Effective Ways to Lose Fat (And How to Keep It Off)

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Celebrity diets and planned workouts won't help you lose fat. Weight loss is a personal journey. Here's how to burn fat—and keep it that way.

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How to Lose Fat Effectively

What Is the Formula to Lose Fat?

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Calorie Intake – Calorie Expenditure = Weight Gain/Loss

The primary way to trim the fat is to cut back on calories.

  • If you burn more calories than you consume (calorie deficit), that results in potential weight loss.
  • If you consume more calories than you burn, then that could result in weight gain.

So the best way to lose fat could be a low-calorie diet and physical activity, resulting in a calorie deficit. A low-calorie diet alone may not guarantee weight loss. And despite what the tagline on your new ab-busting machine says, physical activity alone won't help you shed weight.

A healthy diet and active lifestyle work synergistically to help you lose weight and keep it off.

Calorie calculators online will tell you how many calories you need in a day to maintain your weight. But that's not what you're after.

Check out this Body Weight Planner from the National Institute of Health to discover your daily caloric limit to hit your target weight.

To achieve a caloric deficit, let's find out how to secure a low-calorie diet. And later on, how to bump up your calories burned.

How Do I Eat to Lose Fat?

1. Low Calories, Small Portions, Nutrient-Dense

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It's a common misconception that you need to starve yourself all the way to a slim waist. A weight-loss diet is a balance between staying within your caloric limit, satisfying your hunger, and getting all the nutrients you need.

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When meal planning for weight loss, focus on:

  • your total calorie intake
  • meal portions
  • total nutritional value

Because the goal of weight loss is to cut back on calories, make each bite count. Make sure you get all the essential vitamins and nutrients you need within every calorie and bite. The ideal meal is low in calories but high in nutrients and is filling.

Portion control will make sure you satisfy your hunger and keep you from overeating. Eat enough to fill your stomach, then stop eating when you're no longer hungry.

Learn more about the U.S. Department of Agriculture's guide to planning your plate here.

2. Say No to Added Sugar

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Glucose is brain food and is essential for other bodily functions. But we can get this from the same sources of calories—fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.

It's naturally found in healthy foods like dairy products, fruits, and veggies. But the Western diet includes plenty of added sugar and may contribute to the obesity epidemic. Calories from added sugars contribute as much as 15% to the American diet.

Watch out for added sugars on food packaging. They go by different names, including:

  • brown rice syrup
  • brown sugar
  • cane juice
  • confectioner's powdered sugar
  • corn syrup
  • dextrose
  • maple syrup
  • fructose
  • fruit nectar
  • glucose
  • honey
  • invert sugar
  • molasses
  • raw sugar
  • sucrose
  • evaporated corn sweetener

Instead, look for labels like:

  • unsweetened
  • low-sugar
  • sugar-free

But what about artificial sweeteners?

Unfortunately, researchers are still on the fence about them. Scientists continue to learn more about the physiological and psychological impact sweeteners have. But until we have large-scale, long-term studies, it's still up in the air whether they can help with weight loss.

Until then, replace sugary pastries with whole fresh fruits to satisfy your sweet tooth. Fruits are nutrient-dense, naturally sweet, and might be lower in calories.

3. Fill up on Fiber to Lose Fat

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Another common misconception is that you need to completely cut off carbohydrates to lose fat. But carbohydrates are your body's foremost source of energy (calories). And a certain type of carb, contrary to belief, may actually aid in weight loss.

Fiber is a carbohydrate that could help you lose fat.

There are two types of fiber—soluble and insoluble fiber. But soluble fibers receive the spotlight in terms of weight management.

Once soluble fibers combine with water in your body, it turns into a gel. And this causes your body to digest it more slowly, leaving you full longer. And as a result, you may eat less.

Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and protein foods are excellent sources of fiber. Foods that are rich in dietary fiber are also more likely to be low in calories.

When it comes to weight loss, learn to love fruits and vegetables. They tick all the boxes for good nutrition. They're potentially low in calories, packed with vitamins and minerals, and are fiber powerhouses.

How Do I Exercise to Lose Fat?

1. Build Muscle to Boost Your Metabolic Rate (Strength Training)

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Strength training (a.k.a. weight training or resistance training) pit your muscles against an opposing force to build muscle mass and strength. And building your muscle mass may also build up your metabolic rate.

Your metabolic rate is the number of calories your body uses to perform basic functions. And three factors that can either slow this down or speed it up.

  • age
  • sex
  • body composition

You lose muscle as you age (sarcopenia), but you may reverse this with physical activity. Men tend to have more muscles than women, so men tend to burn more calories. There's not much you can do about your age and your sex. But you can improve your body composition.

Muscles may burn more calories more than fat does—even at rest. And so, people with more muscle mass tend to blast more calories.

Some studies suggest that strength training paired with aerobic exercise is more effective than blasting calories than doing either exercise alone.

A higher muscle mass could help you achieve a calorie deficit (alongside a low-calorie diet).

Squeeze in a 30-minute session in your day. If you're busy and don't have the time, then you may break it down to three 10-minute exercises. The more exercise you get, the more health benefits you receive.

2. HIIT It

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High-Intensity Interval Training is an exercise that involves an interval between high-intensity spells of effort and recovery periods.

HIIT may improve:

  • aerobic and anaerobic fitness
  • insulin sensitivity
  • belly fat and body weight
  • heart health
  • cholesterol profile

A HIIT workout might prove to be more effective at blasting calories than other forms of exercise. You could continue to zap calories after your workout.

Your body continues to burn calories for around two hours after exercise. But after an intense HIIT session, you could zap 6% to 15% more calories versus other modes of exercise. It may be because of the vigorous-intensity of HIIT compared to more traditional workouts.

Modify your HIIT training program based on your fitness level and goals. You could also incorporate other exercises like swimming, cycling, or walking into your routine.

Because HIIT training may be more intense than other forms of exercise, start out once a week.

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Is Spot Reduction Possible?

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No. Unfortunately, it's impossible to target local spots. There are no known ways to lose belly fat specifically.

However, a healthy diet and active lifestyle could improve your body composition and trim your belly over time.

Before your body can begin to use fat (triglycerides) as energy, it needs to be broken down first. It is then converted to free fatty acids and glycerol. But you cannot control where the body gets this fat.

Just because you work out your abs the most, it may not mean that you will also target belly fat.

Are Supplements Effective?

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Perhaps not. Or at least there is no conclusive evidence that supplements aid in weight loss.

Keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements. So there is no way to guarantee their claims or safety.

Speak with your physician if you would like to try supplements, especially if you are under medication. Supplements may interact with your medicine and could be dangerous for you.

Other Tips and Tricks to Lose Fat

1. Step off the Weighing Scale

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You're building muscle, and that could increase your weight. But you could also be losing fat, and that may not show on your scale.

While regularly weighing yourself may help you track your progress, understand that it may not be the only (or the best) measure. There is a large difference in size between a 10-pound chunk of meat and a 10-pound chunk of fat. So your weighing scale may be misleading.

Measure your waistline too. Better yet, take before-and-after photos to have a better visual of your progress.

2. Go at Your Own Pace

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The one thing that's more difficult than losing weight is keeping it off.

Many go cold turkey on their favorite foods, then relapse three days into their New Year's resolution.

Stick to a sensible diet that you can abide by and is practical to your lifestyle.

Think long-term. It's not a race.

Willpower is a finite source. Think of it as a muscle. Sometimes you also need to build this and strengthen your resolve.

3. Understand the Difference between Hunger and a Craving

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You need to listen to your body, especially when you're hungry. It's a sign that your body needs food, and it's a signal you cannot ignore.

Your cravings, however, are another story. Cravings are when your want to eat something, not necessarily when you need to eat. You may want to eat when you're bored, or you come across something that smells delicious.

Distract yourself by taking a quick stroll or stepping out of the room. If that desire to eat goes away, then you're sure that it was just a craving after all.

Sometimes it's a matter of mind over matter. And mindful eating could help you with that.

4. Practice Mindful Eating

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Mindful eating involves listening to your body especially when your mind tells you to reach for that cookie.

When the temptation to munch arises, pause for a moment. Think hard about whether you really need to eat. And if you do need to eat, decide what food is best for your body.

Will a sugary cheesecake give your body what it needs? Or will a high-protein sandwich do the trick?

You may also pay more attention to cues that tell you when it's time to stop eating. Train yourself to eat slowly so that you don't miss out on those cues.

Over time, you'll understand what your body needs. Be patient with yourself.

5. Bring a Gym Buddy

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When you face roadblocks (and there will be), your driving forces will help your plow through them.

Sometimes having a gym buddy or a trainer or anyone you will be accountable to could help keep you on track.

It may also make your sessions more stimulating and fun. You'll be done with the workout before you realized it.

The Path to Lose Fat

Your weight loss journey is a personal one. Different diets work for different people. Just like your clothes, weight loss programs aren't a one-size-fits-all situation.

There are many ways to lose fat, so don't be discouraged if your first training program didn't turn out well. Treat programs like guidelines. Take tricks that work, but make it your own.

Again, there is no one food and life-changing hack food hack that could bring down your waistline. A healthy dietary pattern and an active lifestyle are gold standards to lose fat.

If you've never step foot inside a gym (and you're not alone), check out this video for easy beginner workouts you can do at home:Zapping fat is a numbers game. Step up your calorie expenditure and lower your intake.

When in doubt, say it out loud: nothing in excess (calories, sugar) and everything in moderation.

What are your main tips in losing fat?

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