This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
We’re all about healthy self image here at R29, and we consider ourselves to be pretty satisfied with our bodies overall, but even the healthiest among us will admit to having trouble spots we wish were just a little more trim (hello love handles!). The problem is, if you are already pretty in shape to begin with, it can be so tough to lose those last few pounds — they don’t call it a plateau for nothing.
We wanted to see if there were any new, smart ways to rev up your system to ditch those last few lbs. for good, so we asked fitness expert David Barton and nutrition guru Dr. Oz Garcia to share some of theirlittle-known tips for pushing your body past that weight-loss wall. From the best type of workout to outsmarting your appetite for overeating, read on for their best-kept diet and exercise secrets.
Do The Mediterranean Diet
All over the world, people subsist on diets that are much healthier than our usual meat and potatoes fare. Nutrition expert Dr. Oz Garcia points to people in the Mediterranean as a great example of the type of diet you should be following for optimal weight loss: fish, omega-rich oils, and lots of vegetables. “The leanest people around are those that eat a lot of seafood and fish,” he says. “Eat smaller fish like Alaskan salmon, which is rich in DMAE and omega-3’s, which help your metabolism and how your brain functions.”
In fact, Garcia says that foods that positively impact brain function directly impact your health and fitness decisions. Eating high-fat, starchy foods can cause you to be depressed or unfocused, screwing around with the areas of your brain that control satiety and your will to work out, says Dr. Garcia. Foods that have a chemical impact on the brain can damage the way you calibrate how much you eat and your body’s ability to control its weight. They can also make you lazy and make exercise seem unappealing. According to Dr. Garcia, the natural inclination of the human body is to exercise and part of that loss of interest can be attributed to a broken signaling system.
Conversely, eating feel-good foods that enhance your mood and boost brain function lead to an enhanced signaling system that helps your body better regulate how full you are and control cravings, plus helps you make good choices about your diet and exercise routine. Food is functional and food is fuel, so make sure you are putting the most efficacious and beneficial food in your system so your body can work at its peak performance level.
Think Like A Bodybuilder
While you may view bodybuilding as all about gaining hulking levels of mass, a big part of the sport consists of lowering your body fat percentage. According to fitness expert David Barton, founder of David Barton Gym, those looking to lose weight in a hurry should adapt some of their pre-competition practices, like carb control.
Bodybuilders have turned the control of their carb intake into an art form. Eating high-glycemic carbs will cause your blood sugar and insulin release to seesaw, which causes your body to store fat, rather than lean muscle mass. By closely monitoring when and how many carbs you eat in the day, you can ensure your insulin levels stay flat and you don’t inadvertently put your body into fat-storing mode.
According to Barton, the best time of day to eat carbs is first thing in the morning, or right after you work out, as this is when they are less likely to turn into body fat and will be used instead as energy. The absolute worst time to eat carbs is right before bed because the sugars suppress the release of growth hormones, which the body needs to break down those fat cells. Also, you use less calories when you are asleep, so there is less of a chance of burning them off before they can be stored as fat.
In terms of how much of your food should be carbs, Barton says that he recommends to clients looking to lose body fat that they should stick to 75-150 grams per day, not including fibrous carbs like vegetables. He does not suggest going any lower than that, as a low- or no-carb diet is ridiculously hard to stick to. “Once you go off that diet, and once you taste those carbs, you are on a mission — you are going toeat,” he says.
If you just can’t say no to carbs, Barton does have a few tricks up his sleeve to help you out. “One way to help ensure that carbs are directed into your muscles and liver, rather than fat cells, is to take an alpha lipoic acid supplement to help the body manage the distribution of carbohydrates. You can also take a high dose of capsulized cinnamon before eating a carb-heavy meal to blunt the insulin response, lessening the effect that insulin has of pulling the glucose into the fat cells and storing it as fat.”
Go Into A Fluid Frenzy
You’ve probably heard that drinking lots of water can help you lose weight, but it turns out that when and how much you drink can directly affect your digestion. “Ideally, room temperature water should be consumed 30 minutes before a meal. Cold water can suspend digestion, as can consuming water directly after a meal,” says Dr. Garcia. In fact, drinking too much water while you eat just dilutes your digestive enzymes, which slows down your system.
But water isn’t the only liquid that can help prime your body for weight loss — herbal teas are also great for getting your metabolism in prime working order. According to a recent article by Harper’s Bazaar, decaf oolong tea can increase your metabolism by 10 percent. Dr. Garcia prefers green tea for its “normalizing” effect on the brain — it helps you control cravings, soothe stress so you don’t resort to anxiety-driven eating, and helps lift your resting metabolic rate by three to four percent. Finally, peppermint tea is a great way to end a meal and stave off hunger — according to a study by the Wheeling Jesuit University, people who sniffed peppermint five days out of the week consumed 1,800 fewer calories in that week.
Dr. Garcia also recommends jump-starting your day by drinking a glass of room temperature water with lemon in it about a half hour before eating, to help detoxify your body. Hey, if it works for Cate Blanchett…
Get Hardcore With Your Workout
Another way that bodybuilders keep those pounds off is by doing anaerobic activity. Barton says that in the past, people used to promote aerobic exercise as best for burning fat, but recent research has shown that a steady workout actually signals the body’s metabolism to store fat. That’s why interval cardio — mixing up short, intense bursts of anaerobic exercise with slower ones — helps you to burn calories more efficiently, and subsequently tells your body to burn fats during periods of rest.
This response can be tracked back to early man. Steady cardio was usually a sign of migrating to a new home or following food, so the brain would signal the body to store fat because it was going to be low on food. However, when the body was faced with short, intense bursts of movement, it was usually because it was avoiding a predator, so the brain would signal to the body that it needed to divert calories and sugar into the muscles to help it move quickly in order to survive. By putting that stress on your body with interval training, it tricks your body into using calories for energy, rather than storing it away for later use. It also ensures your body will burn fat even when you are done exercising.
“Your body is an adaptive mechanism. The stress and stimulus that it experiences constantly elicits change in your body. If those stresses become repetitive and stay the same, then your body will no longer have reason to adapt, change, and get stronger. This is the Overload Principle, which states that to affect change in the body a new, additional type of stimulus is required. So push yourself a little bit further and a little harder! Call upon your inner strength to go for those extra few reps past the point where you would have stopped, so your body can overcome a workload it is unaccustomed to,” advises Barton.
The ideal workout, according to Barton, should consist of 20 minutes of interval sprints using a 1:2 ratio of sprints for 30 seconds and walking or a light jog (depending on how fit you are) for one minute. Or, if you’re not a runner, try 21 minutes of intervals on the bike with 2 minutes at 80% resistance followed by a minute at 60% resistance. This should be repeated seven times.
Outsmart Your Appetite
You may attribute your habit of cleaning your plate to your mom’s constant lectures about wasting food, but according to Dr. Garcia, this can actually be blamed on our primitive ancestors. “Humans are an apex predator — we reside on the top of the food chain because we have no natural predators of our own. We’re like sharks because just like them, we never stop eating. In caveman days, it was a highly competitive environment for food — if you saw food, you ate it right away because there was always someone else on your tail waiting to eat it if you didn’t. Even though we found a more reliable source of calories, that gorging reflex didn’t go away, so when you pile a plate with food, your instinct tells you to eat it all — it’s evolutionary overdrive,” says Dr. Garcia.
That means that you need to outsmart your natural tendencies with tricks that help you eat less. Studies have shown that using smaller plates help you eat less, so put down the giant dinner plate and opt for a small salad plate instead. If you eat protein, you should have a portion about the size of your fist, and the rest of your plate should contain a large portion of vegetables and a smaller portion of carbs. If you already follow this regimen and are still having trouble losing weight, Dr. Garcia says to remodel your plate so that “three-quarters of your meal consists of vegetables. If you are eating out and plan to have a lot of food coming, start with a salad to slowly fill you up. Then when the entrée arrives, cut the portion in half and instead of having grains, double up on green vegetables.”
Another trick he recommends is to have a scoop of protein powder mixed with some water about two hours before your meal to help manage your appetite. “A snack a few hours before eating sometimes will leave you feeling more full then having an appetizer right before dinner,” he says. “It allows you sufficient time to digest your food and this will signal a feeling of satiety and keep you from filling up on bread.”
Finally, don’t linger at the dinner table or you’ll be tempted to continue nibbling. Leave the table as soon as you finish and move your attention onto something else, so that food is no longer on your mind. Once your attention shifts to something else, it will allow your body to truly signal it is full and keep you from craving something more.
Time For Some Heavy Lifting
Adding weight-lifting to your workout regimen is integral in helping you lose weight fast. “Weights can change the shape of the body and turn it into a fat-burning machine,” says Barton. “Strength training actually helps you burn fat for the next 24-36 hours after the workout.”
In addition, Barton says that strength training also gives you the most results in the shortest amount of time. “Intense strength training movements that use large muscle groups, sets of long duration, and that are explosive in nature create different biochemical effects, all of which induce fat loss and increases metabolism,” he says.
If time is limited, Barton suggests concentrating on the major muscle groups and doing as many big, compound movements as you can. These include things like squats, to firm up the legs and butt; shoulder presses, to round out the deltoids and shape the arms; Cable rows, to help strengthen the back and work on posture; and push-ups, to use your body weight as natural resistance. “Just 20-30 minutes of these types of exercise can be just as effective as a longer workout, given the proper intensity,” says Barton.
Say No To Wheat With Every Meal
Okay, before everybody goes on the wheat defensive, hear us out: Weight loss and food at its simplest core comes down to cutting calories, and wheat products contain way more calories than things like veggies. While there is still a lot of debate on whether or not wheat and gluten are completely bad for you, there’s no question that wheat provides a large amount of calories, so it makes sense to cut back if you are looking to slim down.
“The problem isn’t eating wheat once in awhile,” says Dr. Garcia. “The problem is people consume one source of starch way more than any other.” If you’re having wheat with every meal — and that’s way easier to do than you may recognize — you’re getting the bulk majority of your calories from it, and this will cause those insulin spikes that will lead to weight gain. “We’re omnivores and we are designed to eat across many different food groups. The problem with wheat is that, like soy, it’s an estrogenic food, so it increases all the different metrics in your body that lead to weight gain. What we find sometimes, especially in men, is that even if they are on calorie-restrictive diets, the body is feminizing itself because of the hormone disruptive effect of flour. That’s why we are seeing those softer, bigger stomachs and man boobies,” says Garcia.
Cutting back on wheat is a lot easier than you think. You can switch out gluten products for things like millet, rice, sprouted grain, tapioca flour, and many vegetables. Garcia recommends switching out your turkey on rye for a sandwich made with cabbage leaves — the leaves are thick, so they can hold a lot, and the leaves have virtually zero calories.
Eat Big After You Exercise
As mentioned before, Barton says the best time to eat carbs, or any big meal is immediately after you work out. Right after you exercise, having a large insulin spike is ok, because any carbs and calories you eat are much more likely to be absorbed back into the liver and muscles as a form of recuperation from the energy you just expended, rather than body fat.
Drop A Dress Size? There’s A Machine For That
Human nature is to look for the easy way out of difficult situations, and what could be easier than having someone zap away your love handles? The Liposonix is an ultrasound device that promises to make you one pants size smaller with just one hour-long treatment. It just received FDA clearance here in the U.S. as a non-surgical way to get rid of fat around your mid-section and thighs. Liposonix uses a high-intensity focused ultrasound that heats up to permanently destroy fat cells, without harming the skin — in essence it “melts” the fat away. These destroyed cells are removed by the body’s natural processes, transported to the liver by macrophages over a period of 8 to 12 weeks, leaving behind a more contoured waistline.
“The Liposonix treatment is for patients who are close to their ideal size and have stubborn, unwanted fat around their waistline that they just can’t seem to get rid of with diet and exercise,” says dermatologist Dr. Anne Chapas, one of the few doctors in the country who currently offer the treatment. According to Chapas, there are some general factors that can help you determine if you are an appropriate candidate: You must be able to “pinch-an-inch” (2.5 cm) of fat in the treatment area, have a body mass index (BMI) equal to or less than 30, have good overall health, and have realistic expectations about the results. Just be ready to shell out some $$$ as this little miracle-worker does not come cheap: The treatment will set you back upwards of $1500, depending on the area you are treating.
Illustrations by Gabriela Alford
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