Trading winter layers for unforgiving summer clothes can always lead to a little (or a lot) of self-consciousness—and this is especially the case if you’ve put on weight during the pandemic. (Hey, if comfort food helped you survive what has been without a doubt a very scary, intense time, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.)
If losing body fat will help you feel more confident, you may be wondering the best ways to do it. Should you try the ketogenic diet that your neighbor said worked for her? Log more time at the gym? If you do carve out more time for fitness, what type of workout will help you lose body fat the fastest? As you can probably guess, losing body fat quickly, safely, and effectively involves changes to both eating and fitness habits. With that in mind, keep reading to learn the top secrets for losing body fat straight from a registered dietitian and a personal trainer.
10 secrets for losing body fat quickly and effectively
1. Don’t skip meals
Certified personal trainer Holly Roser and registered dietitian Caroline Thomason, RD, both say that the number one mistake people make when trying to lose weight is looking for a quick fix, including skipping meals or drastically cutting calories. Take it from both experts: Not only is this dangerous, it doesn’t work long term. “The reason this is a mistake is that being too restrictive too fast can have negative consequences that lead to overeating and feeling out of control later—thus, negating the efforts,” Thomason says. “Weight loss is really implementing healthy habits day in and out that add up to results,” Roser adds.
Both experts say that it’s unsafe to lose more than two pounds a week. “A healthy weight loss range is anywhere from half a pound to two pounds a week. For most people, half a pound to a pound a week is going to be the sweet spot,” Thomason says. “Losing more than these amounts can result in losing muscle—not just fat—and that can impair your metabolism and have negative side effects later when it’s time to maintain your new lower weight.”
2. Eat a macronutrient-balanced meal
Okay, skipping meals won’t work for losing body fat. So what should you fill your plate with? Thomason says to focus on macronutrient-balanced meals. This means that 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates, 20 to 35 percent from fats, and 10 to 35 percent from protein.
Too much math? Instead, focus on filling up on nutrient-rich foods and minimizing nutrient-poor foods that are overly processed and high in sugar. Sometimes, the simplest way forward is the best way forward.
3. Schedule your workouts
Working out is the other main component of the weight loss puzzle, so scheduling workouts into your days is an important step. “The best way to lose weight safely and effectively is to incorporate three to four days of strength training and two days of cardio a week,” Roser says. She explains that this will help build long lean muscle and help reduce body fat because the body will be burning fat for energy.
4. Lift weights
As Roser pointed out, both cardio and strength training are important for losing body fat. Some may dismiss lifting weights and focus solely on cardio as cardio is known for burning calories, but Roser says it would be a mistake to not lift weights on your strength training days. “Building muscle helps your body burn fat all day long through exercise post-oxygen consumption,” she says. “Your body requires more oxygen after a strength workout. Because of this, you actually burn more calories on strength training days.”
5. Snack on high-protein, high-fiber foods
When your snacks are nutrient-poor, it’s easy to consume more than you may want because they aren’t filling you up. To avoid this, Thomason says to snack on foods that are high in protein and fiber. “High protein, high fiber snacks are your best friends during times of weight loss. These two nutrients take the longest to digest and keep us full more than carbs alone,” she says. Some examples of this are veggies and hummus, apple and peanut butter, and turkey roll-ups and crackers.
Related: 57 Low-Calorie Snack Ideas To Get Over An Afternoon Slump
6. Stock up on pre-portioned desserts
Losing weight doesn’t mean you have to give up dessert. Thomason says when it comes to weight loss, what matters is burning more calories than you eat, so you can eat dessert and still lose weight as long as it fits into your total calorie goals. Stocking up on pre-portioned desserts—like mini ice-cream sandwiches or mini pints—will help satisfy a craving for something sweet while sticking to a moderate portion. Thomason says that eating fruit is another way to have something sweet that’s low in calories.
7. Make the most of your gym time with compound movements
When you’re at the gym, Roser recommends prioritizing compound movements, which are exercises that work for more than one muscle group at the same time. Squat to curl, lunge to row, and side lunge to tricep extension are all examples of compound movements. “All of these moves recruit more muscles thus bringing your core into activation and burning more calories,” Roser says.
Related: 75 Fun Ideas for Getting a Total Body Workout At Home
8. Get plenty of sleep
Thomason says that it can be easy to become so fixated on losing weight that the cornerstones of well-being—like getting enough sleep—are completely neglected. “If you haven’t spent time focusing on these first, jumping right into weight loss might be more challenging for you,” she says. Scientific studies have shown that there is a direct link between getting adequate sleep and losing weight, so the connection isn’t arbitrary.
Related: 13 Tips for Better Sleep
9. Manage the stress in your life
Stress management is another cornerstone of well-being that Thomason says many don’t think has a connection to weight loss, but absolutely does. Scientific studies have shown that finding ways to manage stress is linked to greater weight loss. This is because being stressed out can lead to poor lifestyle habits like eating nutrient-poor foods, overconsuming alcohol, and not getting enough sleep. It also increases cortisol production, which leads to body fat.
10. Stop obsessing about the number on the scale
“My number one tip for staying consistent when trying to lose fat over time is to de-emphasize the scale as your only measure of progress,” Thomason says. “If you make choices based on fluctuating numbers on the scale, you will always be chasing the number and never find yourself being consistent with much of anything.” Instead, focus on how you’re feeling. In the end, that’s really what counts!
Next up, find out how many calories you burn per day, including what to keep in mind when losing weight.