Get enough sleep
Getting your 40 winks could be more important than you think. “Even just one night of poor sleep can interfere with certain hormones including insulin, cortisol, and ghrelin which subsequently increases hunger, lowers metabolism and promotes fat storage,” says Jacqui Burke, MS, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian and owner of Jacqui Burke Nutrition. “Individuals who get adequate sleep have been shown in studies to lose more fat than those who do not, making it a crucial, yet often overlooked part of any weight loss plan.”
Fuel your body with protein
“Including a source of protein with each meal helps to keep you fuller for longer and better control blood sugar to reduce snacking and cravings,” says Burke. “It also increases the amount of calories you burn due to what is called the thermic effect. When you eat protein, roughly 25% of the calories are burned just to break it down, which is significantly higher than that of carbs and fat (5-15% and 0-5%, respectively).” Looking for some inspiration? Sources of protein include lean meat, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds.
Get fiber in your diet
While we’re on the topic of a healthy diet, ensure that you’re stocking up on fiber sources. “Another term for fiber is prebiotics because it feeds the good bacteria in the gut that play a major role in reducing inflammation and promoting weight loss,” says Burke. “Fiber helps to keep you full by regulating several hormones involved in cravings and appetite, including insulin, ghrelin, cholecystokinin, GLP-1, and peptide YY.”
Make whole foods your staples
“When pursuing weight loss, the quality of the food is often overlooked and instead individuals may reach for processed foods that advertise to be low-calorie, low-fat, or low-sugar,” says Burke. “However, eating more whole foods, i.e. chicken, fish, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables, can help to control overall calorie intake. The more processed a food is, the more your body is able to actually absorb all of the calories.”
Eat one Brazil nut a day
Here’s a simple tip to boost your metabolism. “One of the functions of the thyroid is to regulate how fast or slow your metabolism runs, and focusing on nutrients that support thyroid health can help to make sure everything is running smoothly,” says Burke. “One of the key nutrients needed to support the thyroid is selenium. The easiest way to meet your daily needs of selenium is to eat one Brazil nut per day.”
Get enough zinc
“Another nutrient needed to support a healthy thyroid is zinc, which is found in protein-containing foods such as fish, Greek yogurt, and chicken,” says Burke. Needless to say, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet will help you give your body what it needs. If you need more information on what to eat, it’s smart to speak to a registered nutritionist.
Do some strength training
If you’re hitting the gym, make sure you include strength training in your workouts. For example, you may want to start using free weights or doing exercises such as squats, push-ups, and other core workouts. “Strength training can increase muscle mass, which burns more calories at rest than fat mass,” says Burke.
Maintain lean muscle
“Muscle tissue has high energy requirements and therefore, the more lean muscle you have, the more calories or fat you will burn at rest,” explains Liz Wyosnick MS, RDN, a registered dietitian with a Masters in nutrition science and owner of the private practice Equilibrium in Seattle, WA. “Eating and moving to build and maintain lean muscle is the most efficient way to burn fat.”
Follow a regular meal-timing plan
“During the gaps between meals, your body seeks out energy within fat stores,” says Wyosnick. “To help support this, adopt an eating schedule that promotes discrete eating periods, followed by discrete fasting times. I tend to recommend that people eat every three and a half to four hours in their day; this equates to three to four meals during a 12-hour eating day.”
Work out in the morning
Choosing the perfect time to work out could help you burn more fat. Research suggests that people burn up to 20% more body fat when they exercise in the morning on an empty stomach. What’s more, the study found that early workouts did not increase participants’ hunger or food consumption later in the day.
Embrace spontaneous movement
Get up and get moving! “It may be obvious—the more you move, the more fat you will burn for energy,” says Wyosnick. “In particular, low- to moderate-intensity activities burn fat stores preferentially for fuel. Look at the parking spot further away, house cleaning tasks, and playing with your kids as fat-burning opportunities.”
Reduce your stress levels
Stress may be ruining your weight management. “Reducing your stress levels can help with burning fat,” says Kasey Hageman, MS, RD, LD, owner of LiveinspiRD. “Stress triggers the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Research shows that high cortisol levels increase appetite and drive fat storage.”
Try HIIT sessions
“High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can help with burning fat,” says Hageman. However, while these sessions are impactful, burning fat is all about regular bursts of exercise and maintaining a routine. “The intensity of the workout is not as important as the length and times per week that you perform the exercise.”
Mix up your workouts
Not sure which type of workout suits you? When creating a routine, be sure to mix things up and include a variety of exercise styles so you have a varied plan. “The most ideal situation would be an exercise regimen that includes strength training and aerobic exercise for optimal fat burning results,” says Hageman.
Eat probiotic-rich foods
“Probiotics are live micro-organisms that have health benefits when eaten,” explains Hageman. “They are found in fermented foods and supplements. There is some research that suggests probiotics can help with weight loss as gut bacteria plays a major role in weight regulation.” Try including probiotic-rich foods in your daily diet, such as yogurts, kimchi, sauerkraut, and more.
Get enough iron
Similarly, you should ensure that you eat foods that are rich in iron and healthy nutrients. “Iron plays a role in helping your body create energy from nutrients. Iron helps carry oxygen to all of the cells in our bodies, including muscles,” says Hageman. “This, in turn, helps our body burn fat.”
Cut back on refined carbs
Not all carbs are made equal. “Refined carbs are easily digested and convert into sugar in your body quickly,” says Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, founder of Real Nutrition. “If not used for energy, you will store them as fat. So by avoiding them, you avoid this process and therefore burn more fat.”
Stick to complex carbs
Of course, you don’t want to avoid eating carbs altogether—simply stick to complex carbs instead. “Stripped of fiber, these simple carbs digest quickly and leave us feeling hungry, causing us to reach for food more often,” says Shapiro. “By exchanging simple carbs for complex carbs, you’ll stay full longer, consume fewer calories, and therefore burn fat.”
Avoid saturated fats
Believe it or not, the type of fat you consume is important. Saturated fat, which can be found in fried foods, could lead to weight gain. Research from Uppsala University suggests that consuming too much-saturated fat could activate genes in the fatty tissue, which leads to more fat storage. Why not switch to healthier alternatives?
Avoid high-sugar snacks
Feeling peckish? When hunger strikes, you may find yourself reaching for a high-sugar snack, such as chocolate or a candy bar. However, these options aren’t the healthiest way to go. “Eat mostly plants which are high in fibre and nutrients but low in calories, avoid sugar and processed snacks, read food labels and ingredient lists,” says Shapiro.