Long, boring cardio sessions and complex diets will shed pounds of fat. It’s what everyone says. The problem is, well… it sucks. And most people won’t stick to it.
On top of that, chronic under-eating and long cardio sessions can rob you of hard-earned muscle.
The good news is that a couple of small tweaks to your lifestyle and a few, simple substitutions can add up to serious results.
Here are nine suggestions to get you lean without turning you into a calorie-counting, cardio hamster.
Something as simple as swapping out regular TV for Netflix can have a surprising effect on body composition.
Advertisers know exactly how they can influence you. According to researchers at Yale, just watching commercials featuring food triggers cravings and makes people overeat.
The scientists split randomly selected participants into two groups, either watching hours of “Netflix” or “normal TV” – which included commercials.
Both groups were told they could eat whatever they wanted, whenever they felt hungry.
They found that the group that watched TV with commercials felt hungrier and unwittingly ate hundreds, and often thousands, more calories than people who watched commercial-free media.
Meanwhile, the Netflix-watchers stayed focused on their binge-watching, thought about food less, and cut a few hundred calories from their daily without even trying.
Strength training builds muscles. Muscles burn truckloads of calories.
Even at rest, higher levels of muscularity equate to having a faster metabolism. When you’re sitting on the couch playing Xbox, your muscles are torching calories – over 70% of the heat your body generates just to stay alive and at 98.6 degrees comes from calories being burned in your muscle tissue.
Plain and simple, having more muscle means you burn more calories, 24 hours a day. Need we say more?
Let’s be honest. If there's junk food around, you’re going to eat it. It’s only a matter of time.
If possible, don’t keep chips, candy, ice cream, sugary sodas, or whatever else you have a weakness for in your house.
If you indulge or have a “cheat day”, get something you can finish where you are (at a restaurant, in the car, at work) or that you’ll be able to crush in one sitting. What you don’t want is a stockpile of bad choices chilling in your cupboard, waiting for your will power to crack.
When you’re up late and a craving hits, having to head out to the store in the cold night just for a bag of Doritos will gut check you as to whether or not they’re really worth it.
Random snacks make a significant contribution to the obesity epidemic. All those little cheats add up.
If you don’t trust pure will power, and you’re not interested in sitting around hungry, the best solution is replacing those snacks with something high-protein, low-carb and low-fat.
Study after study has proven protein makes people feel the fullest the longest. Swap those Cheetos for a protein shake and you’ll be snacking on something healthier, stimulating muscle growth, and you won’t find yourself back in the pantry 15 minutes later.
Even better, protein digestion boosts metabolism in a way that carbs and fats do not.
Not into protein powders? Here’s a list of some high-protein foods that build muscle and help cut body fat.
This trick employs a clever bit of chemistry to let you eat tasty carbs without making your abs go all blurry – and all you need is a fridge to do it.
Potatoes, pasta and rice contain starchy, complex carbohydrates. If you cook these foods then rapidly cool them down in a refrigerator or freezer, the carbohydrates undergo a change at the molecular level.
About half the carbs (starches) become a new structure called Resistant Starch. And this new kind of carbohydrate is harder for the body to convert to fat.
Cooling carb-rich foods right after cooking can cut the calories you absorb from them by as much as 60%, depending on the food.
Don’t’ worry, nobody’s suggesting chowing down on cold spaghetti. The change from cooking, then chilling, is irreversible – so once the carbs have cooled you can reheat them and eat them piping hot and the caloric impact will still be anywhere from 40-60% less than normal.
The best fat loss diets contain relatively high amounts of protein.
Lean meat is an excellent protein. But lean fish may enhance fat loss even better. Lean fish contains just as much protein as meat, but that protein is of a different composition. Fish protein contains more taurine and glycine than meat protein.
In studies, researchers have found that if you feed mammals protein from fish instead of beef, they lose body fat.
A similar study was done with people. Two groups were told to follow a low-calorie diet for 8 weeks, with one getting their protein from beef, and the other from fish. Both groups ate the same number of calories, so most would expect the weight loss to be identical.
However, the people in the “fish” group lost an average of four pounds more body fat.
Don’t get it twisted: Beef isn’t bad. But if you’re looking to shed some pounds without having to starve, switching it up with fish is a great option.
On the note about both groups getting the same number of calories but having different weight-loss results: Not all calories are created equal. Calories from certain foods are much more fat building (or burning) than others. More on that here for anyone who’s interested.
According to Italian scientists with the University of Naples-Federico II, if you eat a meal rich in fats from olive oil, you will feel full more quickly and eat less without purposefully trying to.
The body converts the main fatty acid in olive oil, oleic acid, into oleoylethanolamide. This substance suppresses appetite.
Olive oil is best raw (uncooked), so add it to a salad or drizzle it on pasta or bread to give it a richer, buttery taste.
Alternatively, oleic acid is also found in avocado and nuts.
Some of the greatest fat building foods known to man aren’t foods at all – they’re drinks. And they’re hiding stunning amounts of both sugar and calories.
The body doesn’t decrease feelings of hunger after the intake of high calorie liquids. Sodas, and even juices, defeat your natural mechanisms that regulate eating too much.
While there are sugar-free drinks and artificial sweetened sodas, there’s some controversy about their safety and effectiveness (although they’re probably fine). Also, many “health” or “fitness” drinks are actually hiding tons of sugar and calories, so it can get confusing and misleading trying to sort out the good from the bad.
Make it simple and try going a week drinking only water. It’s a guaranteed way to cut thousands of calories from your weekly intake, and your muscles, skin, and just about every organ in your body will thank you for the extra H20.
All over the industrialized world, working adults are dramatically short-changing themselves on sleep. Instead of solid, recuperative sleep, we stress too much, binge-watch Narcos until 3am, and endlessly swipe on our phones.
And the less we sleep, the more hunger-causing and fat-protecting hormones our bodies make.
In studies, the fattening effect of sleep deprivation is crystal clear. In fact, a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found people who were allowed to sleep only 5 hours per day became fat twice as fast as people allowed to sleep 7 hours per day.
More evidence: Sleep researchers also had subjects sleep in one hour longer than usual. Thirty days later, the researchers took biomarkers and other measurements from their well-rested participants.
The data showed an increase in lean body mass. Upon further examination, researchers realized the participants had cut their body fat by 3% on average, without any dieting or food restrictions.
Need another reason to sleep in? Getting even a little extra shuteye provides a big boost to your testosterone levels.