OK, it’s no secret: Diet and exercise go hand-in-hand when it comes to losing weight — and keeping it off. But when you need to drop those pounds quickly (and safely!), there are several things you can do to rev up the process.
Your mission is just to be more mindful about what you consume and more diligent about working out (increase your intensity and mix up those exercises). For those of you who find it harder to rein in your calorie intake, here are some diet tricks to help you out.
Eat unlimited greens. If you’re on the path to weight loss, you should already know that you can’t eat more calories than you burn. While the precise amount of calories you need to limit yourself to will vary from person to person, based on your metabolic rate, the bottom line is for accelerated weight loss, women should consume no more than 1,200 calories a day; and men, no more than 1,600 calories a day. The exception to the rule (don’t you love those?) are leafy greens and other veggies that are high in fiber and water content yet extremely low in calories. So curb any midday or late-night hunger pangs by filling up on foods like spinach, kale, green beans, celery, cucumbers, bell peppers and zucchini — minus the heavy sauces, oils and dressings, which, of course, will turn these free-pass foods into calorie bombs.
Avoid starchy carbs before bed. Here’s the thing: Your body releases human growth hormone (HGH), its fat-burning, muscle-building hormone, during your first sleep cycle — but starchy and sugary carbs, such as potatoes, bread, cereals, pasta and dried fruits, thwart HGH production. That’s because these foods release insulin, which in turn drives down your HGH levels while you snooze. My suggestion is to cut these carbs at least three hours before you go to sleep. Even better if you avoid them altogether at dinner.
Combine protein with simple carbs. Another way to maximize your fat burn is to pair protein with any high-glycemic-index carbs (sugar and starch) you eat during the day. Simple carbs cause your blood sugar to spike, and if your cells don’t use the sugar immediately for fuel, it gets stored as fat. Adding protein to the mix will help counter these effects by slowing down digestion and stabilizing your blood sugar levels. So, for example, have a side of scrambled egg whites with your morning bowl of oatmeal.
Ultimately there is no substitute for exercise, but these simple eating tricks can definitely help accelerate and facilitate the process.