Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness and nutrition courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
1. Toss green tomatoes into your salads.
Green tomatoes contain tomatidine, a compound that stimulates muscle growth. Research shows it produces bigger muscles, increased strength and endurance, and prevents muscle loss as it reduces body fat.
2. Have a cup of Joe.
Can’t start your day without a cup of Joe? Your morning fix may be helping you in more ways than you know. As a central nervous system stimulant, coffee has been shown to improve energy levels during exercise, especially endurance workouts, and helps you work harder.
3. Don’t drastically diet.
Lean people (versus those who are overweight or obese) who try extreme diets are more likely to experience a rebound or “fat overshooting” effect that leaves them heavier than when they started. Small, potentially permanent lifestyle changes such as cutting out high-calorie condiments and making small increases in activity are more likely to lead to lasting weight loss.
4. Still skimping on your preworkout nutrition?
Here’s a new incentive: Eat protein before you go and you can peel off 15 pounds a year. A study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport showed that women who ate a high-protein meal an hour before their workout burned more calories per minute than women who ate a low-protein meal or no food. The additional calorie burn amounted to 185 calories over the following 24 hours and could add up to a 15-pound loss within a year.
5. Eat salmon.
Diets high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in salmon, lead to lower body-fat storage versus diets rich in other fatty acids. Scientists believe omega-3 fatty acids work by helping increase lean body mass, which boosts metabolism.
6. HIIT it.
Trade in your long, slow cardio for a few high-intensity sessions a couple times a week for more effective fat loss. High-intensity aerobic training is more effective at reducing belly fat and overall body fat than any other type of exercise. Women who cycled (on stationary bicycles) three times a week for 20 minutes, doing workouts consisting of eight-second sprints followed by 12 seconds of low-intensity work, lost more fat (2.5 kilograms) than women who cycled for 40 minutes at a steady state.
7. Drink more water.
You can’t burn fat and calories without adequate fluid, says Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of exercise science at Auburn University at Montgomery in Alabama. “It sounds too simple, but it’s extremely important.” A poor workout, either from lack of endurance or an inability to work out intensely, is due to being underhydrated, Olson says. “Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day.”
8. Drink milk.
A compound found in milk, nicotinamide riboside, is used within mitochondria (energy-producing units) in cells for fat metabolism. It’s shown to protect against the negative effects of a high-fat diet and enhances metabolism.
9. Eat high-water fruits & veggies.
High-water-content food like apples, oranges, celery, lettuce and tomatoes are easy to digest and help add more water to your system to burn fat and calories, Olson says.
10. Vary your workout intensity.
Vary your workout intensities throughout the week, says Lisa Wheeler, star of the DVD Weight Watchers: Pick Your Spot Stability Ball Workout Kit. “Weave low-, medium- and high-intensity days with active recovery days to avoid burnout and to train for optimal results.” This allows you to work out at your true maximum potential while staying active throughout the week.
11. Keep moving throughout the day.
Even if you work out regularly, sitting the other 23 hours can slow your metabolism and fat burning. Keep active during the day to burn more calories via NEAT: non-exercise activity thermogenesis, which refers to small activities we do during daily activities, even fidgeting. “I recommend ditching your couch for one week,” says Katy Bowman, MS, author of Move Your DNA (2014). “You don’t even have to go out and walk, just opt for the floor — straight, folded or crossed legs — and work your muscles more by using yourself to keep yourself upright.”
12. Try Tabata.
A variation on HIIT, Tabata involves four-minute bouts of explosive intervals done for 20 seconds for eight rounds with 10-second breaks between each session. Tabata routines burn 13.5 calories a minute and doubled the metabolic rates of study subjects for 30 minutes afterward.
13. Sip green tea.
If you drink coffee in the morning, switch to green tea for the rest of the day to continue the calorie-burning boost. Studies show a chemical called catechins found in green tea may reduce body fat, as well as LDL (bad cholesterol) and cardiovascular risks.
14. Run stairs.
Running up and down stairs or doing stadium workouts gives you a tremendous cardio workout while it works the larger lower-body muscles, so you will burn more fat overall, says Olympic soccer medalist Lauren Sesselmann, star of the Fit as a Pro DVD: “Sprint up the stairs and jog down. Go around the whole stadium.”
15. Jump to it.
Adding explosive, plyometric moves like jump squats adds a cardio-vascular component to your strength workout and, therefore, boosts calorie burning, says Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, author of Beat the Gym (2011). Also called jump training, exercises involve a lengthening of the muscle followed by a rapid contraction, much like a spring. Jumping jacks also count as plyometric moves. Do a plyometric set before your regular workout once or twice a week.
16. Head for the hills.
Finding a hill to run up outdoors instantly adds more intensity and increases calories burned, Holland says. If weather doesn’t permit exercising outside, simply increase the incline on your treadmill. Avoid hanging on, though, or you decrease the benefits, Holland adds.
17. Go organic.
The extra cost of organic fruits and veggies may be worth it, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Called “obesogens,” 15 to 20 chemicals found in pesticides have been found to cause weight gain. At the very least, avoid produce highest in pesticides, such as apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas, potatoes, hot peppers and kale.
18. Drink cold water.
A German study shows drinking 48 ounces of cold water a day can raise your resting metabolism by 50 calories a day. It may not sound like much, but over a year that adds up to a 5-pound weight loss.
19. Go with compound movements.
Exercises that involve more than one joint, such as squats that require the knee, hip, and ankle joints to perform, burn the most calories and give you the most bang for your buck, Holland says. “Any barbell-type exercise under heavy loads uses the most muscle groups at one time.” Examples of compound movements include lunges, squats, step-ups and leg presses for your lower body, and seated rows, bench presses and pull-ups for your upper body.
20. Turn your yoga moves into fat burners.
Finding inner peace doesn’t mean you can’t burn fat in the process. “Add cardio bursts to your yoga routine,” says Ashley Turner, star of the Element: 5 Day Yoga DVD. From Downward Dog, walk your feet in until your shoulders are over your wrists. Lift your dominant leg up and into the air, and practice kicking it up. Bend your non-dominant knee as you kick up to help with balance and start with five to 10 controlled kicks before switching to the other side.
21. Spice up meals.
Add red pepper to meals to kick up fat-burning. Capsaicin, which gives hot peppers their zing, can cause a small, temporary increase in metabolism, says Amy Goodson, RD, CSCS, board-certified specialist in sport dietetics and co-author of Swim, Bike, Run — Eat (2014). “Keep in mind it would take quite a bit of spice to have any major effect on weight, but every little bit helps!”