By Whitney Provost
You're ready to get in shape. You've committed to an exercise program and stocked your kitchen with healthy food. Now it's time to see results. Other than working out consistently and sticking to your nutrition plan, what else can you do to increase your chances of success?
While there's no magic fat-loss fairy who'll grant your wishes overnight, there are a few proven techniques you can use to boost your results and lose weight faster. Check 'em out.
Burn more fat during your workouts.
- Crank up the intensity early. A study from the College of New Jersey found that people who work out harder during the first half of their workouts and ease up a bit in the second half burn up to 23 percent more fat than people who start out slowly. What does this mean for you? After you warm up (never neglect this or you may end up injured), bump up your workout intensity and give it your all. You don't have to pace yourself so you can make it all the way through; take breaks as necessary later in your workout.
- HIIT it hard. By now, you've probably heard that the one of the most effective ways to burn fat is with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This involves short intervals of maximum intensity cardio, followed by intervals of low intensity cardio or rest. Researchers at Laval University in Quebec have discovered that people who do HIIT can lose 3 times as much fat as those who do steady-state moderate cardio.
- Lift heavier weights for fewer reps. Boost your metabolism long after your workout by training with heavy weights. As researchers at the Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education have learned, the heavier you lift, the greater the rise in your metabolic rate and the longer the boost will last. The result? Increased fat loss. For amazing body-reshaping results.
Special note for women: Don't be afraid to increase the size of your dumbbells! You don't have enough testosterone to bulk up like the Incredible Hulk, and a lean, strong body will help you burn calories around the clock. Plus toned and shapely muscles look beautiful and give your body symmetry.
- Lift lighter weights for more reps. Wait . . . what? Didn't I just tell you that you have to lift heavier to burn more fat? It's true that training with heavy weights for fewer reps will burn more calories post-workout and give your physique a much more dramatic transformation. But there's also a benefit to using lighter weights at higher reps. For one, you burn a lot of calories during your workout. And if you're very out of shape or haven't lifted weights in a while, going lighter will help you condition your muscles and joints and help you prevent injuries.
- Stay in shape. Once you become physically fit, keep it up. The more active you are, the better your body is at burning fat. According to researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, you can avoid regaining belly fat by exercising as few as 80 minutes per week. Keep stoking your fat-burning furnace with regular exercise and good nutrition, and you'll be lean for life.
Let your kitchen help you burn fat.
- Get your omega-3s. Fish and fish-oil supplements are helpful fat-burners because of their high levels of omega-3 fats. Two recent studies in Iceland and Australia demonstrated that people who consume fish oil burn more fat than people who don't. Additionally, the Australian study showed that when fish oil is combined with exercise, the results were even better.
- Don't cut calories too quickly. You know that in order to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories. But dropping them too quickly can cause your metabolism to slow down, because your body thinks it's starving and desperately holds onto fat. A dramatic reduction in calories can also lead to what author Martha Beck calls "famine brain," a condition in which your poor starved brain starts to freak out and all you can think about is food until you go nuts and eat everything in sight. The stress makes you much more likely to binge and end up fatter than ever. So what's the easiest way to cut calories gradually and keep your sanity?
Start by swapping your usual breakfast for a protein shake. From about 140 to 250 calories and they taste great, and you can add healthy ingredients like milk or a dab of peanut butter and still keep the total calorie count low. Next, try cutting your total calorie intake by 250 calories per day. Give it a couple of weeks and see if you like the results. If you're losing weight, stick with it, and if not, cut out another 250 calories and reevaluate a couple of weeks later. If you're already doing everything else I've mentioned in this article, you shouldn't have to starve yourself to lose weight.
- Drink green tea. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that the catechins—antioxidant flavonoid compounds—found in green tea may stimulate the body's fat-burning activity. You'll get the most benefits from about 4 cups of green tea per day, but if you don't want to drink that much, green tea extract supplements appear to have similar benefits. It's kind of cool to think that you might be able to relax with a cup of green tea and burn fat at the same time!
Give these tips a try, and let us know how they work for you.