Eat less and exercise more. That's the simple solution to anyone's weight-loss questions. But if it were really that easy, more people would be in great shape. Turns out, some of your other behaviors play a big role in fat loss. Try these 20 tips -- including several surprises -- to fire up your metabolism speed up your lean body transformation.
1. Have a Plan
The old saying goes: "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Have a goal and set specific targets for your week to reach that goal, says Emma-Leigh Synnott, M.B.B.S, an exercise, nutrition and metabolism specialist. However, make sure that you don't end up being too strict with yourself. Life is about more than your diet. So be sure to find that balance between reaching your goal and enjoying the moment too.
2. Sleep More
Sleep does more than help your body recover from a long day -- it actually helps you fight fat. In fact, researchers at the University of Chicago reported that sleeping less than seven to eight hours a night can increase your appetite (forcing you to overeat), slow your metabolism (causing you to burn fewer calories) and make the body retain more abdominal fat. Need another reason to sleep more? Lack of shut-eye is also associated with bad workouts. Do yourself a favor and get some rest. Your body will thank you.
3. Snack Smarter
Yes, some people benefit from eating four to six meals per day and enjoying snacks. But researchers from Purdue University found that the snacking method could be sabotaging your efforts. That's because the total calories from snacks has increased from almost 400 calories to nearly 600 calories each day. If you're a big snacker, choose healthier options so that you're snacks are nutrient-rich and you may need to reduce the calories are you overall meals. Tracking your intake on LIVESTRONG.COM's Calorie Tracker can help you monitor what you're eating.
Related: 18 Paleo Snacks Under 200 Calories
4. Know How Much You Are Eating
Part one of the energy equation is to simply restrict your fuel intake. But unfortunately, most people do very badly with this. Research has shown that most people grossly underestimate how much they are eating, sometimes by up to 50 percent! There are a number of ways you can track what you are eating, such as using LIVESTRONG.COM's Calorie Tracker.
5. Move More (LOTS more!)
This is, essentially, the second half of the equation -- the calories-out side. Unfortunately, most people struggle with this process. In today's society, we're largely sedentary: We travel in cars, we work in front of computers all day and we relax in front of the television. Add incidental exercise (like talking the stairs or tapping your foot) in addition to formal activity (such as playing sports, lifting weights, running) to see the greatest benefits, says exercise specialist Emma-Leigh Synnott.
6. Cut Down on Liquid Calories
Here's the truth: More than 21 percent of the calories that Americans consume each day comes from beverages. Not only are these drinks less likely to keep you full, thus leaving you hungry, they're oftentimes loaded with sugar.
Related: The Top 10 Beverages to Avoid
7. Plan a Cheat Day
Going on a diet is tough on you, both mentally and physically. That's why a cheat day is a frequent part of many successful diet plans. The splurge can provide you with the break from your restrictive habits that will keep you satisfied while still losing weight.
Related: The Art and Science of "Cheat Meals"
8. Lift Heavy Weights
Whether you're a man or a woman, the fastest way to burn fat faster is by lifting heavy weights. Not only do heavier weights activate more muscle fibers, they also increase your resting metabolism. In other words, when you lift heavy weights, you continue to burn calories at a higher rate, even when you're doing nothing.
9. Make Yourself Accountable
Surround yourself with tools to help you with your journey. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Join an online community. Let people know your goals and ask for their support in helping you achieving them. The more supported you are, the better.
10. Add Workout Variety
For a high-impact workout that will kick up your metabolism in a short amount of time, try alternating cardio and resistance training in a circuit, suggests Jim Smith, C.S.C.S, creator of DieselSC.com. For example, start with five minutes of cardio (treadmill, bike, elliptical) immediately followed by a dumbbell circuit of cleans, clean and presses, lunges, military presses and bent-over rows, where each exercise is performed for eight repetitions. This entire circuit can be repeated two to three times.
11. Practice Carb Swapping
Carb swapping is is one of the easiest (and fastest) ways to jump-start weight loss. Replace foods like pasta, rice and bread with fruits and vegetables. The fruits and vegetables have fewer calories and carbohydrates than their processed counterparts. That means you can eat more total food without adding weight.
Related: Carb Cycling for Fat Loss
12. Use Simple Tools
You don't need to get on one of those fancy elliptical machines or treadmills. A $10 jump rope is highly effective as part of your warmup, and as a way to get good-quality intensity into your workout, says personal trainer Jim Smith. Stay light on your feet and control your breathing as you try and hit 50 jumps, 100 jumps or more.
Related: 20 of the Best Body-Weight Exercises
13. Rest Less During Exercise
There are many essential variables that must be managed when structuring your workout, one of them being rest. The rest periods you take between exercises can be modified to elicit a fat-burning effect, says personal trainer Jim Smith. By shortening the time you take between exercises to as little as 10 to 30 seconds, you can increase your resting metabolism and the intensity of your workout.
14. Try Combination Exercises
Linking two to three different exercises together into a chain of movements is a great way to get a lot of work done in a short amount of time. This is the key to improving your workout efficiency and positively impacting your fat-loss goals, says personal trainer Jim Smith. Combos like linking a push-up and a burpee into a pull-up are an amazing example of this technique.
15. Try Intermittent Fasting
Considered one of the more controversial eating habits, intermittent fasting combines long breaks from eating (14 to16 hours) with a shorter feeding period (8 to10 hours), or fasting for 24 hours once per week. While the behaviors might seem extreme, research indicates that this method not only is linked to healthy weight loss, but also preserves muscle mass. While this approach doesn't work for everyone, this technique may work well for people who prefer eating just two to three times per day.
16. Eat More Fat
Did you know that the Institute of Medicine recommends that a diet be made up of 25 to 35 percent fat? Turns out, high-fat foods like nuts, avocados and healthy oils can help you lose fat faster than other diet approaches. Just make sure you figure out how much fat you need in your diet to prevent yourself from overeating. And as always, avoid trans fats -- they're still not healthy.
17. Eat More Protein
Protein helps you maintain lean body mass (muscle, not fat), and increase the thermic effect of your diet. That is, protein requires more energy for your body to process than carbohydrates or fat. This can subtly contribute to the calories-out side of the energy equation. As a bonus, eating protein keeps you fuller longer, and researchers have shown that it can reduce how much you eat per day by hundreds of calories.
18. Become a Heavy Drinker
No, we're not talking about alcohol. While there's nothing magical about water, the process of consuming lots of liquid can trick you into feeling less hungry. What's more, when you're dehydrated you burn two percent fewer calories per day, says University of Utah researchers. So if you struggle to control your appetite, drink up before your meal. Then drink some more. You'll be more likely to fight off fat.
19. Drink Whey Protein
Your diet should primarily consist of whole-food sources like meats, veggies, fruits and nuts. However, research published in the Journal of Nutrition found those who consume whey-protein shakes lost almost twice as much fat as those who didn't have the shakes. Magic? Hardly. The protein in shakes isn't any more effective than protein found in solid meals. However, most people don't get enough protein in their diets, and the shakes are a convenient way to meet your body's needs, suggest the researchers.
Related: 20 Delicious Protein Powder Recipes
20. Be Patient and Give Yourself Time
You didn't gain weight overnight, so you will not take it off overnight either. Give yourself time and know that the weight will come off if you stick to your plan.
What Do YOU Think?
Have you ever successfully lost weight? What are some of your secrets to staying healthy and fit and lose weight? Have you ever tried any on this list? Did they work for you? Which ones were surprising to you? Are there ones you're going to add into your routine? Share your thoughts, questions and suggestions in the comments section below!
Related: The 7 Principles of Fat Loss