With summer approaching, you’ve likely already made adaptations to your training program to firm up your core, but sometimes you need an extra edge. These nine nutrition and supplementation hacks may make a big difference in your visible results and make you feel better about daring to bare on the beach.
Hack 1: Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a plan in which you consume all your meals, every day, within an eight-hour window. This causes your body to burn fat during the remaining 16 hours when your stored glycogen runs out. Your body will also have more time to address recovery and growth, since it doesn’t have to focus its attention on digestion, which takes a lot of energy.
Try it: Choose the eight-hour window when you want to eat, for example 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and avoid consuming anything other than supplements and no-calorie beverages outside this window. Also, get plenty of protein: Research from The Journal of Nutrition shows that your body maintains lean muscle tissue based on total protein intake rather than by emphasizing meal timing over a 24-hour window. It’s a growing perspective that total daily intake is more crucial than nutrient timing, as was previously thought.
Hack 2: Kick Your Coffee Habit
Caffeine stimulates your central nervous system and encourages your body to release stored fat. But regular consumption of dietary caffeine, such as is in coffee and tea, can actually undercut your ability to burn fat. The anhydrous (dry) form of caffeine — such as is found in preworkout drinks or pills — has been shown to work better and faster in the body than dietary sources. Also, it’s specifically measurable, whereas the amount of caffeine in beverages can vary greatly.
Try it: Take some anhydrous caffeine as part of your fat-burner or preworkout supplement and ditch your coffee or tea (for a while), just don’t go cold-turkey to avoid headaches and moodiness. Instead, slowly decrease your intake over the course of a few weeks, then stay off caffeine for another couple of weeks before beginning your fat burners. This will make them more effective and will increase the ability of your body to burn fat as fuel.
Hack 3: Take Capsaicin to Boost Metabolism
Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers that gives them their spicy kick. When consumed, you can physically feel the heat as it encourages your body to burn calories and increase energy expenditure, boosting metabolism. Capsaicin has also been shown to help burn body fat, according to a study in Appetite: Consuming 2 milligrams of capsaicin as a supplement over 12 weeks helped reduce appetite and burn body fat, improving waist-to-hip ratio.
Try it: Add a dash or two of chili powder to soups and sauces, or dice up some chilies and toss them into a salad. Can’t stomach the heat? Take capsaicin in supplemental form to avoid gastric distress.
Hack 4: Fiber Up for Fat Loss
Glucomannan is an indigestible and fiber derived from the konjac plant and works by filling up your stomach, reducing appetite while also improving health: A meta-analysis of 12 studies published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that adults who took glucomannan significantly reduced their bad cholesterol and greatly improved their overall health.
Try it: Consume 3 grams of glucomannan daily about 30 minutes before whole-food meals with 8 ounces of water to control your appetite and reduce your overall calorie intake and help burn body fat. Also, include more oats, legumes, apples and carrots in your meal plan to boost your overall soluble fiber intake.
Hack 5: Texturize It
The textures you eat could make or break your fat-loss progress, according to a study published in Appetite: Volunteers were provided either with an appetizer that had a high textural complexity — such as crunchy, chewy and smooth together — or a food that was a one-note wonder — smooth only — before being offered an all-you-can-eat meal consisting of pasta and chocolate cake. Those who consumed the appetizer with greater textural variation ate about 400 fewer calories in the follow-up meal and felt just as satisfied despite having eaten fewer calories. Researchers believe that increasing the number of textures felt during chewing can stimulate your senses, making food more interesting to eat and, in turn, trigger the satiation response sooner.
Try it: Work the opposites when preparing meals and snacks — toss crunchy nuts into smooth yogurt, add creamy dressing to crispy salad or top grilled meat with chunky salsa.
Hack 6: Be Sodium Smart
Most Americans consume way more than the recommended daily amount of sodium (2,300 milligrams), and much of this comes from processed, packaged foods. Excessive sodium intake can lead to conditions such as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke, and research indicates it also could give you a gut: Subjects who were presented with pasta doused in a salty sauce ingested 11 percent more calories than those who ate the same meal with a less-salty sauce. Researchers theorize that the added salt enhanced the taste of the food to the point that it overrode a natural feeling of fullness. Another study from the University of South Carolina discovered that among the 407 adults analyzed, those with lofty sodium intakes were more likely to be pudgy.
Try it: A single teaspoon of salt has 2,325 milligrams of sodium, so dust food lightly, if at all. Better yet, use a salt-free, herb-based seasoning such as Mrs. Dash or Paleo Powder. Prepare more meals at home to control sodium intake, and carefully read nutrition labels on any packaged grocery items, especially in sneaky sources like bread, cottage cheese, sauces and condiments.
Hack 7: Take Countermeasures
Out of sight, out of mind has never been so true: Scientists at Cornell University showed that those who left snack foods like boxed cereal and soda out on the kitchen countertop were up to 26 pounds heavier than those who stashed these items out of sight. Additionally, those same study subjects who kept a bowl of fruit on the counter weighed on average 13 pounds less than those who didn’t.
Try it: Sequester vice foods in your cupboards and/or replace them with options like apples or baby carrots. Alternately, make treat foods harder to get to: Research in the journal Appetite reported that volunteers who had to walk 6 feet to get some candy ate about half as much as those who had it within arm’s reach.
Hack 8: Eat Superfoods to Burn Fat
Recent research performed using broccoli, yams and red-seaweed extracts demonstrated their efficacy in supporting superior body-fat loss: The phytonutrient sulforaphane in broccoli may help you manage weight more effectively, according to a study published in Diabetes. Sulforaphane also helps reduce inflammatory disorders such as cancer. According to the Journal of Food and Nutrition, yams were shown to decrease obesity and improve health markers for the liver and kidneys because of their high fiber content. Red seaweed significantly down-regulates adipogenic transcription factors, which reduces your body’s ability to increase fat storage, according to Nutrition Research and Practice.
Try it: Seek out recipes that use yams and broccoli and eat them on the reg. If you’re a sushi fan, choose hand rolls instead of cut rolls, which are wrapped in seaweed, or take a more concentrated supplement form as directed on the packaging.
Hack 9: Practice Predictability
Meal-to-meal (rather than day-to-day) caloric consistency could help you uncover your abs, according to a British Journal of Nutrition investigation: People who were inconsistent with their calorie intake at the same meal each day tended to have larger waistlines and were more likely to suffer from conditions like high blood pressure and cholesterol. In other words, eating a breakfast that contains roughly the same number of calories each day is better metabolically than hitting the all-you-can-eat pancake buffet on Monday, then skipping breakfast on Tuesday. Researchers suspect that this inconsistency affects your internal body clock or “circadian rhythm,” negatively impacting appetite, digestion
Try it: When outlining an eating plan, break your calories up consistently between meals and snacks all week long. Also, consider front-loading your calorie intake at breakfast and paring it down as the day progresses: Research shows that eating more calories in the morning could help with weight loss because your metabolism is higher early in the day.