Trying to lose weight, especially belly fat, can be extremely challenging. You try working out daily and watching what you eat but still, your body refuses to let go of the fat. It’s probably because you haven’t made the following diet and lifestyle changes. Here are five proven strategies to help you lose weight quickly and safely in no time:
Drink more water
To get the best results, drink at least 1–2 litres of water every day. You can also replace soda and other sugary drinks with water. Increasing your water intake is an easy, often overlooked way to boost weight loss. Research has shown that upping your water intake enhances weight loss by reducing your appetite and keeping you feeling full for a long period. It also temporarily boosts your metabolism, which means your body burns more calories. This applies when you drink water before and during meals.
Take up intermittent fasting
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is the rave of the moment because of its enormous health benefits. As the name implies, it is basically going without food for some time, before eating normally during a certain window. This pattern of eating does not change what you eat, only when you can eat. There are several Intermittent Fasting methods with the most common one being the 16:8 methods. This involves fasting every day for 16 hours and only eating in the 8-hour window. You also have the 5:2 method (eating normally for 5 days and fasting for 2 days of the week), Eat-Stop-Eat method (doing a 24-hour fast, once or twice a week) and the Warrior Diet (fast during the day and eat a huge meal at night during the 4-hour window). You could eat dinner between 7–8 and fast till 11–12 pm the next day. You can have water, tea or coffee while fasting. Health benefits include lowering the risk of breast cancer, improving the health of your heart, lowering blood sugar, increasing your lifespan, and of course weight loss.
Increase your protein intake
Adding protein-rich foods to your diet is essential to weight loss since protein is known to promote feelings of fullness, increase muscle mass, decrease belly fat and overall body weight. Protein-rich foods you can find in Nigeria include eggs, fish, lean meats (skinless chicken and turkey), snails, egusi soup, okra soup, oats, and beans in all forms including Moi Moi and Akara.
Work out in the morning
It’s common knowledge that exercise has several health benefits apart from weight loss. The problem is usually figuring out how to squeeze it into our busy days. This is why it’s best to get it out of the way by doing it first thing in the morning. According to Anthony Hackney, a professor in the department of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, working out in the morning is also the best way to burn stored fat. sIn his words, “In the early morning hours, you have a hormonal profile that would predispose you to better metabolism of fat.” So you’ll “draw more of your energy from your fat reserves.” You get more health benefits if you work out with an empty stomach.
Get more sleep
Sleep is another reason why many people still struggle with weight loss. You could be doing everything right but not realise that you are sabotaging your results by not getting adequate rest. Mounting evidence has shown that lack of sleep leads to an increase in hunger, appetite, and obesity. Researchers are now recommending adequate sleep as a way to successful weight loss. So aim for 6–8 hours of a good night’s rest every day.
Cut Back on Sugars and Starches
The most important part is to cut back on sugars and starches (carbs). When you do that, your hunger levels go down and you end up eating much fewer calories. Now instead of burning carbs for energy, your body starts feeding off of stored fat. Another benefit of cutting carbs is that it lowers insulin levels, causing your kidneys to shed excess sodium and water out of your body. This reduces bloat and unnecessary water weight. It is not uncommon to lose up to 10 pounds (sometimes more) in the first week of eating this way, both body fat and water weight. This is a graph from a study comparing low-carb and low-fat diets in overweight or obese women. The low-carb group is eating until fullness, while the low-fat group is calorie-restricted and hungry. Cut the carbs and you will start to eat fewer calories automatically and without hunger. Removing sugars and starches (carbs) from your diet will reduce your appetite, lower your insulin levels and make you lose weight without hunger.
You can take one day off per week where you eat more carbs. Many people prefer Saturday. It is important to stick to healthy carb sources like oats, rice, quinoa, potatoes, sweet potatoes, fruit, etc. But only this one higher carb day if you start doing it more often than once per week you’re not going to see much success on this plan. If you must have a cheat meal and eat something unhealthy, then do it on this day. Be aware that cheat meals or carb reefed are NOT necessary, but they can boost some fat-burning hormones like lepton and thyroid hormones. You will gain some weight during your reefed day, but most of it will be water weight and you will lose it again in the next 1–2 days.
Eat Protein, Fat and Vegetables
Each one of your meals should include a protein source, a fat source and low-carb vegetables. Constructing your meals in this way will automatically bring your carb intake into the recommended range of 20–50 grams per day.The importance of eating plenty of protein cannot be overstated. This has been shown to boost metabolism by 80 to 100 calories per day. High-protein diets can also reduce cravings and obsessive thoughts about food by 60%, reduce the desire for late-night snacking by half, and make you so full that you automatically eat 441 fewer calories per day — just by adding protein to your diet. When it comes to losing weight, protein is the king of nutrients, Period.
Don’t be afraid to load your plate with these low-carb vegetables. You can eat massive amounts of them without going over 20–50 net carbs per day. A diet based mostly on meat and vegetables contains all the fiber, vitamins and minerals you need to be healthy.
Eat 2–3 meals per day. If you find yourself hungry in the afternoon, add a 4th meal. Don’t be afraid of eating fat, as trying to do both low-carb and low-fat at the same time is a recipe for failure. It will make you feel miserable and abandon the plan. To see how you can assemble your meals, check out this low-carb meal plan and this list of 101 healthy low-carb recipes. Assemble each meal out of a protein source, a fat source and low-carb vegetables. This will put you in the 20–50 gram carb range and significantly lower your hunger levels.
Lift Weights 3 Times Per Week
You don’t need to exercise to lose weight on this plan, but it is recommended. The best option is to go to the gym 3–4 times a week. Do a warm-up and lift some weights. If you’re new to the gym, ask a trainer for some advice. By lifting weights, you will burn lots of calories and prevent your metabolism from slowing down, which is a common side effect of losing weight. Studies on low-carb diets show that you can even gain a bit of muscle while losing significant amounts of body fat. If lifting weights is not an option for you, then doing some cardio workouts like walking, jogging, running, cycling or swimming will suffice. It is best to do some sort of resistance training like weight lifting. If that is not an option, cardio workouts are also effective.