Weekends are for relaxing, escaping into a captivating book and spending time with loved ones. You can accomplish all that while still keeping on track with your weight-loss goals. And while the choices you make around food and exercise are as important on weekends as weekdays, none of them have to derail your leisure time.
"Ideally, you approach every day with an opportunity to nourish your body and soul at the same time," says Tallene Hacatoryan, RD, and founder of PCOS Weight Loss. Don't treat weekends like throw-away days that don't impact our progress, she cautions.
Here are tips for easy things you can do on those cherished Saturdays and Sundays that will help further your weight-loss goals.
1. Stick With Your Regular Sleep Routine
Whether you stay up way past your bedtime or snuggle under the covers long after the sun comes up, weekends may seem like the perfect time to shake up your sleep schedule. Hacatoryan's advice when it comes to sleep? Don't change a thing.
A routine sleep schedule "is going to help with your ability to burn what you're eating throughout the day and manage your blood sugar," Hacatoryan says. Plus, she adds, if you don't get enough shut-eye, your body won't have enough time to burn what you've consumed.
Insufficient sleep can activate hunger hormones and may lead you to confuse feeling tired for feeling hungry, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
And sleeping in on the weekends may fare no better when it comes to weight loss. For participants in one small study, not getting enough sleep on weekdays and catching up on rest over the weekend led to weight gain and a 27 percent lower insulin sensitivity, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, according to February 2019 findings published in Current Biology.
2. Work Out in the Morning
Think of this as a way to stick to your weekday sleep schedule — plus, morning workouts may help with your weight-loss goals.
Getting an early start to aerobic exercise led to lower caloric intake later in the day, as well as a more significant change in body weight, BMI, abdominal skin fold thickness and abdominal circumference compared to nighttime workouts, according to research published in the June 2017 issue of Clinical Obesity.
Try These Morning Workouts
3. Savor Your Morning Cup of Coffee
The weekend means you've got more time to linger over your favorite cup of joe — so revel in it! Stick with your caffeine routine even if you don't need the jolt to stay focused on Saturdays and Sundays.
Not only is the coffee-drinking ritual a pleasure, but the jolt of the caffeine may help you burn more fat. Drinking more coffee is associated with lower body fat for women of all ages, per a July 2020 study published in The Journal of Nutrition.
Drink a cup before your morning workout — doing so can help boost performance, according to an October 2019 study published in Nutrients.
4. Do Some Meal Prepping
The weekend is a great time to start planning what you're going to be eating for the week ahead, Hacatoryan says. Carve out some time hit the grocery store to stock up on fresh produce and healthy proteins for the week.
Those who meal prep tend to get more variety in their diets and, for women in particular, meal planning is associated with lower odds of being overweight, per February 2017 research published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
Looking to Start Meal Prepping?
5. Eat at the Table, Not in Front of the Screen
Even though the weekend's a great time to kick back and relax, aim to eat your meals like you would on any old day: sitting down at the table.
Eating while distracted tends to lead to eating more — not only during the meal, but later on during the day, too, per a February 2013 review published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
In contrast, focusing on your food, rather than a movie on TV or social media on your phone, will help you with your mindful eating, a practice that's been connected to weight loss. In a small June 2019 study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Community Health, participants who practiced a mindful eating program lost more weight than those who did not.
6. Eat All of Your Meals
Hactoryan says sometimes her clients skip meals over the weekend in anticipation of indulging at dinner. But going to a restaurant feeling ravenous is a big mistake, she says, because doing so can put your body into stress mode and make you more likely to overeat.
Plus, you may not be a very enjoyable dinner guest if you miss meals. Skipping meals has also been linked with low blood pressure, fatigue and irritability, according to Piedmont Healthcare.
7. Watch Your Alcohol Intake
"A lot of people consider the weekend a time for drinking," Hacatoryan says. But drinking alcohol can undo weight-loss progress, she notes.
Beyond the extra calories, Hacatoryan says alcohol can lead to inflammation, added water weight and a decrease in our inhibition, which can make us a lot more likely to snack and ingest more than we're actually hungry for.
If you do feel like drinking, stick to a maximum of two drinks in a night, Hacatoryan recommends.
8. Stay Hydrated
With your days less structured, maybe you're lacking the weekday cues that normally prompt you to drink water. Staying hydrated, however, is super important to maintain your weight-loss goals, no matter the day of the week.
Drinking more water will keep you from drinking beverages that contain calories, which may help reduce your overall calorie intake. Adults who drank sugar-sweetened beverages before a meal consumed 7.8 percent more calories compared to those who drank water, per a September 2010 review published in Nutrition Reviews.
- Clinical Obesity: "Comparison between the effect of 6 weeks of morning or evening aerobic exercise on appetite and anthropometric indices: a randomized controlled trial"
- Piedmont Healthcare: "What happens to the body when you skip meals?"
- The Journal of Nutrition: "Meal Frequency and Timing Are Associated with Changes in Body Mass Index in Adventist Health Study 2"
- Journal of Family Medicine & Community Health: "Mindful Eating and Weight Loss, Results from a Randomized Trial"
- International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity: "Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality and body weight status in a large sample of French adults"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Sleep restriction leads to increased activation of brain regions sensitive to food stimuli"
- Current Biology: "Weekend Recovery Sleep Fails to Prevent Metabolic Dysregulation during a Repeating Pattern of Insufficient Sleep and Weekend Recovery Sleep"
- Nutrition Review: "Impact of water intake on energy intake and weight status: a systematic review"
- The Journal of Nutrition: "Regular Coffee Consumption Is Associated with Lower Regional Adiposity Measured by DXA among US Women"
- Nutrients: "Coffee Ingestion Improves 5 km Cycling Performance in Men and Women by a Similar Magnitude"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "5 Tips to Curb Your Late-Night Snacking"