If you’ve been committed to working hard at the gym, during a run, or following along with a workout program at home, you should be losing weight…right. But if you step on the scale after a couple weeks or a month of your sweat-drenched effort and don’t see any signs of progress, it can be pretty frustrating. But before you throw in the towel, take a closer look at your weight loss* plan. The most effective weight-loss strategies to help you burn fat faster have these 10 things in common.
1. Go Faster, Not Longer
If you’re not getting the results you want with 60-minute workouts of long, slow cardio on the treadmill, elliptical trainer, or stationary bike, it’s easy to think that bumping your workouts to 90 minutes will make a difference. But that’s probably not the case. You might benefit if you’re training for endurance even like a marathon or long-distance triathlon.
But that’s not the best approach to exercise for weight loss*, according to a study published in the Journal of Obesity. You can program your workout for weight loss* by going faster, not longer. Try interval training by going all out as fast as you can for 30 seconds to a minute, followed by 30 seconds to a minute of rest, then repeat for a total of 30 minutes. High-intensity interval training can help you burn a ton of calories and lose* stubborn belly fat.
2. Change your routine
You might have your favorite machines at the gym or a specific workout you like to do, but the minute you’re completely comfortable with a workout, it’s probably time to change your routine. That’s because your body will adapt to doing the same kind of exercises over time, and you’ll eventually reach a plateau, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. The same workouts week after week can also lead to boredom and missed workouts.
To keep things interesting, change your workout, intensity level, amount of resistance, or number of sets and reps you complete. You might also try attending an exercise class, working out with a partner, or hiring a personal training. Make the effort to incorporate different types of exercise into your workouts to keep your metabolism elevated, maintain your interest, and more importantly burn more calories to lose* weight.
3. Comfort-zone workouts limit results
Forget about the easy, in-your-comfort-zone workouts you rely on just to say you got your exercise for the day. Daily exercise is important for weight loss* and weight management, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. But you’re not going to get the results you want if every workout is easy-breezy. Change your routine (see #2 above), try cross training and work a little harder to get more out of every workout. You’ll feel better* and get better* results.
4. Make exercise a part of your life
One of the drawbacks to a lot of made-for-TV weight-loss and exercise programs is the amount of time they recommend for exercise per day. Many of these programs prescribe 60, 90, and even 120 minutes of exercise a day. And for most people that’s just not sustainable, says Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Marc Perry. If you try to cram a workout into your life that just doesn’t make sense, you’re probably going to end up missing a few workouts, get frustrated and give up. Sound familiar? Make exercise a part of your life by figuring out a workout plan and schedule that works with your job, family life, and other obligations. You’ll be more likely to make exercise a priority, workout, and lose* weight.
5. Do strength training with heavier weights and fewer reps
Regardless of what your high school gym teacher or your Uncle Billy told you about exercise and weight loss*, a cardio-only plan for fat-burning isn’t going to get you the best results. Need proof? Go watch any of the popular weight-loss TV reality shows, and you’ll see that strength training is an integral part of every transformation. Personal trainer Julia Buckley, author of The Fat Burn Revolution, recommends lifting heavier weights and doing fewer reps to challenge your muscles and keep your body burning* calories long after you’ve left the gym.
6. Clean up your diet
All the exercise in the world won’t help you get the results you want if you’re eating junk food. Clean up your diet and you’ll burn more fats and lose* weight faster. Avoid or limit empty-calorie foods like sugar-sweetened soft drinks, ice cream, candy and desserts, processed foods, and just about anything you can order from a fast food menu. Instead, drink lots of water; eat more fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, legumes, fish, and lean meats. If you need a visual to help you make better* food choices, check out MyPlate by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Healthy Eating Plate by Harvard University.
7. Choose free weights over machines
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends strength training at least two times a week, three days a week is even better*. But not all strength training exercises are created equal. Whenever possible, skip the machines and go with free weights or bodyweight exercises to build muscle, boost* your metabolism, and burn more calories, says personal trainer Stephen Bergeron. “Pretty much anybody can benefit from using free weights properly to build a strong, lean body using a good program…,” says Stephen.
Using machines to workout periodically is OK. But free weights help build stronger* muscles and joints, increase* range of motion, and produce* better* results than machines.
8. Stick to a Plan
You don’t have to look far to find a fitness plan designed to help you lose* weight. There are literally millions of books, health website, magazine articles, apps, and software programs all designed to help you improve* your diet and get the most out of exercise. But too many people limit their progress by not following through with their good intentions. Most fitness programs follow a three-month or 12-week series of progressive exercises. But you won’t reach your goal without at least following through with the program. Find an exercise and nutrition program that meets your needs, your budget, and your lifestyle and commit to giving it your best shot. If you’re committed, you can lose* a lot of weight and transform your body in just three months.
9. Set Goals
One of the best ways to measure your progress and the effectiveness of your efforts to exercise is to set goals. But you have to be smart about it, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you start out with an unrealistic goal like lose* 100 pounds in a week, you’re going to fail. But if you set smaller goals that you can achieve in a week or a month, you’re more likely to be successful and stick with your program for the long haul. Small victories on a consistent basis like losing a pound a week or exercising consistently for a month can help keep you motivated and moving closer to your big-picture goal.
10. Practice “Mind-Over-Matter”
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome related to weight loss* is the mental aspect of changing the way you think about food and exercise, according to Psychology Today. Practicing mind-over-matter, reviewing your goals, and maintaining a healthy outlook about your diet and exercise habits will help you be successful. Healthy habits like stocking your pantry with healthy foods developing a support* network to keep you on track can help you maintain the focus you need to stick with the program.
You can do this. Losing weight, improving* your health, and getting fit isn’t a one-time deal. It takes practice, hard work, and regular evaluations of your efforts and progress to get the results you want. Incorporate these 10 tips to burn fat faster into your diet and exercise plan, and you’ll be on your way to reaching your goal weight.