How to Lose Weight: Increase Your Metabolism, Burn Fat and Keep It Off

With so many different weight loss programs promising to help you lose weight quickly, it can be difficult to know exactly where to start. You may be left wondering: it is better to reduce carbs or to increase exercise? It is possible to lose weight by exercise alone? Or by diet alone? Should you eliminate fat from your diet or carbohydrates? Which is more important - exercise or diet? Are fruits and vegetables important for weight loss, or do they contribute unnecessary carbohydrates to our diets?

Weight loss plans can be confusing, to say the least!

But in spite of those ads teasing you with "the one simple way to lose weight", there really is no magic bullet or diet pill that will make your love handles and muffin top disappear. There are many ways to lose weight, and weight loss (and maintenance) is actually the result of any weight management plan that helps you burn more calories than you eat.

A balanced approach to weight loss usually yields the healthiest, and best long term results. The following weight loss plan should yield a healthy weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week. As with any weight loss effort, you will probably see faster results the first week or two, as your body adjusts to a lower carbohydrate intake and gives up a couple extra pounds of water weight.

So How Many Calories a Day Can You Eat and Still Lose Weight?

First, let's do the math. A pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories. So to lose one pound of fat per week, you need to burn an extra 500 calories per day more than you consume. With no added exercise but a moderately active lifestyle, a 40-year old women might burn about 1,600 calories per day. This woman would need to decrease her calories intake to 1,100 calories per day in order to lose weight at a healthy rate of 1 pound per week. Or she could increase her physical activity and exercise to burn an additional 500 calories per day.

By burning more calories than you take in, you are forcing your body to turn to stored fat as a source of energy. But this needs to be done in moderation, or your body will cannibalize existing muscle mass, which actually decreases your metabolism and makes it more difficult to lose weight. A healthy diet rule is to eat at least 1,000 calories per day. Most women dieters aim to eat somewhere between 1,000 and 1,400 calories per day, depending upon their weight loss goals and exercise habits.

Plan A Healthy Diet And Better Eating Habits

The best weight loss plans start with a solid nutritional plan. It has been said that proper diet and nutrition accounts for about 70% of your weight loss results. Sure, you can exercise until you faint from exhaustion, but without a balanced diet, your weight loss results will be limited.

So what do we mean by a healthy weight loss diet? It really consists of two factors: the amount of food you eat, and the type of food you eat. The amount should be measured in calories. Start by giving yourself a daily calorie budget in the 1,000-1,400 range for women, and 1,800-2,000 for men. Then use your calorie budget to eat 3 meals of 200-300 calories each, and 2 snacks of 100-200 calories each. By eating smaller meals more often, you help keep yourself from getting too hungry and you keep your blood sugar at a near-constant level.
 
The quality of these meals is probably the most important weight loss factor. The key is to maximize your protein intake, while minimizing consumption of carbs and sugar. Carbohydrates are necessary to provide energy, but they break down quickly and are digested as sugar. Sugar is the worst possible thing you can eat when trying to lose weight, as it changes your blood chemistry in such a way that it's almost impossible to lose weight. The fact is, if you limit your calories to 1,000 per day but those calories all come from simple sugars, you will feel terrible with your insulin levels constantly rising and crashing and you won't lose weight.

Each of your 3 meals should include a source of low-fat protein, such as chicken, eggs, or fish. Then add a small serving of complex carbohydrates (they digest slower than simple carbs and don't spike your insulin levels). These complex carbs could include whole wheat bread or an English muffin, whole wheat pasta, or brown rice. When it comes to carbs, the browner the better. It means the grains have not been over-processed and will take longer to digest than foods made from highly-processed white flour.

Finally, fill up the rest of your plate with vegetables, preferably raw or lightly cooked. Fresh fruits are OK in moderation, but the sugar content of fruit will impact your insulin levels much faster than vegetables, so when it doubt, choose broccoli over an apple.
 
You may find the best diet plan is one where you eat the same foods everyday. This is actually a lot more satisfying than it sounds, as it eliminates much of the confusion and decision-making that comes with proper eating. You may want to choose eggs and whole wheat toast for breakfast, a tuna sandwich for lunch, and roast chicken and vegetables for dinner, with snacks consisting of cheese and Triscuit crackers, or walnuts and Greek yogurt (check the sugar grams)

If you choose to eat the same foods everyday, you may not be getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need on a daily basis, add a multi-vitamin to your daily breakfast routine. Ladies, you should be adding 1,000 mg of Vitamin D to your diet, along with calcium supplements. Not only does the Vitamin D help your body absorb calcium and ward off osteoporosis, but it helps maintain energy levels. And who couldn't use a little more energy!

Lose Belly Fat First

If you are intent on losing your muffin top, your diet is even more critical to your weight loss goals. While exercise does contribute to overall fat loss, it is a very ineffective way to target stored fat in the abdomen. Limiting carbohydrates and sugar intake is the fastest way to burn belly fat. If your diet goal is to lose as much belly fat as fast as possible, plan your daily diet so that it does not exceed 15 grams of sugar per day.

That may sound impossible, especially when you start to read nutritional labels and realize that a serving of low fat milk contains 11 grams of sugar all by itself, but it is actually very realistic once you plan your meals accordingly. Just remember, when you are trying to lose belly fat: protein is your best friend, complex carbohydrates are good friends, and processed carbs are your arch enemy.

Start with your daily calorie budget and plan accordingly. If you get tired of reading labels and adding up sugar grams, just plan out one good daily meal plan and stick to it. It will be worth it as you watch the belly fat melt away on a weekly basis. 

Increase Your Physical Activity and Exercise

While your nutritional choices make up 70% of your weight loss results, the other 30% of your results depend on increasing your physical activity and exercise. Remember, not all physical activity has to come from planned exercise at the gym. You can burn an extra one hundred calories just by walking around the neighborhood at a brisk pace for 20 minutes. 

But how much exercise do you need to lose weight? To ignite the fat burning process, you need to increase your metabolism, which means getting your heart rate up to the point where you break a sweat, and then maintaining that rate for 30-45 minutes. If you are serious about losing weight, you'll need to exercise at this rate 4-6 times a week. Exercising 3 times a week is great for maintaining your weight and improving your overall health, but it is not sufficient for weight loss, especially if you are over 40 year of age. 

Jumpstart Your Weight Loss Effort to Lose Weight Fast

The weight loss plan outlined above will have you losing 1-2 pounds per week. It consists of restricted calories, restricted carbohydrates and 30-45 minutes of exercise 4-6 times per week. But if you want to lose weight quickly, perhaps you need to lose a quick 10 pounds for a wedding or special event, you will need to modify the weight loss plan a bit.

The fastest way to lose weight is to eliminate as many carbohydrates as possible from your diet. This means no bread of any kind, no potatoes, no pasta, no fruit or fruit juice, Your body still needs energy, so you can't eliminate all carbs. But if your goal is to lose 10 pounds in two weeks, you'll need to rely on vegetables to provide the bare minimum of carbohydrates for your diet. Each of your meals should be protein based, and then filled out with steamed vegetables or salad (oil and vinegar dressing, absolutely nothing with sugar)

Adding extra cardio workouts will also assist with your quick weight loss efforts. The most effective cardio workouts are interval workouts, where you push it as hard as you can for a minute or two, and then back off and let your heart rate slow down for a minute or two. Repeat this pattern for 30 minutes, and you will have have your metabolism operating at maximum efficiency all day long.

Best Tip For Keeping The Weight Off

Now that you have finally achieved your weight loss goals, how do you maintain your hard-won physique? Hopefully, you have ingrained new habits into your lifestyle that include regular exercise, along with the planning and preparation of nutritious low-sugar meals. But to stay svelte, you should also be incorporating strength training into your weekly fitness routine. You can build muscle through the use of free weights, or through isometric strength training that uses nothing but your body's own weight to provide resistance for muscle building. Yoga and mat Pilates are both forms of isometric resistance training.

If you have not practiced any type of weight training in the past, consider employing a personal trainer to get you started. Your local gym will have several on staff or available as independent contractors.

The fact is, it takes additional calories to maintain muscle mass. So the more muscle you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate, and the more calories you burn simply by breathing. Adding a few pounds of muscle will allow you to cut back on your cardio workouts and still burn a maximum number of calories per day. But watch that sugar intake, or all of your pounds lost will creep back on the scales.

The Weight Loss Challenge For Women over 40

If you are a woman over 40, or 50, or 60, you probably already know that losing weight is a lot harder than it was in your 20's or 30's.

Menopause contributes to our metabolic slow down, but it's also true that our bodies start losing muscle at the age of 35, and continue to do so at the rate of about a half-pound of muscle per year. With each pound of muscle lost, our metabolism slows down and burns calories less efficiently. This means that strength training and muscle building becomes even more important as we age, not only to improve our weight loss efforts but to maintain a sufficient amount of muscle mass to protect our bodies from injury.

If you are over 40, your weight loss plan needs to include resistance training from the get-go. You will probably also need to include 5-7 cardio workouts per week to meet your weight loss goals. And as with dieters of all ages, simple carbohydrates and sugar will sabotage your weight loss efforts.

If you are working out at the gym at least 4 times per week, and working hard enough to break a sweat and sustain it for 30-45 minutes, but not seeing results on the scales? Then you need to keep a nutrition journal and write down each gram of sugar that you eat each day. Chances are pretty good that you have allowed your daily sugar intake to creep up and it is sabotaging all of your hard work at the gym. Keeping a written journal of your sugar intake will keep you accountable to your weight loss goals and you will undoubtedly achieve weight loss success.