When it comes to burning fat for weight loss, it can seem like an impossible feat. It’s hard to tell fact from fiction when it comes to leading workout and diet programs. But what is fact is that you can get rid of fat around your problem areas by following a couple very simple rules.
Ways to Promote Long-Term Fat Loss
Losing body fat can be a challenging task, often requiring hard work, patience, and dedication.
Although many fad diets and fat-burning supplements promise quick results, modifying your diet, lifestyle, and exercise routine is the most effective way to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Plus, you can take several simple steps to promote long-lasting, sustainable fat loss while improving your overall health.
1. Start strength training
Strength training is a type of exercise in which your muscles contract against resistance. It builds muscle mass and increases strength over time, and it usually involves lifting weights.
Research reveals that strength training has multiple health benefits, especially when it comes to fat loss.
According to a review of 58 studies, resistance training for at least 4 weeks may help decrease body fat by an average of 1.46%. It may also significantly reduce body fat mass and visceral fat, which is a type of fat that surrounds the organs in your belly
Another study showed that 5 months of strength training was more effective at reducing body fat in adolescents with obesity than aerobic exercise alone
Plus, resistance training may help preserve fat-free mass, which may increase the number of calories your body burns at rest
According to one review, resistance training boosted people’s resting metabolic rate compared with a control group, while aerobic exercise had no effect on metabolism
Doing bodyweight exercises, lifting weights, and using gym equipment are a few easy ways to get started with strength training.
Strength training may not only help decrease your body fat levels but also increase resting energy expenditure and target belly fat.
2. Follow a high protein diet
Eating more protein-rich foods may help reduce your appetite and increase fat burning.
In fact, multiple studies have associated eating more high quality protein with a lower risk of excess body fat and obesity
Other research indicates that a high protein diet may help preserve muscle mass and metabolism during weight loss
Upping your protein intake may also increase feelings of fullness, decrease hunger, and reduce calorie intake — all factors that aid weight loss
Try adding a few servings of high protein food to your diet each day. Protein-rich foods include meat, seafood, eggs, legumes, tofu, and dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt.
Eating more protein may be associated with a lower risk of belly fat. Plus, it may decrease appetite, lower calorie intake, and preserve muscle mass.
3. Get more sleep
Going to bed a bit earlier or setting your alarm clock a little later is a simple strategy to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
In fact, several studies associate sufficient sleep with weight loss.
One 10-year study linked sleeping fewer than 6 hours per night to a higher risk of obesity among young women
Another small study showed that getting 1 less hour of sleep per night led to less fat loss in people following a low calorie diet, compared with a control group.
Other research indicates that a lack of sleep may contribute to alterations in hunger hormones, increased appetite, and a higher risk of obesity
Although everyone needs a different amount of sleep, most studies tie at least 7 hours of sleep per night to the most benefits for weight management and overall health
To support a healthy sleep cycle, stick to a regular sleep schedule, limit your intake of caffeine in the evening, and minimize your use of electronic devices before bed.
Getting enough sleep may help reduce your appetite and hunger levels, as well as lower your risk of weight gain.
4. Eat more healthy fats
Although it may seem counterintuitive, increasing your intake of healthy fats may prevent weight gain.
A 12-month study associated following a Mediterranean diet rich in healthy fats from olive oil and nuts with greater long-term weight loss, compared with a low fat diet
Another review linked diets enriched with olive oil to greater reductions in body weight and belly fat compared with diets without olive oil
What’s more, increased intake of trans fats — a type of fat often found in fried or processed foods — is associated with increased long-term weight gain
Olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds are just a few examples of nutritious fats that can benefit your health.
Keep in mind that healthy fat is still high in calories, so it’s important to moderate your intake. Instead of eating more fat overall, try swapping fried foods, processed ingredients, and refined oils for the healthy varieties above.
A higher intake of healthy fats, such as olive oil and nuts, is associated with a lower risk of weight gain.
5. Drink unsweetened beverages
Swapping out sugary drinks for healthier selections is one of the easiest ways to promote long-term, sustainable fat loss.
For example, sugar-sweetened beverages like soda are often packed with calories and offer little nutritional value. Alcohol is also high in calories and may lower inhibitions, which may increase your risk of overeating
Studies have associated drinking both sugar-sweetened beverages and alcohol with a higher risk of excess belly fat
Instead, opt for calorie-free beverages like water or green tea.
According to one small study in 14 young men, drinking 1 pint (570 mL) of water before a meal increased feelings of fullness, reduced hunger, and decreased the number of calories eaten during the meal
Alternatively, green tea contains caffeine and is rich in antioxidants, both of which may help increase fat burning and metabolism
Sugar-sweetened beverages and alcoholic drinks may be linked to a higher risk of increased belly fat. Replace them with green tea or water, which have been shown to increase weight loss and fat burning.
6. Fill up on fiber
Soluble fiber — which is found in plant foods — absorbs water and moves through your digestive tract slowly, helping you feel full for longer
According to some studies, increasing your intake of high fiber foods may protect against weight gain. These foods include fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
For example, one study in 345 people tied eating more fiber to increased weight loss and improved dietary adherence
Another review found that increasing soluble fiber intake significantly decreased body weight and belly fat, independent of calorie intake
Upping your fiber intake by consuming foods like fresh fruits, veggies, and legumes may boost fat loss, feelings of fullness, and weight loss.
7. Choose whole grains instead of refined carbs
Decreasing your intake of refined carbs may help you lose extra body fat.
During processing, refined grains are stripped of their bran and germ, resulting in a final product that’s low in fiber and nutrients.
Refined carbs also tend to have a high glycemic index (GI), which may cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels that lead to increased hunger. Still, you’re likelier to see these effects if you eat refined carbs on their own rather than as part of a balanced meal
What’s more, studies associate diets high in refined carbs with increased belly fat over time
Conversely, diets high in whole grains are tied to a lower body mass index (BMI) and body weight, plus a smaller waist circumference
Just keep in mind that traditional weight metrics like BMI don’t capture the full portrait of health.
Aim to replace refined carbs from pastries, processed foods, pastas, white breads, and breakfast cereals with whole grains like whole wheat, quinoa, buckwheat, barley, and oats.
Refined carbs are low in fiber and nutrients, so it’s best to choose nutrient-dense whole grains for long-term, sustainable fat loss.
BEST WAYS TO BURN FAT FAST
Whether you’re looking to improve your overall health or simply slim down for summer, burning off excess fat can be quite challenging.
In addition to diet and exercise, numerous other factors can influence weight and fat loss.
Luckily, there are plenty of simple steps you can take to increase fat burning, quickly and easily.
1. START STRENGTH TRAINING
Strength training is a type of exercise that requires you to contract your muscles against resistance. It builds muscle mass and increases strength.
Most commonly, strength training involves lifting weights to gain muscle over time.
Research has found strength training to have multiple health benefits, especially when it comes to burning fat.
In one study, strength training reduced visceral fat in 78 people with metabolic syndrome. Visceral fat is a type of dangerous fat that surrounds the organs in the belly
Another study showed that 12 weeks of strength training paired with aerobic exercise was more effective at reducing body fat and belly fat than aerobic exercise alone
Resistance training may also help preserve fat-free mass, which can increase the number of calories your body burns at rest
According to one review, 10 weeks of resistance training could help increase calories burned at rest by 7% and may reduce fat weight by 4 pounds (1.8 kg)
Doing body-weight exercises, lifting weights or using gym equipment are a few easy ways to get started with strength training.
SUMMARY: Strength training has been shown to increase resting energy expenditure and belly fat, especially when combined with aerobic exercise.
2. FOLLOW A HIGH-PROTEIN DIET
Including more protein-rich foods in your diet is an effective way to reduce your appetite and burn more fat.
In fact, multiple studies have found that eating more high-quality protein is associated with a lower risk of belly fat
One study also showed that a high-protein diet can help preserve muscle mass and metabolism during weight loss
Upping your protein intake may also increase feelings of fullness, decrease appetite and reduce calorie intake to aid in weight loss
Try incorporating a few servings of high-protein foods into your diet each day to help amp up fat burning.
Some examples of protein-rich foods include meat, seafood, eggs, legumes and dairy products.
SUMMARY: Eating more protein may be associated with a lower risk of belly fat. Increasing your protein intake can decrease appetite, lower calorie intake and preserve muscle mass.
3. SQUEEZE IN MORE SLEEP
Going to bed a bit earlier or setting your alarm clock a little later can help boost fat burning and prevent weight gain.
Several studies have found an association between getting enough sleep and weight loss.
One study of 68,183 women showed that those who slept five or fewer hours per night over a period of 16 years were more likely to gain weight than those who slept for longer than seven hours per night
Another study showed that better sleep quality and getting at least seven hours of sleep per night increased the likelihood of successful weight loss by 33% in 245 women enrolled in a six-month weight loss program
Other research shows that a lack of sleep may contribute to alterations in hunger hormones, increased appetite and a higher risk of obesity
Although everyone needs a different amount of sleep, most studies have found that getting at least seven hours of sleep per night is associated with the most benefits when it comes to body weight.
Stick to a regular sleep schedule, limit your intake of caffeine and minimize your use of electronic devices before bed to help support a healthy sleep cycle.
SUMMARY: Getting enough sleep may be associated with decreased appetite and hunger, as well as a lower risk of weight gain.
4. ADD VINEGAR TO YOUR DIET
Vinegar is well known for its health-promoting properties.
In addition to its potential effects on heart health and blood sugar control, increasing your intake of vinegar may help bump up fat burning, according to some research
One study found that consuming 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 ml) of vinegar daily reduced people’s body weight, belly fat and average waist circumference over a 12-week period
Consuming vinegar has also been shown to enhance feelings of fullness and reduce appetite
Another small study of 11 people showed that adding vinegar to the diet reduced daily calorie intake by up to 275 calories
It’s easy to incorporate vinegar into your diet. For example, many people dilute apple cider vinegar with water and drink it as a beverage a few times per day with meals.
However, if drinking vinegar straight doesn’t sound appealing, you can also use it to make dressings, sauces and marinades.
SUMMARY: Vinegar may help increase feelings of fullness, decrease calorie intake and lower body fat.
5. EAT MORE HEALTHY FATS
Although it may seem counterintuitive, increasing your intake of healthy fats may actually help prevent weight gain and help you maintain feelings of fullness.
Fat takes a while to digest and can help slow the emptying of the stomach, which can reduce appetite and hunger
One study found that following a Mediterranean diet rich in healthy fats from olive oil and nuts was associated with a lower risk of weight gain compared to a low-fat diet
Another small study found that when people on a weight loss diet took two tablespoons (30 ml) of coconut oil daily, they lost more belly fat than those who were given soybean oil
Meanwhile, unhealthy types of fat like trans fats have been shown to increase body fat, waist circumference and belly fat in human and animal studies
Olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds are just a few examples of healthy types of fat that may have beneficial effects on fat burning.
However, keep in mind that healthy fat is still high in calories, so moderate how much you consume. Instead of eating more fat overall, try swapping the unhealthy fats in your diet for these healthy fat varieties.
SUMMARY: Fat is digested slowly, so eating it can help reduce appetite. A higher intake of healthy fats is associated with a lower risk of weight gain and decreased belly fat.
6. DRINK HEALTHIER BEVERAGES
Swapping out empty-calorie drinks for some healthier selections is one of the easiest ways to increase fat burning.
For example, sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and juice are packed with calories and offer little nutritional value.
Alcohol is also high in calories and has the added effect of lowering your inhibitions, making you more likely to overeat
Studies have found that consuming both sugar-sweetened beverages and alcohol is associated with a higher risk of belly fat
Limiting your intake of these beverages can help reduce your calorie intake and keep your waistline in check.
Instead, opt for calorie-free beverages like water or green tea.
In one small, 12-week study, drinking 17 ounces (500 ml) of water before meals increased weight loss by 4.4 pounds (2 kg), compared to a control group
Green tea is another great option. It contains caffeine and is rich in antioxidants, both of which may help increase fat burning and enhance metabolism
For instance, one study in 12 adults showed that green tea extract increased fat burning by 12% compared to a placebo
Trading in even just one or two servings of high-calorie beverages for a glass of water or a cup of green tea is a simple way to promote fat burning.
SUMMARY: Sugar-sweetened beverages and alcoholic drinks may be associated with a higher risk of belly fat. Green tea and water have been shown to increase weight loss and fat burning.
7. FILL UP ON FIBER
Soluble fiber absorbs water and moves through the digestive tract slowly, helping you feel fuller for longer
According to some studies, increasing your intake of high-fiber foods may protect against weight gain and fat accumulation.
One study of 1,114 adults found that for each 10-gram increase in soluble fiber intake per day, participants lost 3.7% of their belly fat over a five-year period, even without any other changes in diet or exercise
Another review also found that increasing fiber intake promoted feelings of fullness and decreased hunger. In fact, an increase of 14 grams of fiber per day was associated with a 10% decrease in calorie intake.
Not only that, but it was also linked to nearly 4.4 pounds (2 kg) of weight loss over a four-month period
Fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds are a few examples of high-fiber foods that can boost fat burning and weight loss.
SUMMARY: A higher intake of fiber may be associated with fat loss, decreased calorie intake and greater weight loss.
8. CUT DOWN ON REFINED CARBS
Decreasing your intake of refined carbohydrates may help you lose extra fat.
During processing, refined grains are stripped of their bran and germ, resulting in a final product that’s low in fiber and nutrients.
Refined carbs also tend to have a higher glycemic index, which can cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, resulting in increased hunger
Studies show that a diet high in refined carbs may be associated with increased belly fat
Conversely, a diet high in whole grains has been associated with a lower body mass index and body weight, plus a smaller waist circumference
One study in 2,834 people also showed that those with higher intakes of refined grains tended to have a higher amount of disease-promoting belly fat, while those who ate more whole grains tended to have a lower amount
For the best results, reduce your intake of refined carbs from pastries, processed foods, pastas, white breads and breakfast cereals. Replace them with whole grains such as whole wheat, quinoa, buckwheat, barley and oats.
SUMMARY: Refined carbs are low in fiber and nutrients. They may increase hunger and cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels. Consuming refined carbs has also been associated with increased belly fat.
Ways to Lose Belly Fat and Live a Healthier Life
Maintaining a trim midsection does more than make you look great—it can help you live longer. Larger waistlines are linked to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. Losing weight, especially belly fat, also improves blood vessel functioning and also improves sleep quality.
It’s impossible to target belly fat specifically when you diet. But losing weight overall will help shrink your waistline; more importantly, it will help reduce the dangerous layer of visceral fat, a type of fat within the abdominal cavity that you can’t see but that heightens health risks, says Kerry Stewart, Ed.D. , director of Clinical and Research Physiology at Johns Hopkins.
Here’s how to whittle down where it matters most.
- Try curbing carbs instead of fats.When Johns Hopkins researchers compared the effects on the heart of losing weight through a low-carbohydrate diet versus a low-fat diet for six months—each containing the same amount of calories—those on a low-carb diet lost an average of 10 pounds more than those on a low-fat diet—28.9 pounds versus 18.7 pounds. An extra benefit of the low-carb diet is that it produced a higher quality of weight loss, Stewart says. With weight loss, fat is reduced, but there is also often a loss of lean tissue (muscle), which is not desirable. On both diets, there was a loss of about 2 to 3 pounds of good lean tissue along with the fat, which means that the fat loss percentage was much higher on the low-carb diet.
- Think eating plan, not diet.Ultimately, you need to pick a healthy eating plan you can stick to, Stewart says. The benefit of a low-carb approach is that it simply involves learning better food choices—no calorie-counting is necessary. In general, a low-carb way of eating shifts your intake away from problem foods—those high in carbs and sugar and without much fiber, like bread, bagels and sodas—and toward high-fiber or high-protein choices, like vegetables, beans and healthy meats.
- Keep moving.Physical activity helps burn abdominal fat. “One of the biggest benefits of exercise is that you get a lot of bang for your buck on body composition,” Stewart says. Exercise seems to work off belly fat in particular because it reduces circulating levels of insulin —which would otherwise signal the body to hang on to fat—and causes the liver to use up fatty acids, especially those nearby visceral fat deposits, he says.The amount of exercise you need for weight loss depends on your goals. For most people, this can mean 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise nearly every day.
- Lift weights.Adding even moderate strength training to aerobic exercise helps build lean muscle mass, which causes you to burn more calories throughout the entire day, both at rest and during exercise.