Stoke up your flab-fighting furnace with these simple yet effective techniques.
Mehmet Edip for Muscle & Fitness 1 / 6
We get it: You've tried every diet trick in the book to get lean while maintaining your muscle mass. Carb backloading, carb cycling, ketogenic diets, paleo diets—you've done it all.
So by now, you probably know that each dietary approach has its pros and cons. But as you hone your diet to create your fittest, leanest body yet, you should know all the factors—including your gym training—that contribute to real fat burning. Flip through this gallery to learn the fundamental strategies that will speed up your shred.
We all dread cardio, but it's an important training component that helps to create a needed calorie deficit to speed up the metabolism. But which form of cardio is best: low-intensity steady state (LISS) or high-intensity interval training (HIIT)? While HIIT is finally gaining momentum as the preferred method of cardio, both have their place in a fat-burning program.
Low-intensity steady-state cardio allows for a longer fat-burning session, but HIIT training cranks up your metabolic rate and increases fatty oxidation rates for hours post-workout.
Instead of choosing one or the other as your “exclusive” form of cardio, try doing a few sets of HIIT, then moving into steady-state training. This will allow you to reap all the benefits of both, all in one workout. You'll get your interval work while your energy stores are high, and the steady state cardio will burn even more fat than usual because the intervals will have led to glycogen depletion.
Another option is to do LISS while fasting before breakfast for a minimum of 40 minutes, and to perform HIIT cardio in a separate session. A recent study from the UK published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that when fasted subjects did morning cardio, they burned 20 percent more fat than when they had a meal before the cardio.
When trying to drop fat, it may seem appropriate to reduce dietary fat. At nine calories per gram, fats are a denser caloric investment than carbs or protein. But contrary to what you might have heard, fats are good for you—as long as they're the "good" kinds: monounsatured fats, polyunsatured fats, and omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy sources of fat can actually help you shed body fat, build muscle, and recover faster from workouts. Healthy fats also have numerous health benefits that can protect you cardio-battered joints. Some prime sources of good fats: avocados, extra virgin olive oil, and fish.
When you're trying to shed weight, most people turn to low-carb diets. But a lot of guys often forget that carbs are your body's preferred fuel method. That's why it's beneficial to add a "carb day" to reset your metabolism and get your engine revving again. A long-term, low-carb diet can result in adverse effects like lowering your leptin levels, which in turn slows down your metabolism at a faster rate.
To prevent this from happening, plan your high-carb days around your more intense workout sessions, such as leg day. Adding one to two high-carb days indicates that you're carb cycling, which will help you avoid any plateaus that may be on the horizon.
This is a no-brainer, right? At only four calories per gram, protein is an ideal choice for keeping your calorie count in check. It also keeps you fuller for longer and works to reubuild and preserve muscle. Research has also found that a high-protein diet increases fat loss because it increases the metabolic rate while decreasing hunger.
You’re probably familiar with the recommendation of 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. If you’re already hitting this quota, then consider increasing that slightly, adjusting as necessary elsewhere for your target calorie count.
You can try to will yourself into eating less at each meal, or you can put some proven science to work for you at the dinner table. A 2010 study found that participants who drank a full glass of water before dining typically consumed 75-90 fewer calories from that meal. It’s not complicated – the extra water made them feel fuller.
Drinking more water will also ensure your metabolism is running smoothly and will ensure that you stay hydrated. Additionally, consuming more water keeps your body shedding more water. Some athletes find that they retain less water when they begin consuming more. Aim for half your bodyweight in ounces per day. (For example: a 200-pound person should strive for 100 ounces.)