1. Eat more protein.
About 25%-30% of the calories in each gram of protein are burned in digestion, compared to only 6%-8% of the calories in carbs. Do the math: You save 41 calories every time you substitute 50 grams of protein for an equal amount of carbs.
2. Read labels.
Avoid foods with “high-fructose corn syrup” in the ingredients list. Since 1971, consumption of this sugar substitute—which is used to sweeten soda, commercial baked goods, and even condiments—has increased more than 350% in the U.S., paralleling the rise in obesity.
3. Get off your ass.
Do every exercise standing instead of sitting. “You’ll expend up to 30% more calories,” says Joe Stankowski, C.P.T. The solution for the bench press? Dips.
4. Mix up your movements.
When you lift, perform supersets in which you alternate between sets of lower body exercises and upper body exercises. That way, your lower body rests while your upper body is working. “This allows you to work your muscles maximally with very little downtime between sets for a faster, more effective workout,” says Craig Ballantyne, C.S.C.S.
5. Exercise blind.
When you’re using the elliptical trainer, try letting go of the handles and closing your eyes. (Be careful!) Without the visual feedback, your core muscles will have to work harder to keep you balanced, burning more calories.
6. Embrace yardwork.
View any type of physical activity—even those you try to avoid, such as mowing the lawn—as a chance to burn fat and condition your body. (Just make sure you use a push mower.)
7. Snack on dill pickles.
They have one calorie per slice.
8. Take larger steps.
When using the stair climber, skip one out of every five steps. Then take one large step to get back to your normal walking pattern. This step recruits additional muscle, upping fat loss, says Cameron McGarr, C.S.C.S.
9. Rent motivation.
Once a week, watch a movie that inspires you to exercise. Examples: Rocky (for the gym), American Flyers (for cycling), Hoosiers (for team sports), and Chariots of Fire and Without Limits (both for running).
10. Break a record.
Challenge yourself to run farther in the same amount of time—even if it’s just one-tenth of a mile—every single workout. This ensures you’re always burning more calories from one workout to the next.
11. Smash your dinner plates.
And buy smaller ones. That way, even if you fill your plate to capacity, you’re ultimately eating less than what you would likely pile on your existing platters.
12. Cut carbs.
Yes, you’ve heard it a zillion times. The reason: It works. In just one of many recent studies, a Journal of Nutrition report found that men who reduced their carb intake to just 8% of their daily calories lost seven pounds of fat and gained two pounds of muscle in six weeks.
13. Lift first, then run.
By doing cardio after you’ve lifted—when you’re already tired—the same speed or intensity will have a greater effect than had you done it beforehand, says McGarr.
14. Change directions.
Try this interval-training trick on the elliptical trainer: Ride for 30 seconds as fast as you can, then immediately reverse your direction and ride for 30 additional seconds just as fast in the opposite direction. Rest 60 seconds and repeat. The force of stopping your momentum, as well as going from a dead stop to full speed twice in the same interval, will give your fat-burning efforts a massive boost, says MF training adviser Alwyn Cosgrove, C.S.C.S.
15. Fill up on high-fiber foods.
Consider them “good carbs.” Their bulk takes up space in your stomach, helping you feel full and eat less. The top fiber food: beans, which contain 8 grams per 1/2 cup. Research shows that guys who added 12 grams of fiber a day to their diet lost a quarter of an inch from their love handles, without otherwise modifying their diet.
16. Top your salad with vinaigrette dressing.
Studies show that acidic foods such as vinegar and lemon juice work like lighter fluid in your body’s fat incinerator, increasing carb combustion 20%-40%. Researchers believe the acids blunt insulin spikes and slow the rate at which food empties from your stomach. Fermented foods like pickles and yogurt are also good sour options.
17. Don’t skip meals.
Not eating for long periods of time puts your body into a catabolic state, meaning it starts to break down muscle tissue fo energy—and conserves fat.
18. Try the VersaClimber.
The more vertical you are when doing cardio, the more calories you burn.
19. Don’t be a couch potato.
If you’re a TV junkie, add up the number of hours you watch right now, and cut out all reruns—even if there’s an episode of Seinfeld on you’ve never seen. Spend the time you save on your feet: outdoors or in the gym.
20. Hit the weights.
If you’re lazy, it’s not as bad as you think—just 10 minutes a day of lifting, three days a week, will help. Harvard research shows that 30 minutes of weight training per week has a greater reduction on waist size than almost any other variable.