We’re all looking for ways to burn more fat. Truth is, it’s hard to do. Weight training, cardio, proper nutrition and supplementation — sometimes it seems we try to do it all right but still can’t shed those last few stubborn pounds. That’s why it’s always good to learn a few extra tips and tricks that can help you tighten and tone your body by kicking your fat-burning furnace into high gear.
1. UP YOUR PROTEIN
We always recommend a high-protein diet that includes a minimum of 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight daily. This is primarily to promote muscle gains, but it also enhances fat loss. Skidmore College (Saratoga Springs, New York) researchers found that when subjects ate a high-protein diet (40% of total daily calories from protein) for eight weeks, they lost significantly more bodyfat, particularly abdominal fat, than those following a low-fat/high-carb diet. One reason eating more protein may work is it boosts levels of peptide YY, a hormone produced by gut cells that travels to the brain to decrease hunger and increase satiety.
2. DON’T BE AFRAID OF FAT
It used to be that to lose fat, we were advised to drop as much fat from our diets as possible. Now we know that certain fats, particularly omega-3 fatty acids, not only don’t lead to fat gain but can actually promote fat loss. Eating fat to lose fat seems counterintuitive, but if you keep your fat intake at about 30% of total daily calories by choosing fatty fish such as salmon, sardines or trout as well as other healthy fat sources such as avocados, olive oil, peanut butter and walnuts, you can further your fat loss compared to eating a low-fat diet.
3. TRAIN WITH HEAVIER WEIGHTS
Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) refers to the increased metabolic rate you enjoy after a workout. How long it lasts can depend on a number of factors, and one of the most critical is how heavy you lift. Scientists at the Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education (Oslo) analyzed multiple studies and found that training with heavier weights for fewer reps produces a greater and longer rise in resting metabolic rate compared to training with lighter weights for more reps. For example, using a weight that limits you to six reps per set will boost EPOC higher longer than using a weight that allows you to complete 12 reps per set. Although most gym-goers believe they should train with higher reps to burn more fat, you still want to train heavy (3–7 reps) some of the time to maximize postworkout calorie- and fat-burning.
4. SAY “YEA” TO CLA
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) can significantly aid fat loss while enhancing muscle mass and strength gains at the same time. Research shows it can even help target ab fat. TRY IT: Take 2–3 grams 2–3 times per day with meals.
5. DRINK COLD WATER
Just drinking plain cold water can help you lose fat. German researchers found that drinking about 2 cups of cold water can boost metabolic rate by about 30%. The effect appears to be due to an increase in norepinephrine release.
6. EAT EGGS
Eggs are packed with protein, and have been shown to enhance muscle strength and mass, but clinical research also supports the idea that those who start their days with eggs have an easier time dropping bodyfat. Subjects who consume eggs for breakfast not only eat fewer calories throughout the day but also lose significantly more bodyfat.
7. SHORTEN YOUR REST PERIODS
Researchers from the College of New Jersey (Ewing) discovered that subjects who rested 30 seconds between sets on the bench press burned just more than 50% more calories compared to when they rested three minutes. So to maximize fat loss, keep your workout moving by resting less than a minute between sets.
8. HIIT IT
The best way to burn the most fat via cardio is with high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This involves intervals of high-intensity exercise (such as running at 90% of your max heart rate) followed by intervals of low-intensity exercise (walking at a moderate pace) or rest. Research confirms that HIIT cardio burns more fat than the typical steady-state cardio most people do at a moderate intensity, such as walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes at 60%–70% of their max heart rates.
9. TRY DAIRY
By now you should know dairy products are rich in calcium and that calcium can help spur fat loss, particularly around your abs. This effect may be due to the fact that calcium regulates the hormone calcitriol, which causes the body to produce fat and inhibit fat-burning. When calcium levels are adequate, calcitriol is suppressed and so is fat production, while fat-burning is enhanced. Another way calcium may promote fat loss is by decreasing the amount of dietary fat absorbed by the intestines. Don’t opt for just animal meats and eggs as your primary sources of protein; add low-fat versions of cottage cheese, milk and yogurt (Greek or plain) to boost protein intake and aid fat loss.
10. CONSUME CARNITINE
This amino-acidlike compound is critical for carrying fat in the body to the mitochondria of cells where it can be burned off. Taking more carnitine when you diet can help ensure you maximize fat-burning, research confirms. Take 1–2 grams of L-carnitine, L-carnitine L-tartrate or GPLC (glycine propionyl-L-carnitine).
11. TRY SOY PROTEIN
of Alabama at Birmingham researchers, they concluded soy protein can aid fat loss, possibly by decreasing appetite and calorie intake. The scientists also found that subjects drinking 20 grams of soy protein daily for three months lost significant abdominal fat, while those consuming 20 grams of casein daily didn’t. BONUS TIP: Try adding 10 grams of soy protein to your pre- and postworkout shakes.
12. SPICE IT UP
Hot peppers such as chili peppers contain the active ingredient capsaicin. This chemical has been shown to increase calorie burn at rest as well as reduce hunger and food intake, and the boost in calorie-burning is enhanced when it’s used with caffeine. Research shows capsaicin also promotes fat-burning during exercise. Try adding hot peppers, crushed red pepper or hot-pepper sauce to meals to burn extra calories and fat. If you can’t stand the heat, try supplements containing capsaicin.
13. USE FREE WEIGHTS
Free-weight exercises, especially multijoint moves like the squat, have been found to burn more calories than similar exercises on machines like the leg press. Scientists concluded the difference may be due to the greater number of stabilizer muscles used during multijoint exercises done with free weights.
14. EAT AN APPLE
Apples are not only a great slow-digesting carb but they also contain beneficial antioxidants. One such group of compounds, apple polyphenols, has been found to increase muscle strength and endurance and even fat loss, especially from the abs. While it appears apple polyphenols directly decrease bodyfat by increasing the activity of genes that increase fat-burning, and decrease fat production and fat storage in the body, the boost in muscular endurance and strength can help you lose more fat by training harder longer. So eat an apple preworkout. A typical large apple will provide about 200 mg of apple polyphenols and about 30 grams of slow-digesting carbs.
15. SNACK ON A WHEY SHAKE
UK researchers found that when subjects consumed a whey protein shake 90 minutes before eating a buffet-style meal, they ate significantly less food than when they drank a casein shake beforehand. They believe this is due to whey’s ability to boost levels of the hunger-blunting hormones cholecystokinin and glucagonlike peptide-1.
16. CHEW GUM
A study conducted at Glasgow Caledonian University (Scotland) found that subjects who chewed gum between meals ate significantly less food at the second meal than those who didn’t chew gum. They concluded that chewing gum boosts satiety and therefore reduces food intake. So consider chewing sugar-free gum between meals to reduce your calorie intake.
17. BE NUTTY
We know dietary fat isn’t the enemy, and healthy monounsaturated fats from nuts like almonds, Brazil and macadamia nuts, and walnuts can enhance fat loss. In fact, a study from Loma Linda University (California) reported that subjects eating a low-calorie, higher-fat diet (40% of calories from fat) with the majority of fat coming from almonds lost significantly more bodyfat than subjects consuming the same calories but higher carbs and lower fat. A Spanish study found that when nearly 1,000 subjects ate their normal diets, those eating nuts regularly had a much lower risk of weight gain over two years than those who rarely ate nuts.
18. GO FISH
The essential omega-3 fats in fish oil and fish-oil supplements enhance fat loss, and exercise boosts the effect further. Include 1–2 grams of fish oil at breakfast, lunch and dinner to promote fat loss.
19. GO GREEN
Green tea has a multitude of benefits, particularly its ability to enhance fat loss. Its main ingredient epigallocatechin gallate inhibits the enzyme that breaks down the neurohormone norepinephrine. Norepinephrine keeps the metabolic rate up, so preventing its breakdown means you burn more calories throughout the day. BONUS TIP: While drinking green tea is a good idea, we suggest you take about 500 mg of green-tea extract in the morning and afternoon before meals.
20. DO CARDIO AFTER WEIGHTS
Japanese researchers reported that subjects who did cardio after a weight workout burned significantly more fat during the first 15 minutes of cardio than when they did cardio before weight-training. When trying to lean out, be sure to finish your weight workout with some cardio, even if it’s for just 15 minutes.
21. MIX IT THICK
Add less water to your protein shakes — it may help you feel less hungry when dieting. A study from Purdue University (West Lafayette, Indiana) found that subjects who drank two shakes identical in nutrient content reported greater and longer reductions in hunger after drinking the thicker shake.
22. STAGGER IT
Splitting your cardio into several shorter blocks can help you drop more fat. One study reported that when subjects performed three 10-minute bouts of running separated by 20-minute rest periods, the total workout was easier than when they ran at the same intensity for 30 minutes. Such cardio training has also been shown to boost postworkout calorie burn (EPOC) higher than the same amount of continuous cardio.
23. USE HIGHER REP RANGES
While going heavy for fewer reps does burn more calories postworkout, doing higher reps burns more calories during the workout, as College of New Jersey (Ewing) researchers reported. Get the best of both worlds by doing four sets of most exercises. Try doing the first two sets with heavy weight and low reps, and the last two with light weight and high reps.
24. TAKE A PICTURE
Keeping a food journal in which you record everything you eat can help you keep tabs on your diet. But researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Madison found that subjects who recorded what they ate for one week with photographs reported the photos triggered critical evaluation of the food before eating it, prompting them to make better food choices. This wasn’t the case for subjects who simply wrote down what they ate. Try keeping a photo food log as well as a journal.
25. GET UP
Research from Australia found that out of more than 2,000 subjects who exercised vigorously for at least 2.5 hours per week, those who watched more than 40 minutes of television per day had higher waist circumferences, blood pressure and blood-glucose levels than those watching less than 40 minutes. Researchers theorize that sitting for prolonged periods severely compromises your body’s ability to burn fat. Avoid a slump in fat-burning potential by getting up and stretching, or taking a short walk at least every 20 minutes or so.