In recent years, weight loss through unsustainable means has become wildy popular, but it really shouldn’t be.
If you want to lose weight to improve your overall well being or achieve your fitness goals, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, so long as you take a healthy approach.
The problem is, when you focus only on aesthetic goals, you often miss out on the bigger picture. Restrictive diets, fancy weight loss products, and using exercise as punishment are common traps that people fall into when trying to lose weight, and they are not healthy or sustainable methods.
When I made changes to get healthier and fitter five years ago, I had no intention of losing weight. I simply wanted to feel more energized, nourish my body with natural foods, and exercise in a way that I enjoyed each and every day. I chose to develop healthy and sustainable habits which have stuck with me ever since.
Research shows that the following five habits can help you burn fat efficiently. Most importantly, they are healthy and sustainable, and they just so happen to be some of the habits I adopted five years ago. So go ahead and ditch the weight loss shakes, detox teas, and restrictive diets, and focus on achieving balance through the following practices instead.
1. Adopt this type of training.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to follow an exercise plan that includes both cardio and weight lifting.
Many people think that doing endless hours of cardio is the only way to burn fat effectively, but they are missing a crucial piece of the puzzle.
While studies have found that cardio exercise is efficient for fat burning and that there is a correlation between increased aerobic exercise and increased belly fat loss, strength training also has similar effects, with the added bonus of increased muscle mass to help you achieve a more toned look.
In fact, one study found that:
“Strength training reduced visceral fat (a type of dangerous fat that surrounds the organs in the belly) in 78 people with metabolic syndrome.”
Another study found that:
“12 weeks of strength training paired with aerobic exercise was more effective at reducing body fat and belly fat than aerobic exercise alone.”
Although both aerobic exercise and strength training have incredible benefits on their own, the pairing of the two together will help you truly maximize fitness gains. I accomplish this balance with a 30 minute run 6–7 times per week as well as a weight lifting session 2–3 times per week.
2. Consistently eat enough protein.
Protein is incredibly important when it comes to burning fat and building muscle. It is an essential macronutrient that helps your muscles repair and grow.
Furthermore, studies have found that:
Although getting enough protein may seem like a daunting task, it actually isn’t that difficult. There is protein hidden in a ton of foods that you might not even expect, such as nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, tofu, vegetables, etc.
3. Minimize your consumption of the following.
If you want to burn fat efficiently, you will have to minimize your consumption of two crucial ingredients — processed sugar and refined carbs.
Notice that I didn’t say you have to cut them out completely. I personally believe that a healthy, balanced diet can include all your favorite foods in moderation.
Still, they shouldn’t make up the majority of your diet. This is because refined carbs:
Furthermore, studies show that processed sugar:
“Has uniquely harmful effects on metabolic health. Numerous studies have indicated that excess sugar, mostly due to the large amounts of fructose, can lead to fat building up around your abdomen and liver.”
While processed sugar and refined carbs made up the bulk of my diet five years ago, I now eat them as occasional treats to supplement my nutrient dense vegan diet. This is just what works for me, but the universal takeaway is that a balanced diet should include plenty of minimally processed, plant based ingredients.
4. Focus on sleep.
Many people fail to realize the crucial impacts of sleep on overall health. It doesn’t just impact your energy levels day to day.
In fact, one study showed that of 68,183 women whose sleep habits were followed for 16 years, those who slept longer than seven hours were less likely to gain weight than those who slept five or less hours.
This is unsurprising since research has shown that a lack of sleep can cause changes in hunger hormones, including increased appetite.
Therefore, prioritizing sleep is another crucial piece of the puzzle that aids in getting and staying healthy and fit.
5. Eat plenty of these foods.
Another key habit that helps you burn fat efficiently is eating natural foods that are high in fiber. This includes a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
Not only will the consumption of ample fruits and vegetables help you nourish your body with key micronutrients, but it will also help you meet your fiber requirements. Studies, such as this one of 1,114 adults, have found that:
“For each 10-gram increase in soluble fiber intake per day, participants lost 3.7% of their belly fat over a five-year period, even without any other changes in diet or exercise.”
Since many people fail to meet the daily fiber intake recommendation already, it doesn’t hurt to emphasize getting plenty of fiber in your diet through natural sources, like fresh fruits and vegetables.
Burning fat doesn’t require a restrictive diet or expensive weight loss products. It does require forming key habits that are sustainable long term.
I didn’t see noticeable changes in my own fitness until I adopted a healthy, balanced diet, started lifting weights a few times each week to supplement my daily runs, prioritized sleep, and removed a lot of the added sugar from my diet. All of these together contributed to fat loss and muscle gain.
If your goal is to burn fat and build muscle, the key is to work smarter, not harder. Adopt healthy habits like the ones shared, and you’ll not only see results, but you will be able to maintain them as part of a balanced lifestyle, which is ultimately the most important part.