Doing crunches until the cows come home? Stop it! When you're down to your final inches of belly fat, the dreaded crunch won't be the exercise that finally reveals your six-pack. "You can't spot reduce," Jill says. Instead, she suggests doing functional exercises that use the muscles in your core—abdominals, back, pelvic, obliques—as well as other body parts. "These exercises use more muscles, so there is a higher rate of calorie burn while you are doing them," she says. Planks are her favorite functional exercise—they activate not just your core muscles but also your arm, leg, and butt muscles.
A study in the April 1999 issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition proved the calorie-burning benefits of muscle. The study put two groups of obese individuals on a very low-calorie diet. One group did only aerobic exercises four times per week while the other group did only resistance exercises three times per week. After 12 weeks, the aerobics group lost more weight than the resistance group. However, in the aerobics group almost one third of the weight lost was muscle. The resistance group lost only fat.
Weight Watchers has been around for more than 50 years, and has always been a point-based system -- currently known as SmartPoints. Those points are calculated from a formula that takes into account the food's fat, sugar, protein and carbohydrate count. You're given a specific number of points each day that you track and log, as well as weekly bonus points for snacks or additional food items. Fitness is also a bigger component, and you're encouraged to set fitness goals when you set up your profile, then track them and, if you wish, exchange FitPoints for food.
Pros: The most consistently beneficial of all diets here, study after study shows that upping your protein intake can help significantly reduce body fat and build lean muscle. For example: Guys who ran sprint intervals, did resistance training, and ate a diet of 2.4g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day (roughly 1g per lb of bodyweight) gained 1.2kg of lean muscle and lost almost 5kg of fat in just four weeks, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. If you cut calories but eat high protein, the macro can help prevent your metabolism from plummeting and help keep hunger at bay, since protein is so satiating. The study analysis also confirmed that eating a ton of protein stuff doesn’t cause you to gain weight or harm any internal systems, despite myths.
Have you ever decided to skip a meal to cut back on your daily calorie count? Despite saving a few calories in the moment, this strategy almost always backfires. When you skip breakfast, or any meal, you'll begin to experience excessive hunger that can lead to craving unhealthy foods—and lots of them. You may also eat faster than you normally do after skipping a meal, causing you to miss the warning signs that you're full and resulting in overeating.
Sprints outside, on a treadmill, or even up stairs or bleachers are great to burn the most calories in the least amount of time. No equipment is really necessary and you can do these workouts just about anywhere. “Sprinting is simple, and it burns huge amounts of calories—when looking to shed weight, it tops the list,” says Adams. “While steady-state running or jogging burns plenty of calories, increasing your speed and intensity will really pay off.”
Call it what you will: An eating plan, a lifestyle, a diet, a philosophy, but few things garner such heated debate as how to lose weight. The truth is, whether you’re on a low-carb keto program, devoted to the Paleo lifestyle, all in to the Whole 30 or remain committed to low-fat eating, these plans have more in common than you think. What’s more, follow any one of them religiously, and you’ll likely notice results.
How: Squat down with a straight back and grab the barbell with an overhand grip. In one swift movement, lift the barbell to your shoulders and sink back down into a squat. Push up through your heels and extend your arms to press the barbell above your head. Lower safely to your shoulders and drop back to the floor while maintaining a straight back.
If the diet is a quick fix rather than one that promotes lasting lifestyle changes, this could pose a problem. In particular, extreme diets that promise big weight loss up front aren’t always sustainable — and you may end up overeating or even binge eating if you feel deprived. “Consider if the diet’s habits are ones you can continue throughout your lifetime, not just 21 or 30 days,” says Angie Asche, RD, a sports dietitian in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Instead, Harrison says you should look at foods as a way of self-care — eat what makes you feel good and forget about it as a means of slimming down (although a solid side effect of healthy eating: weight loss). Does that mean a free-for-all on the candy bowl? No. But it's a rule your body will naturally adapt to, not something you have to force on it. A bowl of almonds made you feel amazing in the mid-afternoon sales meeting, but those red gummies, not so much. Next time, you'll likely reach for the almonds.
MyFitnessPal: An app widely recommended by trainers and fitness enthusiasts, MyFitnessPal is great for tracking macros. Goal macros: 50% carbs, 30% fat, 20% protein. It further breaks these general guidelines into specific gram amounts that make it easy to see how some macros add up quick (carbs) and others don’t (protein — hitting 64 grams takes conscious effort!).
It's no surprise that Dr. Dean Ornish's program is such a powerful tool for weight loss, considering its easy adaptability as a lasting lifestyle. The diet is mostly plant-based, keeps sodium intake in moderation, and limits coffee to a cup a day (two cups decaf) — so if you're looking to lose weight while keeping your java flow, you may want to consider another plan.