Losing body fat can be a challenging task, often requiring hard work, patience, and dedication.
Although many fad diets and fat-burning supplements promise quick results, modifying your diet, lifestyle, and exercise routine is the most effective way to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Here are 7 practical steps to promote long-lasting, sustainable fat loss while improving your overall health.
1. Follow a high protein diet
Eating more protein-rich foods may help reduce your appetite and increase fat burning.
Try adding a few servings of high protein food to your diet each day. Protein rich foods include red meat, pork, chicken, turkey, seafood, eggs, tofu, and some dairy products like cheese, and yogurt.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, increasing your intake of healthy fats may prevent weight gain.
A 12-month study associated with a diet rich in healthy fats from olive oil and nuts showed greater long-term weight loss, compared with a low fat diet. (6)
Another review linked diets enriched with olive oil to greater reductions in body weight and belly fat compared with diets without olive oil. (7)
What’s more, increased intake of trans fats — a type of fat often found in fried or processed foods — is associated with increased long-term weight gain. (8)
Olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds are just a few examples of good quality fats that can benefit your health.
However, keep in mind that healthy fat is still high in calories, so it’s important to moderate your intake. Instead of eating more fat overall, try swapping fried foods, processed ingredients, and refined oils for the healthy varieties above.
3. Fill up on fiber
According to some studies, increasing your intake of high fiber foods may protect against weight gain. These foods include fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
For example, one study in 345 people tied eating more fiber to increased weight loss and improved dietary adherence. (10)
Another review found that increasing soluble fiber intake significantly decreased body weight and belly fat, independent of calorie intake. (11)
Swapping out sugary drinks for healthier selections is one of the easiest ways to promote long-term, sustainable fat loss.
For example, sugar-sweetened beverages like soda are often packed with calories and offer little to no nutritional value. Alcohol is also high in calories and may lower inhibitions, which may increase your risk of overeating. (12)
Instead, opt for calorie-free beverages like water, coffee or green tea.
According to one small study in 14 young men, drinking 16 ounces of water before a meal increased feeling of fullness, reduced hunger, and decreased the number of calories eaten during the meal. (15)
Strength training is a type of exercise in which your muscles contract against resistance. It builds muscle mass and increases strength over time, and it usually involves lifting weights.
Research reveals that strength training has multiple health benefits, especially when it comes to fat loss.
According to a review of 58 studies, resistance training for at least 4 weeks may help decrease body fat by an average of 1.46 percent. It may also significantly reduce body fat mass and visceral fat, which is a type of fat that surrounds the organs in your belly. (18)
Another study showed that 5 months of strength training was more effective at reducing body fat in adolescents with obesity than aerobic exercise alone. (19)
Plus, resistance training may help preserve fat-free mass, which may increase the number of calories your body burns at rest. (20)
According to one review, resistance training boosted people’s resting metabolic rate compared with a control group, while aerobic exercise had no significant effect on metabolism. (21)
Doing bodyweight exercises, lifting weights, and using gym equipment are a few easy ways to get started with strength training.
Cardio, also known as aerobic exercise, is one of the most common forms of exercise. It’s any type of exercise that specifically trains the heart and lungs.
Adding cardio to your routine may be one of the most effective ways to enhance fat burning and weight loss.
For example, one review of 15 studies tied increased aerobic exercise to decreased belly fat in middle-age women. (22).
Most research recommends 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week, or roughly 20 to 40 minutes of cardio each day. (26)
Running, walking, cycling, and swimming are just a few examples of cardio training.
7. Try intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that involves cycling between periods of eating and periods of fasting.
And although it may not be a good fit for everyone, some research indicates that it may enhance both weight loss and fat loss.
One review on intermittent fasting examined alternate-day fasting, a method in which you alternate between days of fasting and eating normally. Over a period of up to 12 weeks, this method can reduce body weight by as much as 7 percent and decreased body fat by up to 12 pounds. (27)
Another small study showed that eating only during an 8-hour window each day helped decrease fat mass and maintain muscle mass when combined with resistance training. (28)
Several types of intermittent fasting exist, including Eat Stop Eat, the 16/8 method, and the 5:2 diet. Seek out a variation that fits your schedule, and don’t be afraid to experiment to find what works best for you.