Spring is just around the corner, and if you have been working out hard you should be trimming down, toning up, and nearing your goal weight. That should mean you have just a little left of your "winter layer" and are looking to shed that last ten pounds of stubborn fat.
The problem is, after months of workouts and watching your diet, you have probably hit a wall: your body is slowing down its fat loss and adapting to your workouts. That doesn't mean its time give up, instead its time to change it up.
What I have created for you is a list of cheats and hacks you can use to trick your body into reactivating its fat burning ability and shedding that last ten pounds of fat so you can show off that hard work.
Take a Hard Look at your Diet
Try to consume foods that are "high volume" to feel full. Make a salad (without high fat dressings) full of leafy greens, lettuce, or kale. These are all very low in calories but have a high volume, filling your belly to feel satisfied on less calories. Top it off with some chicken breast for protein. These leafy greens are also are a great source of vitamins and minerals.
Up Your Fiber Consumption
Things like steel cut oats, brown rice, quinoa, and wheat bran contain high amounts of fiber. These are slow digesting carbs so you will not get the sugar rush you would from quick digesting carbs like potatoes, peas, and corn. These keeps you satisfied longer. Vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower are also high in fiber and high volume. These high fiber options mean that the pancreas doesn't over secrete insulin in an effort to control blood-glucose like it does when you eat sugary foods. High insulin levels reduce your body's ability to burn fat and may actually encourage it to store fat.
Add a Little Spice to Your Diet
Many spices are reported to increase thermogenesis as well. I am going to suggest a few to include in your fat burning diet that contain virtually no calories, but really up the flavor of your food.
First is cinnamon, a favorite of mine. Not only does cinnamon help to boost your metabolism, it is great for regulating blood sugar. That makes it a perfect ingredient for protein shakes, adding a lot of extra flavor and sweetness without adding calories. That's also great news for people who have diabetes because cinnamon has also been found to lower triglycerides, LDL or bad cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels while increasing glucose metabolism by about 20 times.
Cayenne pepper, or hot peppers such as ghost peppers and jalapenos, contain a substance called capsaicin. It is the ingredient that gives these peppers their heat, but it can also help fight conditions like obesity. It does this by decreasing caloric intake needs while shrinking fat tissue.
Plain old black pepper sprinkled on your food can not only enhance the flavor, but according to one article, "contains a substance called piperine, which ... blocks the formation of new fat cells. When combined with capsaicin and other substances, black pepper was also found to burn as many calories as taking a 20-minute walk." I love pepper and add it to most food I eat because it increases the absorption of nutrients and makes them more bioavailable.
Mustard seeds have been shown to boost metabolic rate by as much as 25 percent. That's good news because I hate mayonnaise and opt for mustard on my sandwiches. The same article mentions that just 3/5 teaspoon of mustard seeds a day can help you burn an extra 45 calories an hour. That's crazy!
Turmeric, a deep orange root, is a main ingredient in traditional Indian dishes and has been in use for over 2500 years. Scientists are finding that there are plenty of benefits from this spice, and its active component curcumin. This spice is known for reducing inflammation in the body, preventing skin and prostate cancers, and fighting certain brain tumors that are resistant to radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Eating curcumin or turmeric with black pepper makes it even more effective. This is a new spice in my kitchen and I have only just begun experimenting with it, but have tried it in some sauteed dishes, some of my stir-fry's, and even in some scrambled eggs. It adds a unique flavor. Give it a try.
Change Your Food Ratios
As you look to get lean, your body will want to shed muscles as well as fat. It's virtually impossible to shed fat without losing muscle mass, but you can preserve as much of that hard earned muscle as possible with the right food ratios. To do that, make sure you are getting adequate protein in your diet. Protein is composed of amino acids important to many functions of the body including removing toxins, supporting brain function, and stimulating protein synthesis.
Try to eat at least 25 grams of protein every 3-4 hours to preserve and even increase lean muscle mass. Time your meals so that at least one is rich in protein post workout. The hour after an intense session is a critical window when the body needs protein and good carbs to replenish the stores of energy it used in the your workout. Carbs are our main source of energy, but proper ratios of carbs and protein will encourage your body to use fat for fuel, thus lowering the need for carbs. Unsure how much protein you need? Read this article BDSC published recently: How much protein do I need?
Up Your Workout Intensity
The body is lazy. It will adapt to whatever workout you throw at it. To keep making gains, or keep losing fat, it is imperative to mix things up. If you focus on high reps and low weights in your workout, do a 180 and lower the reps while pushing a higher weight. Are you a plate pusher, always trying to max out? Then go light and shock your body with a body weight workout to exhaustion. Mix up your cardio session by doing something different: bike instead of running, go back to basics with shadow boxing and jump rope, or try a cross-fit session with plenty of jumping and heavy ropes. The key is to do something different, shocking your body by working muscles in a new way.
Add Fat Burning Compounds
As your metabolism adapts, a fat burning supplement might be the edge you need to get rid of those last few pounds of fat. The most effective fat-burning ingredients include caffeine and green tea extract, and for some, synephrine can do the trick. I personally have not had much luck with the last one. I know that green tea works because it contains caffeine, so I choose to drink coffee to get my fix of fat burn juice. I actually wrote an article on The Health Benefits of Coffee. Be sure to read more about it. Caffeine becomes less effective when you consume it on a regular basis. One way to beat this loss of effectiveness is to cycle it. Try drinking it only on work out days, or take a few days off and reintroduce it to your diet. Sometimes I make a matcha green tea smoothie in the morning for something different. It keeps me energized for hours.
Drink More Water
All those workouts means lots of sweating, so be sure to drink plenty of water. I try to keep a water bottle with me and take at least a couple gulps every hour. It's also a good idea to drink a glass before you eat to feel fuller. After a workout its a must, as well as taking drinks throughout your training session. If your unsure how much water to drink, the Mayo Clinic states that an "adequate intake for men is roughly about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages a day...for women (it) is about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total beverages a day". That includes all sources of fluids, but at this point in your workout program you should have eliminated all sugary sources like soft drinks and Gatorade, and be drinking very few fruit juices, so most of your fluids should be water or unsweetened tea.
Extreme fat loss calls for extreme measures. Now don't starve yourself, it will only defeat your gains. Many athletes have talked about how cold temperatures can aid in fat loss. Try lowering the thermostat to around 50 degrees. The colder temps might actually make you shiver, but that shivering is the body's way of generating heat. And heat means thermogenesis, or fat usage. This will raise your metabolic rate that little bit, increasing the calorie burn even when you are sitting still. A few body weight squats or pushups will warm you up and keep the fat burn going. I actually keep the temps in my house as low as I can during winter, saving money and burning calories. Using the above cheats and hacks you can lose that last layer of fat to show off your hard work. Make sure to share your pics with me here or on Facebook. I love to hear from people about their body transformations.
Brooke Bailey is a personal trainer, masseuse, and student in health and wellness. She currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Follow her on Facebook.