To lose body fat for good, you need to shake up your approach—and shake it up often. Plateaus suck, especially when you’re working hard in the gym and in the kitchen to make sure you’re doing all the right things to cut fat. You strength train a few times a week, you’re eating healthy, you’re doing cardio. What more can you do? Often, all you need are a few simple tweaks to get back on track to continue to shred body fat, and get closer to that coveted six-pack.
To lose body fat, heed these 17 tips, all of which work to help you lose body fat. Within a few weeks, you’ll start seeing more definition in your arms and midsection—without sacrificing the gains in the weight room. Not only will you look better in the mirror, but you’ll also be healthier overall.
17 Ways to Lose Body Fat for Good
1. Drop Your Calorie Intake by 500
To slash fat, you must maintain a caloric deficit, which means you must consume fewer calories than you burn per day. Yet, often, we underestimate how much we take in, and overestimate how much we use.
Instead, keep a food journal for three to four days and track exactly how many calories you’re eating and drinking. Then, gently reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories per day to boost your fat loss. Measure your body fat every few weeks with fat calipers to make sure you’re moving the right direction.
Gut health is one of the most underrated aspects of weight loss. Your gut microbiome is home to millions of bacteria—some good, some bad. Unfortunately, having too many “bad” bacteria can inhibit weight loss. Fortunately, taking a high-count probiotic in the range of 10 to 20 billion CFU can help balance out the bacteria in your gut, so there are more good guys helping you lose body fat.
“If you want to shed body fat, you must lift weights consistently. Aim for three or more times per week, hitting each body part twice per week minimum. While you’re unlikely to gain muscle while losing weight, losing the muscle you already have is a risk unless you focus on preserving it with lifting sessions,” says MacPherson. Additionally, losing weight without strength training and eating plenty of protein and carbs will cause you to lose muscle and fat. Instead, keep lifting weights while eating protein in a calorie deficit to shrink your belly while maintaining muscle mass.
Between hectic professional, personal, and social schedules pulling us in every direction, it’s no wonder Americans are more stressed than ever. And while our collective stress levels continue to rise, they impact more than our mental health. Research shows that high stress is associated with weight gain. Conversely, stress management can improve overall health and help promote weight loss.
Carbs are your body’s ideal fuel source for physical activity. However, if you’ve tried in the past to reduce your carb intake due to fears of weight gain purported by the media, remember that excessive carb-cutting can have the opposite effect, making you tired and less likely to torch calories for weight loss.
A well-planned, nutritionally balanced vegan diet centered around whole foods is incredibly healthy and effective for weight loss, among other health benefits. That’s because whole plant foods are nutrient-dense, meaning they’re low in calories while providing a ton of nutritional value. “It’s important to include a variety of nutrient-dense plant-based foods for weight loss, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs,” says Best. “In addition to the potential weight loss benefits, following a vegan diet may have other health benefits, such as a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease and certain types of cancer.”
If you’re trying to melt away body fat as fast as possible with high-intensity workouts day in, day out, you’re likely headed on a path toward burnout. Instead, adopt a more sustainable, long-term approach that adds more overall movement to your days. “No matter how hard your workouts are, if you’re sedentary for the rest of the day, you’ll have trouble maintaining an energy deficit required for weight loss,” explains MacPherson. Research shows that consistent non-exercise movement is more effective for weight loss than intense workouts. Plus, doing too many HIIT sessions in a row will likely lead to overtraining syndrome.
Constantly dieting and restricting calories can be physically and mentally draining. Therefore, it’s a good idea to incorporate maintenance phases into your eating, where you eat the number of calories required to remain your current weight instead of being in a constant deficit. Doing so will help you maintain your fat loss without excessive metabolic adaptations that can cause you to regain all that fat you worked so hard to shed.
If your fat loss is stalling, ditch the long jog on a treadmill and start doing intense intervals. High-intensity interval workouts burn far more fat than steady-state exercise.
Protein is essential for fat loss. First, it maintains your muscle during a caloric deficit. Second, it keeps you satiated, which prevents overeating and snacking on junk food. Third, it boosts your calorie burn throughout the day because takes more energy to digest compared to carbs or fat. Eat at least one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight every day and get your protein from whole sources like nuts, eggs, lean meats, yogurts, and quality protein powders.
If you’re carrying too much fat—specifically around your lower abs—you might have low testosterone levels. But the consequences of “low T” resonate far beyond love handles: It can hurt your health, sex life, and overall mood.
To lose more fat, eat more fat. This seems counterintuitive, but healthy fats like animal fats, real butter, coconut oil, nuts, and avocados actually make you leaner and more muscular—they keep you full and maintain good testosterone levels. If you followed the other rules, eating healthy fats forces you to lower your carbohydrate intake. Get at least 30 percent of your calories from good sources of fat and never consume artificial fats, which can cause health problems like heart disease.
Water ensures that you perform at a high level in the gym because even a slight amount of dehydration can wreck your athletic performance. Worse, by skimping on water throughout the day, you’ll actually reduce your metabolism because your body tries to conserve fluids.
As an athlete, avoiding all carbs is a recipe for crappy workouts and crappier results. Carbs give you fuel to build muscle, melt fat, and target your abs. Without it, your performance in the gym will suffer. Carbs like fruits and whole grains offer a lot of fiber and vitamins to improve your overall health and help you stay lean. Even starchy carbohydrates like rice and potatoes can help you lean out because they replenish your glucose levels after a hard workout.
The omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil will help jump-start fat loss. Taking fish oil while following an exercise program increases fat oxidation and improves your body composition and cholesterol numbers. Fish oil supplementation also creates an extra drop in fat mass and an increase in muscle gain. Boost your fish oil intake to 6 grams per day to get the full effect.
Intermittent fasting increases fat oxidation, which promotes more fat loss. Also, fasting along with exercise boosts your insulin sensitivity, helping your body send nutrients to muscle rather than fat. Better still, fasting during a calorie-restricted diet leads to more weight loss than without it. Start simple: Skip breakfast for the next few days and eat your first healthy meal of the day in the afternoon.
We saved the best for last. If you’re training hard in the gym, eating clean, and still not seeing great progress in the gym, this is your culprit. Researchers from the University of Chicago found that shortchanging your sleep slows down fat oxidation and increased muscle loss by 60 percent. Sleep deprivation also wrecks your muscle gains because it interferes with recovery and growth hormone production, which happens at night during your deep sleep cycles. Get at least eight hours of good sleep every night.