as flabby around the middle as you think, says Roberts. “Many people are just bloated,” he says. Focusing on eliminating your bloat can work wonders in terms of achieving a flatter stomach. Some people may need to cut out gluten, while others will see results when they eliminate dairy, he says. And then there are people who without sensitivities who can see results by simply reducing their salt intake and eating foods high in potassium, a powerful mineral that’s been shown help the body rid itself of excess sodium. Bananas, avocados and fresh figs are all potent sources of the nutrient.
More importantly, though, strength training does wonders for your body. It helps make bones denser, critical because our bones become weaker as we age, increasing the risk of osteoporosis — of the 10 million Americans suffering from the disease, 80 percent are women. (4) Strength training helps build lean muscle tissue, helping you lose more weight all over, including the dreaded belly fat. It also reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. (5)
"About a year ago, I went to the doctor for my annual exam. I had just turned 30, and the number on the scale was the highest it had ever been, and my cholesterol was high," says Lauren Zarzour, 31. "I joined Weight Watchers and ClassPass. I'm now 30 pounds lighter and have developed a better understanding of nutrition and a passion for the gym. I've learned how much more you value food when every day isn't an indulgence, and how amazing it is to be strong. I wish I would have known how easy it could be, but I don't think it would have been easy if I hadn't had that epiphany." (Related: How to Rekindle Your Weight-Loss Motivation)
Cinnamon contains powerful antioxidants called polyphenols that are proven to alter body composition and improve insulin sensitivity. A Metabolism journal study showed that the addition of dietary cinnamon can activate thermogenesis and potentially help you burn fat. Add it to your overnight oats or sprinkle some in your coffee to reap the benefits.
Needless to say, not getting enough rest leaves you feeling exhausted and hinders physical performance. What you may not realize is that nervous function, hormone production, and metabolism are also crippled due to lack of quality sleep. If your nervous system can’t function at full capacity, you’re far more likely to work slower, stress more, exercise less, and eat things that you shouldn’t because you’re in a hurry. Furthermore, inadequate rest can impair the production of key hormones responsible for the metabolism of fat cells.
“While it’s far from conventional, replacing your fork with chopsticks is a simple way to slow down the eating process, which will help you take in less food,” says celebrity personal trainer and diet expert Jay Cardiello. “It takes approximately 20 minutes for your brain to register if you’re full, and using a fork is an easy way to overload your stomach. Using chopsticks will help you slow down.”
We’ve now arrived at tip number 16. If you’re still having trouble losing weight, despite following the 15 pieces of advice listed above, it might be a good idea to bring out the heavy artillery: optimal ketosis. Many people stalling at weight plateaus while on a low-carb diet have found optimal ketosis helpful. It’s what can melt the fat off once again.
Not only does strength training tone your body and help to prevent injuries, but it also increases your metabolism for days after the fact, meaning you'll burn more calories even after the workout is finished. To supplement her cardio training, Goetke started lifting weights. "It totally transformed my body," she says. The extra calorie burn will help the pounds melt right off of you.
It can be harder to lose weight after menopause. In fact, many women gain an average of 5 pounds after menopause.5 Lower estrogen levels may play a role in weight gain after menopause. But weight gain may be caused by your metabolism slowing down as you age, less-healthful eating habits, and being less active. You also lose muscle mass as you age, so you use fewer calories.