So, you stepped onto the bathroom scale this morning and found you couldn’t even see the reading. Rather than sucking in your gut all day; now’s the time to man up and tackle those extra pounds.
Losing weight may seem like a long road of exhausting workouts and bad-tasting food. And granted, you’ll have to dig through the dresser to find those long-hidden exercise clothes and actually buy some (gasp!) healthy food from the grocer, but in the end you’ll be glad you did.
Here are some helpful tips to get you started.
Eat More Protein
Think of losing weight as the balance of a bank account: the balance is simply the difference between deposits and withdrawals. Similarly, the difference between calories burned and calories consumed ultimately determines weight loss or weight gain.
Protein is key for losing weight because it keeps you full long after eating, so you consume fewer calories (you could think of it as “stretching the dollar” to continue with the analogy).
In a study involving 19 participants consuming various diets, scientists found protein-rich diets resulted in “rapid losses of weight and body fat.” They concluded this outcome resulted from a decrease in appetite.
According to WebMD experts, consuming 120 g protein a day is ideal for optimal weight loss. Though, you’ll want to gradually increase intake to this amount to allow your body to adjust. Also, check with your doctor before adding significant amounts of protein to your diet.
Whether you’re exercising, lying on the couch, or sleeping, your metabolism is constantly at work.
Metabolism is simply the process of converting calories into energy used by the body. As weight loss is simply a matter of burning more calories than consumed, increasing one’s metabolic rate is essential for losing weight.
Weight lifting is a great way to speed metabolism. Studies indicate vigorous weight training (such as 15-25 repetitions) with a few short breaks elevates metabolism up to 48 hours after a workout.
In addition, having more muscle than fat allows one to burn more calories even during states of rest. According to WebMD, a pound of muscle burns 6 calories a day, while a pound of fat burns 2 calories a day. “That small difference can add up over time.”
Eat 5-6 Smaller Meals
Our daily consumption is typically broken into three main meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s not uncommon to have cravings between those meals and reach for a snack – albeit unhealthy at times.
WebMD experts advise eating 5-6 smaller meals over the course of the day, with many of them in the morning. This helps control appetite and ultimately limits weight gain. They also suggest keeping dinner the last meal of the day.
Leslie Bonci, RD, described how eating the same calories over smaller meals throughout the day increases the body’s thermic effect and results in 10% more calories burned. In addition, a study showed individuals consuming mini-meals had a “more stable carbohydrate and fat oxidation levels.”
There are some meals which are more conducive for “nibbling” than others. While salad with dressing may get soggy after a while, dishes like lasagna, casserole, or soup can be stored in Tupperware, frozen, and reheated in a microwave for a quick and easy mini-meal.
Don’t Overdo Cardiovascular Exercise
Many health experts agree the top exercise for losing weight is cardiovascular activity. However, it’s important to be conscious of when cardio exercise becomes excessive – especially when you’re just beginning.
Too much cardio exercise can be exhausting and simply more than the body can handle, leading to injury, burnout, and adverse effects to sleep and immune functions. Even one’s muscle mass could be reduced from over-training. In other words, any weight loss benefit gained from excessive cardio exercise isn’t worth the adverse effects which tag along.
As you begin cardio exercises, remember to start slow. If you’re beginning from ground zero, try a brisk 20-25 minute walk 3 times a week, and then increase to 5 times a week. After building some endurance, try jogging for 5-10 minutes, and then gradually increase the duration.
You may also find it more enjoyable and effective to change your cardio exercise routine from time to time. This reduces boredom and minimizes the chance of a weight loss plateau.
Limit Carbohydrate Intake to the Morning and Before/After Workouts
Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy. Too many carbohydrates, however, easily lead to fat accumulation. Being conscious of carbohydrate consumption maximizes benefits and reduces adverse effects.
When carbohydrates are consumed and digested, insulin aids in the process of utilizing the nutrient as a source of energy for muscles. Extra glucose (converted from carbohydrates) is stored in the liver, muscle, or other cells as fat. By consuming carbohydrates either in the morning or before/after workouts, it reduces the likelihood of having unused carbohydrates being stored in the body as fat.
Additionally, limiting carbohydrates keeps insulin levels low. This allows for stored fat to be an energy source instead of carbohydrates, ultimately reducing excess weight.
But, don’t forego carbohydrates completely; this nutrient is crucial for the energy to perform aerobic and anaerobic activity. In addition, its consumption increases insulin even after workouts and further restores the muscle glycogen lost from working out.
Drink More Water
Research shows drinking more water ultimately improves weight loss. This is evident in one study, as overweight subjects who drank 500 ml water before a meal lost up to 44% more weight than those who did not drink water before a meal. The scientists determined this was likely because of an “acute reduction” of caloric intake.
This assessment is reinforced by Dr. Melina Jampolis, who noted it is difficult for the body to differentiate between hunger and thirst. People sometimes mistake thirst for hunger, and rather than drink more water, they eat more food – increasing overall caloric intake.
While the research may be preliminary, another study found increased water consumption may result in improved metabolic rate. Subjects who drank water experienced a 30% increase in metabolic rate versus those who didn’t. Scientists figured persons who drink 1.5 more liters of water daily for a year burn an extra 17,400 calories – losing about 5 pounds. While it’s not a lot, this slight change of behavior can be helpful for shedding extra pounds.
Increase Vegetable Intake – Particularly Green Vegetables
Vegetables are rich in fiber,which promotes weight loss. Fiber takes longer to digest, promoting satiety. And as it usually requires more work to chew, fiber gives the brain an earlier signal it’s full and thus reduces hunger cravings.
Additionally, vegetables – green, leafy vegetables especially – are low in calories and are a good source for vitamins K, C, E, iron, and potassium. This combination makes them a potent and attractive food choice for losing weight.
According to Jackie Wicks on PeerTrainer.com, some of the best green, leafy vegetables for weight loss are Collard greens, spinach, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. “If you want to lose weight quickly,” she asserts, “you need to eat a ton of these vegetables every day.”
Make Small, Attainable Goals
If you’re serious about losing weight, keep in mind it won’t happen all at once, and frankly, it’s not always fast or simple. “Losing weight is not as easy as it sounds on TV diet commercials,” note experts. It takes time.
But by creating small and realistic goals, one’s long-term weight loss aspiration can become a reality.
According to Dr. Bakari Akil, short-term goals define the finish line and increase motivation. Completion of short-term goals also brings satisfaction and excitement, resulting in a boost of confidence for the individual striving to achieve the goal.
Eat Plenty of Healthy Fats
Though this may come as a surprise, fat is a nutrient needed by the body. Keep in mind there are differences between fats, namely saturated fat and unsaturated fat.
Saturated fats are also known as “solid fats” because they’re solid at room temperature. According to WebMD, these fats raise cholesterol levels, clog arteries, and increase heart disease risk.
Unsaturated fats – those found in foods like avocados, eggs, and almond nuts – are considered healthy as they lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and keep “good” HDL cholesterol high. One study showed replacing a carbohydrate-rich diet with a high unsaturated fat diet “lowers blood pressure, improves lipid levels, and reduces the estimated cardiovascular risk.”
By swapping saturated fat with unsaturated fat, you can still consume this needed nutrient and avoid harmful effects.
Eat a Big Breakfast
You may have heard the saying: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” This simple statement contains some noteworthy advice for reducing calorie intake and losing weight.
Daniela Jakubowicz, MD, asserts eating a large (610- to 850-calorie) breakfast before 9am activates one’s metabolism by utilizing the circadian rhythms. The circadian rhythms determine how carbohydrates and proteins are used for fuel as well as the efficiency for burning fat.
Jakubowicz also assured the big breakfast must contain certain foods – such as those rich in protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Protein keeps you full longer, and carbohydrates (when consumed before 9am) increase energy instead of being stored as fat. Fiber takes longer to digest and, like proteins, keeps you full longer as well.
Rather than snagging an apple and a cup of coffee before racing out the door, wake up 30 minutes earlier and fire up the grill, enjoying a hearty meal of eggs, hash browns, toast, bananas, yogurt, and milk.