Really, it shouldn’t be so difficult to figure out which eating regimen will set fire to fat while maintaining muscle. Fortunately, the International Society of Sports Nutrition just released its position paper, which combs through all existing scientific studies to report how every diet will affect your body composition. Here, we’ve pulled five of the most six-pack-friendly diets and streamlined how they’re great, as well as why they might be right (or wrong) for you—according to the hard science.
Physical activity helps burn abdominal fat. “One of the biggest benefits of exercise is that you get a lot of bang for your buck on body composition,” Stewart says. Exercise seems to work off belly fat in particular because it reduces circulating levels of insulin—which would otherwise signal the body to hang on to fat—and causes the liver to use up fatty acids, especially those nearby visceral fat deposits, he says.
Certain carbohydrates have a tendency to be poorly absorbed in your intestines and then rapidly fermented, leading to gas and bloating. Common culprits include refined carbohydrates and simple sugars—like those found in processed foods with added sugars. Excess sodium can also cause bloating due to increased water retention. Opt for freshly prepared foods and reduce processed, packaged foods to cut back on belly bloaters. In the morning, swap your sugar-laden bowl of cereal for this Green Smoothie, made with fresh fruits and vegetables to get your day started the right way.
Replace the negative voice in your head that's telling you to quit with a motivational saying that will inspire you to keep going even when it gets tough. "I powered through workouts telling myself, 'I can do hard things!'" says Megen Karlinsey, who kept off 150 pounds. Her mantra helped her accomplish a triathlon, which she signed up for to blast a weight loss plateau.
3. Be realistic about which habits need to go. "When I was heavy, I'd eat French fries every single day, plus carbs at almost every meal—like a sandwich for lunch or bread with pasta for dinner. A diet so heavy in fried food and carbs just isn't conducive to weight loss. To lose the weight, I went from three large meals a day to six small meals, mostly made of fresh vegetable salads with lean meats and nuts. And no more bread!"
The upgrade is a touch steeper than it is for other tracking app upgrades — most run $4–5 per month. But we found that those inexpensive alternatives were chaotically organized and slow to respond, elements that had us avoiding opening them at all. SparkPeople and Lose It! both came with lots of lag time and finicky search bars that made us hesitant to launch the apps, let alone log in three or more times a day.
Visceral fat, commonly known as belly fat, is the layer of fat below the muscles of your abdomen. Due to its crucial location surrounding many of your vital organs, belly fat supplies a constant source of energy but also exposes the body to harmful toxins and hormones. When you have too many fat cells or your fat cells get too large, they can overproduce toxins that increase your risk for chronic inflammation, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. This is why belly fat can be more dangerous than subcutaneous fat—or the outer layer of fat that you can pinch with your fingers. That said, the reason you're having trouble buttoning your pants may not be visceral fat: what we're calling "belly fat" these days could be bloating or water retention rather than a fat buildup. Read on for steps you can take to beat the bulge.
So how does this work? A quick run-through: The first tip was to eat low carb. This is because a low-carb diet lowers your levels of the fat-storing hormone insulin, allowing your fat deposits to shrink and release their stored energy. This tends to cause you to want to consume fewer calories than you expend – without hunger – and lose weight. Several of the tips mentioned above are about fine-tuning your diet to better this effect.
This high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carb fad diet sends the body into a state of ketosis, in which the body uses stored fat for energy. Research published in Clinical Cardiology suggests the ketogenic, or “keto,” diet can be an effective weight loss method, but to be successful, you must follow the plan consistently with no cheat days — otherwise, you’re just eating a high-fat diet that may be high in unhealthy fats for no reason. (1) (A pro tip? If you're planning on doing the diet, consider perusing this complete keto food list and reading up on the healthiest fats for keto diet followers.)
In a Nutrisystem-funded study of 69 obese Type 2 diabetics, published in the journal Postgraduate Medicine in 2009, researchers reported that those assigned to eat meals on the Nutrisystem D diabetic track lost an average of 18 pounds after three months compared with 1 pound for the control group, who attended educational sessions on diabetes management and nutrition. At six months, the Nutrisystem dieters were down an average of 24 pounds, while the controls – who were switched to Nutrisystem meals halfway through the six-month study – were down 13 pounds. In a similar study published in 2013 in Nutrition Diabetes, 50 Nutrisystem dieters lost an average of about 22 pounds in six months, while the 50 control dieters lost only about 5.
If you feel like you're making smart moves to lose weight but the scale isn't moving the way you want, your diet may contain some sneaky foods that can lead to bloating, water retention (ahem, salt!), and a higher calorie intake. Veggies, fruits, seeds, nuts, fish, whole grains, and other smart choices loaded with fiber and protein will keep you fuller longer, all while working their nutrient-powered magic. When it comes to healthy eating and weight loss, these plant-based foods loved by registered dietitians have your back.
Don't be fooled by the elliptical! It might look an easy machine, casually spinning your legs while watching TV or reading a magazine. But if you crank up the resistance and work at a hard pace, it'll leave you breathless. Be sure to stand up straight to lengthen your abs and engage your upper-body muscles. Making use of the handles and swinging your arms will help you blast more fat and calories. Are you guilty of making any of these common elliptical mistakes? Follow these pro tips to fix them.
"If your diet consists of lots of sports drinks, sugar-sweetened drinks like fizzy pop and flavoured waters, or sugary foods like chocolate and cakes, it will make losing weight harder. While whole fruits and vegetables are undoubtedly good for you, they can also sometimes cause weight gain if you eat too much, as they have high levels of natural sugars in them. Low-fat food options might have high amounts of added sugar in there too, so make sure to check the food label.