Losing weight doesn’t have to be difficult, if you start with these 10 healthy and sustainable habits.
You don’t have to starve yourself, do a ludicrous juice diet or kill yourself in the gym for hours on end every single day to shed those extra kilos. Weight loss can be pretty straightforward with a few simple but effective changes to your training, diet and lifestyle. According to Chris Richards, a certified personal trainer and the Asia head of operations for Ultimate Performance, these 10 habits have worked for all the clients he has seen at the gym. Build them into your lifestyle, and you will start seeing results in as little as 10 days.
1. Watch your calories
In order to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. If you’re having a hard time losing weight, it is likely because you’re consuming too many calories daily.
To burn fat and lose weight, you’ll need to be in a calorie deficit, which means consuming fewer calories to create the conditions for weight loss. A simple way to do this is to find out what your calorie maintenance level is (the amount of calories your body uses to maintain weight), and then reduce this intake by 10 to 20 per cent. The next step is all about consistency and tracking what, and how much, you’re eating to make sure you remain in a calorie deficit to sustain this weight loss.
(Also read: 11 Simple Ways to Increase Your Daily Protein Intake)
2. Eat protein at every meal
If you are looking to achieve a lean and muscular frame, you should aim to lose fat while preserving muscle mass. Protein is responsible for the repair and regrowth of muscle tissue, so getting a good source of protein in at every meal is important, especially when you’re in a calorie deficit.
Besides that, protein is satiating – it will help you feel full for a lot longer, so you don’t get hungry between meals, fall off the wagon and snack on calorie-laden junk foods that will dent your weight loss efforts. Interestingly, protein also has a higher thermic effect of food than protein and fat. This means it takes your body more energy (calories) to break down and digest protein. Women should aim to eat between 20g and 30g of protein per meal.
(Also read: Are You Getting Enough Protein?)
3. Prepare your meals
Successful and sustainable weight loss comes from staying on top of your diet. If you’re already tracking your calories and macros, something that will pretty much guarantee success is preparing your meals for the day well in advance.
By having your meals measured and prepared ready for the day, you’re less likely to be caught short without a healthy meal, where it’s likely you will grab the nearest convenience food that’s often calorie-dense and lacking in nutrition. It’s much harder to lose sight of your goals and eat something sub-optimal if you have your meals planned, prepped and ready to eat when you’re hungry.
Here are two simple tips to master food prep:
- Buy your food in bulk. It’s more cost-effective and you can portion it out – whether that’s your protein, vegetables or bags of nuts.
- Batch-cook your food. Find recipes you love and match your weight loss goals, and then cook a batch in one go so you can portion them out and freeze them for a later date. It will save you loads of time in the long run.
4. Cut carbs (initially)
Carbs are not the devil. However, if you’re carrying excess weight and your body is inflamed, a short period of low-carb eating can be really beneficial for kickstarting weight loss.
Start by cutting out highly-processed sources of carbs such as bread, pasta, cereal and baked goods, and replacing them with green vegetables and carb sources with a lower glycemic load (like sweet potato). Green vegetables are particularly good – because they’re full of vitamins and minerals, plus they’re low-calorie, so you can eat them in large quantities without over-consuming calories. The high fibre content of green vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli aids digestion, and helps keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Remember: the leaner you are, the more carbs your body can handle. When it comes to reintroducing carbs back into your diet, add a small amount post-workout and also in your final meal of the day (yes, carbs in the evening!). Carbs promote the production of serotonin in the brain, which aids sleep.
5. Eat healthy fats
Just like carbs, fats have a bad reputation. But the truth is, eating fat does not directly make you fat; eating too many calories makes you fat. The thing to remember with fats is they contain more calories than protein and carbs, so they’re just easier to overeat.
Whether or not you’re trying to lose weight, you require some essential fats in your diet. Fats become even more important if you’re reducing your intake of carbs – a low-fat and low-carb diet is the recipe for dietary disaster.
Besides being a great energy source, fat is vital to hormone production and aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. It is also important for cell membrane health as well as managing inflammation and metabolism.
Healthy sources of fat to include in your weight loss diet include oily fish, nuts, avocado and olive oil. Always avoid man-made trans fats which can be inflammation-causing and are associated with myriad of health complications. Make sure to track your fat intake as the calories can quickly mount up. The difference between a 25g handful of cashew nuts and 50g is 154 calories, for example.
6. Boost your daily activity levels
If you want to lose weight, you need to increase your overall activity levels – not just the time spent working out at the gym. This means moving more and increasing the amount of physical activities throughout the day.
Many people fall into the trap of thinking that all they need to do is a quick hour in the gym to lose weight. But if they remain sedentary for the rest of the day, their overall energy expenditure will still be pretty low.
One of the biggest weight loss tools that everyone overlooks is something called non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). Put simply, this is the energy you use doing day-to-day activities that aren’t exercise – things like shopping, cleaning, walking and even fidgeting at your desk. NEAT can be a game-changer where weight loss is concerned.
Depending on how active you are throughout the day, NEAT can account for between 15 and 50 per cent of your total energy expenditure – and can be the difference between you being in calorie maintenance or calorie deficit. Aim to clock 10,000 steps per day and build in activities like walking to work, taking the stairs and carrying groceries, which boost your calorie burn far more than a quick session in the gym. You can track steps easily with a fitness watch or step counter on your phone.
(Also read: How Many Calories Do You Burn Doing Housework?)
7. Start resistance training
Following a progressive, well-structured and challenging weight training programme consistently is one of the most effective ways to improve your body composition.
Performing big compound exercises like squats, deadlifts and pull-ups are a great bang-for-your-buck way to recruit more muscle mass in training and burn more calories. If fat loss is your goal, prioritise these exercises above isolation exercises like leg extensions and bicep curls. Doing 1,000 reps with a 2kg dumbbell isn’t enough to stimulate muscle growth and produce the fat-burning results you want.
If you’re new to weightlifting, it’s best to start out performing a full-body workout programme three times a week. One of the best methods used at Ultimate Performance with our clients is doing upper and lower body supersets, like the German Body Composition protocol, which allows you to get your heart rate up and do more work in less time – great if you’ve only got 45 minutes on your lunch break at work.
8. Drink more water
Drinking enough water is a crucial part of any weight loss plan for many reasons.
Firstly, water ensures your brain and body are functioning optimally – remember, dehydration deregulates every cellular process in the body. Not consuming enough water during the day dents muscle protein synthesis. Even 3 per cent of dehydration can impair your strength, power and performance output in the gym.
More specific to weight loss, not getting enough water means your liver will metabolise less fat as it has to step in and assume some of your kidneys’ functions when dehydration sets in. And of course, water helps to fill you up and stave off hunger. Drink a glass or two of water 10 minutes before a meal, to prevent overeating. Aim to get at least 1 litre of water per 25kg of body weight. If you’re 50kg, that means you should drink at least 2 litres of water daily.
(Also read: 8 Ways to Make Water Taste Better)
9. Improve your sleep
The relationship between sleep and weight loss has long been documented by science. Sleep underpins optimal health, recovery and performance, and plays an important role when you’re trying to lose weight. Testosterone and growth hormone levels – key hormones that help to improve your body composition – reach peak production while you sleep at night.
Getting quality sleep also reduces the stress hormone, cortisol. When you’re sleep-deprived, cortisol levels rise to help keep your body running. However, this results in fatigue, food cravings, mental fog and reduced energy. Shoot for seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night.
(Also read: How to Wake Up & Go to Sleep Happy Every Day)
10. Make a long-term plan
Successful and sustainable weight loss cannot be achieved with quick-fix solutions like crash diets, weight loss pills and extreme training regimes. Build healthy and sustainable habits into your lifestyle, like the ones mentioned above, to set a solid foundation for weight loss and maintenance.
(Also read: Proven Ways to Increase Your Metabolism)