Having a high body-fat percentage sets the stage for serious health complications that come with being overweight or obese, like chronic diseases, cardio vascular disease and some types of cancer. According to the World Health Organization, there are more than one billion overweight adults globally, and at least 300 million of them are obese. So check yourself! Bodyfat percentages greater than 20 percent for men and 30 percent for women are considered high, says the Mayo Clinic. But there are no shortcuts or gimmicks to losing body fat quickly. Follow these eight steps for real, long-lasting fat loss and health.
1 CLEAN UP YOUR DIET
It’s true what they say, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. And abs are made in the kitchen. So the first step to any fat-loss plan starts with improving your diet. First, cut out processed foods, fake sugars, and refined carbs. That means cutting out the cakes, cookies, ice cream, deep-fried foods, and candy. Next, add more foods to your diet with low-energy density. Said more simply, include fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, lean meats and fish in your diet. To help make grocery shopping easier, try primarily shopping the perimeter of the store where they keep the fresh produce and meat counter.
2 DRINK MORE WATER
Skip high-calorie beverages with little to no nutritional value and grab a glass (or two) of water instead. This means forgoing flavored lattes, dessert coffees, artificially sweetened juices, sweet tea, alcohol, and soda. Water not only helps keep your body hydrated and functioning optimally, but it also helps continually flush your system and can help boost your metabolism. Drink a full glass of water about 30 minutes before a meal to help prevent overeating and continue to drink water throughout the day. Many times, the hunger and thirst signals to your brain can feel similar. So when you feel like snacking, drink a glass of water before noshing.
3 PACE YOUR MEALS
The research behind how many meals to eat and how often is a little contradictory at times. Some studies suggest grazing on small meals spaced two to three hours apart can help prevent you from pigging out come dinner time. Others point to intermittent fasting (which basically means eating all your daily meals in a shorter timeframe) being a good way to jump-start fat loss and prevent overeating. The trick is finding what works best for your body. Whatever strategy you decide on, make sure that the calories you eat don’t exceed the calories you burn each day (this is called caloric deficit). It takes a caloric deficit of 3,500 calories to lose one pound of fat, which is why you should aim to lose one to two pounds per week max.
4 INDULGE SMARTER
Yep, here’s your permission to drink red wine and eat dark chocolate (in moderation, of course). You’ve likely heard that antioxidants are good for your overall health, thanks to their ability to fight inflammation. But a certain kind of antioxidant — catechins — can help burn fat. As it turns out, you can find these antioxidants in red wine and dark chocolate. But you can also get them from green teas, berries, and apples. So try a dessert of fresh raspberries with a drizzle of chocolate.
5 HIIT IT!
Getting your diet in check is just one part of the fat-loss equation. Spend two or three days a week doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Apply this to any form of cardio you enjoy the most — running, cycling, stair climbing, jumping rope, elliptical training or rowing. Start your workouts with a light five-minute warm-up, and then alternate back and forth from high to low intensity. For example, you can sprint for 30 seconds, and then jog or walk for one to two minutes, repeating for 15 to 20 minutes. Finish with an easy five-minute cooldown.
6 BUILD MUSCLE TO BURN MORE FAT
Cardio isn’t the only way to help your body burn fat. Adding muscle to your body gives you the potential to burn extra calories. In your strength training sessions (aim for two or three a week), do multi-joint exercises, such as bench presses, upright rows, bent-over rows, squats, and deadlifts. Multi-joint exercises work more than one muscle at a time and promote fast muscle gain. Plus, they more closely mimic everyday activities (as opposed to isolation exercises like biceps curls), helping prevent injury and building stamina. Start with three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps of each exercise.