As many of us are preparing our bodies for the beach; or at least trying to shift our wobbly bits in order to don t-shirt and shorts with a smile, I've put together some simple tips to help you lose fat, feel healthier, and earn that ice cream next time we're enjoying a weekend heat wave. Watch out for hyperlinks throughout this article, I've linked out to further reading for those interested in the research that underpins these points.
1) Increase your Vitamin D
Oh the sun. If you're feeling despondent, flat and generally under par - you are not alone.
Vitamin D has never been so scarce. This wonderful substance has a profound positive impact on your:
- Cell health
- Illness prevention
- Fetal health
- Body composition
- Risk of cancer and heart disease (save the best till last)
Vitamin D is crucial for keeping you lean too. If you are happy, you are less likely to comfort eat. You'll be more energetic, meaning that you can exercise more regularly and recover faster. Gents, it will even raise your testosterone meaning stronger bones, improved libido and a better body composition.
Vitamin D rich foods include:
- Oily fish
2) Eat more eggs
Yep, these are the real deal. Try to get away from the idea that the yolk is the villain. It is essential for a number of reasons.
Eggs are one of the highest quality protein sources, meaning that it is easily absorbed by your body. Organic eggs are certainly a wonderful and cheap source of protein.
They are also versatile. In a frittata; poached alongside thyme and rosemary mushrooms on sourdough bread; salad nicoise. All safe bets.
Why are eggs so amazing? The Daily Mail featured this piece here. It is accurate, succinct and informed.
Eggs lower cholesterol too. How? Choline.
3) Be accountable but fair to yourself
When starting a new diet regime, your resolve is at its lowest, whilst you also feel the greatest pressure to change your appearance. In any strategy there are teething problems and periods of stagnation. Remember though: most people can really change the way they look if they persevere.
You might need to try a few approaches to find a plan that suits you. For most people though, it is better to have a regular 'treat' as it will make you feel less deprived; and you'll ultimately be more inclined to stick to the course. If you slip up (and most of us will), don't feel like you've failed and chuck in the towel.
Prioritise key factors (hydration, cooking from scratch, consistent exercise) as your foundations. This will always give you an anchor on which to build.
4) Get a training partner
We've all had days when the prospect of vigorous exercise (or even any exercise) feels akin to a looming exam. Most of the time the endorphins afterwards are brilliant and feel worthwhile. To avoid excuses, duvet days or unplanned drinks (always nice if the sun comes out), find a training partner.
Training as a pair stops you reverting into bad habits, and helps you strive towards goals together.
5) Get more sleep
I've mentioned how important this is in previous articles. If you sleep better and for longer, you will:
- Produce fewer stress hormones
- Have higher levels of testosterone and keep key hormones balanced
- Your body will also have better control of blood sugar
6) Move more
Obvious point again. However, how many people actually make a concerted effort to walk more, take the stairs and not use the car so often? You don't have to train yourself into submission with unsustainable and short-lived workout strategies to achieve your goals (although vigorous, planned training will help).
Low intensity exercise is a tremendously undervalued way to shed fat. It is really effective. Try to incorporate two hours of walking per week (minimum 40 minutes per walk).
7) Eat more high quality protein
Protein is an important component of each meal. However, people are often preoccupied with quantity rather than quality. Don't be seduced by cheap supermarket meats and stick instead to high quality (organic, free range and local if possible).
Eating better protein will help with:
- Omega 3 intake
- Reduced intake of antibiotics, growth hormones and preservatives in cheaper meat
- Aid growth and repair
- Keep you fuller for longer
- Help prevent osteoporosis
- Aid calcium absorption
8) Use spices in your cooking
Spices not only add flavor and variation to a healthy eating plan, each also holds its own potent benefits to your health. See my article for a breakdown of six ingredients to start using now; as well as some of my favourite recipes to use them in.
This tip will not only help make 'clean' food more interesting and palatable, it will also have a positive impact on your mission to lose fat.
9) Drink more water
Staying hydrated will aid:
- Ensure that you don't confuse hunger and thirst (easily done)
- Training capacity and potential
- Focus (the brain is 80% water)
10) Find what works for you
No two people will respond in the same way to a nutrition and training programme. Some people run better on fats, some are fine drinking coffee, others can eat carbs without gaining fat. The same is true for training.
A good personal trainer should be able to tell you about things like: your insulin sensitivity, whether you should drink coffee or not, which muscle groups need specific work (be it strengthening or lengthening) and areas of your lifestyle that need consideration. If they aren't asking you many questions before prescribing a strategy, it might be time to look elsewhere.