CNET Wellness believes that you can be healthy at any size. We also acknowledge that health and body image are complex, personal matters and that some readers have weight loss goals. This article provides advice on that topic. Learn more about fatphobia here. If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call or text the National Eating Disorders Association helpline at 800-931-2237.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________We need body fat to function. Without enough body fat, our bodies can start breaking down muscle to compensate, leaving us feeling depleted and tired. Lack of body fat can also cause a deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins, which can put you at risk for health complications like night blindness, hemorrhage and infertility. That said, carrying too much extra fat can lead to serious health conditions like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
If you’ve been carrying some extra body fat that you’re looking to get rid of, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll talk about body fat, what it does for us and how to shed the excess.
What is body fat?
Before we dig into how to lose it, we need to understand what body fat is and what function it serves our body. There are two parts of body mass — body fat and lean mass. Lean body mass is the weight of everything in your body, except for fat, like muscles, ligaments, bones, tendons, tissues and organs. Fat mass is your body fat. Body fat is how our bodies insulate and protect our organs. It’s also how we store energy.
Your body fat percentage is not the same as your body mass index. BMI is the long-standing measure doctors have used to determine someone’s body fat, but it doesn’t account for the weight of your bones, muscles and organs when determining body fat.
A much better measure is your body fat percentage and body fat distribution, which gives you insights into your overall health. Our bodies need a healthy amount of body fat to ensure everything is functioning properly. However, if you have too much, it can paint a bad picture for your long-term health.
How to lose body fat naturally
Fat loss is simple in theory: you have to burn more calories than you take in. It’s all about calorie maintenance. Just don’t forget to create realistic goals that don’t deprive your body of what it needs in the name of caloric intake.
Making healthy and sustainable changes is the key to long-term body fat loss. Don’t believe any of the fad diets or miracle fixes. Modifying your diet and setting an exercise regime is the most effective way to lose body fat. Here’s what to know.
Start by rethinking your diet
Before you do anything, stop and take stock of your diet. Are there obvious areas you need to change? Don’t worry if you don’t know where to start; there are key things you can add or exclude from your diet to lose body fat naturally.
Aim for a high-protein diet
Diets high in protein promote fat loss because they help you feel full, which will cut down on extra snacking and lower your calorie intake. It does this by decreasing the production of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, in the body. High protein diets are great for people who want to maintain muscle mass while dropping body fat. Add protein-rich foods to your diet like seafood, eggs, meat and dairy products.
Eat plenty of good fats
The word fat gets a bad rap, and most people try to avoid anything with the word fat in the name. While you should limit trans fats as much as possible, you need good fats in your diet.
Sources of good fats include eggs, avocados, olive oil, fish and nuts, many of which are the pillars of the Mediterranean diet. A 12-month-long study revealed that the Mediterranean has greater successful long-term weight loss rates when compared to low-fat diets. To cash in on the benefits of healthy fats, you don’t necessarily need to increase your intake of fats overall. Instead, you can look for areas where you can swap out trans fats for healthier options.
Add fiber to your diet
Fiber is an essential carbohydrate that our bodies use to regulate sugar and aid digestion. Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains. Increasing the amount of fiber in your diet has been linked to weight loss. A recent study discovered that intaking more soluble fiber also helped people reduce belly fat. Fiber can also lower your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes by reducing fat in the body.
If you can’t consistently get enough fiber from your food, you can try adding a fiber supplement to your diet.
Cut out sugary drinks
It’s not only about what you eat; the things you drink also play a huge role in fat loss. Soda, sweet tea and alcohol will hinder your goals as they’ve been associated with higher rates of body fat. Supplement these drinks with healthier choices like water or green tea.
Commit to regular exercise
Exercise is the other half of fat loss. Any form and amount of exercise is a valuable step toward your health. However, if you’re looking to make significant strides in fat loss, there are specific workouts you should ensure you’re getting.
Strength training is an important part of the fat-loss process. Studies have found that consistent strength training for four weeks resulted in an average reduction of 1.46% in body fat. It also has the unique benefit of jumpstarting your metabolism, which means you’ll burn more calories.
Don’t worry if strength training makes your heart race. It can be intimidating, especially if you don’t have experience with weights or the machines at the gym. You can strength train at home without any weights. Body weight exercises like planks and Russian twists are excellent workouts that can strengthen your entire body. You can also opt for video Barre classes or use resistance bands for at-home workouts. Remember, you’ll see the most progress if you pair changes in your diet with strength training.
Maximize your cardio
Aerobic exercise, also known as cardio, conditions your cardiovascular system by increasing your heart rate and oxygen use. Cardio is one of the most effective ways to lose body fat. While losing body fat with cardio, you’re also building lean muscle mass and reducing your risk of injury by improving your fitness.
Make sure to prioritize cardiovascular exercises like walking, running and swimming in your workout regime. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate cardio each week.
High-intensity interval training
HIIT is an effective cardio workout consisting of bursts of increased activity and accompanying recovery periods. If you’re looking to shed body fat, HIIT workouts may be your solution. HIIT increases fat loss by 28.5% compared to steady cardio workouts. That’s because HIIT burns more calories in less time.
Despite the various benefits, HIIT workouts should be one of many daily regimes. Experts recommend you limit high-intensity sessions to two to three times a week. You should also space them out with either rest days or low-intensity workouts.
You should be aware of the downsides to excessive HIIT workouts, like joint damage and disrupted metabolism. HIIT sessions can cause the stress hormone cortisol to spike, leaving you feeling anxious and on edge. Remember to always pace yourself.
Read more: Get Your Heart Rate Up With These HIIT Workout Programs
Above all else, take care of your body
Diet and exercise are essential for fat loss. But they should never come at the expense of your health. Remember to always prioritize sleep. It is essential for your overall health and functioning and can help aid your fat loss journey by helping you avoid weight gain and strengthening your physical activities.
You should also be mindful of how your efforts affect your mental health and happiness. The mind and body work together; you can’t have one without the other. If you’re pushing yourself too far — physically or mentally — it’s OK to take a break and take care of your needs.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.