With the excesses of the holiday period behind you and a confident New Year’s Resolution in mind, the New Year is the perfect time to shed a couple of kilos. While losing weight and burning fat is a challenge that entails hard work, dedication, and increased awareness of your diet, fortunately it is not as complicated as you might think.
Here are ten workout and eating tips derived from scientific research that will help you say goodbye to the excess holiday kilos and burn your fat fast.
1. Eat more protein!
Protein is crucial for losing fat and building muscle. Scientists have found that diets where up to 40% of total daily calorie intake derives from protein lead to a significantly higher loss of body fat, particularly around the abdominal, than those following a low-fat diet. Embrace the high-protein diet to help you not only burn fat but also feel fuller for longer.
2. Omelettes, scrambled eggs, and poached eggs – oh my!
Eggs are a great source of protein and a big help for building muscle. Research shows that when eggs are eaten for breakfast, they help us lose substantially more body fat by curbing cravings throughout the day, leading to lower calorie consumption. Contrary to what you might think, eggs make for an ideal weight loss breakfast.
3. Wholegrain for lean gain
This one is widely known but it bears repeating: choose low GI, slow-digesting carbohydrates such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice and wholegrain oatmeal, rather than avoiding carbs altogether or, worse still, going for refined carb sources. Sticking to whole-grain carbs rather than processed alternatives helps stabilise and lower insulin levels, which assists the fat-burning process.
4. Eat your apples
An apple a day, as the saying goes, keeps not only the doctor away, but also abdominal fat. This useful fruit is a slow-digesting carb containing great antioxidants and a compound called apple polyphenols which boost muscle strength and fat loss, particularly around the midsection, by decreasing fat production and storage. They also help you train for longer by promoting muscle endurance. Eat your apples in the morning for optimum fat-burning.
5. Drink tea
Both black and green tea aid fat loss by reducing cortisol levels that promote fat storage in the midsection, yet green tea has the bonus advantage of containing higher amounts of EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) which helps your body burn more calories throughout the day.
Green tea extract in particular appears to significantly increase absorption levels of EGCG, so it’s advisable to take 500 mg of green tea extract twice a day before meals.
6. Spice up your life
A chemical called capsaicin contained in hot peppers promotes calorie burning during rest periods and boosts fat burning during work-outs. Adding spicy peppers or pepper sauce to your meals will help burn extra calories and fat, as well as reducing hunger and thus food intake.
7. HIIT your goal weight
High-intensity interval training – or HIIT – is the most effective way of burning fat through cardio exercise. It involves alternating intervals of high-intensity exercise, to the point where you reach your maximum heart rate, with more moderate low-intensity exercise. Research has consistently shown that HIIT burns more fat than the continuously moderate cardio work-outs most people do.
8. Get a little bit creative
Running is a staple form of cardio exercise, but if the idea of a multi-kilometre run doesn’t appeal to you (who could blame you?), be creative with your work-outs to help keep you motivated and working hard. Alternative forms of exercise, like dancing, cycling and even rock-climbing, are all enjoyable and beneficial for weight loss. Martial arts in particular are recommended for their calorie-burning potential, with research indicating that tae kwon do work-outs can burn up to 300 calories per half-hour.
9. Pile on the kilos
Weight-training is an often underrated way of fat-burning, particularly amongst women. The key is to mix it up in terms of weight and reps. Doing higher-rep work-outs of around 10-20 reps using lower weight increases your calorie burning during the exercise itself, while using heavier weight and lower reps (say 3-6) is proven to burn more calories after the work-out. Mix it up to keep it interesting and especially beneficial.
10. Rest and recover
Be sure to allocate yourself enough rest time during and after work-outs to promote muscle recovery and help you train better – and hence burn more calories – afterwards. Alternate your training so that each day you focus on a different muscle group to maximise calorie burning. Also consider trying more relaxing, slower-paced forms of exercise such as yoga, which has health benefits of its own.
During your work-outs, however, make sure that you keep your rest breaks short and sweet. Studies have shown that resting for just 30 seconds between sets can burn up to 50% more calories than rests of three minutes.
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Alana Kay is a fitness and nutrition expert who is constantly learning about healthy ways to lose weight thanks to her local health club.