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Losing weight is hard. You’ve likely encountered more diets than you can count, none of them effective. What actually works are scientifically proven, small habit changes. Below are 6 simple strategies for effective weight loss.

Reduce Sugar Intake

The absolute, most important dietary change for weight reduction (and overall health) is cutting back added sugar. Sugar contains a lot of calories without any essential nutrients. For this reason, they are called empty calories- calories with no nutritional value.

Sugar is highly addictive. It causes the release of dopamine in the reward center of the brain, similar to drugs such as cocaine.[1] Studies show sugar consumption is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and others diseases.[2]

Be sure to read labels- even so-called healthy foods can be packed with hidden sugar. (Think protein bars and fruit filled yogurts.)

Don’t Drink Your Calories

Sugar is bad enough, but in liquid form it’s even worse. The largest source of excess sugar is consumed as liquid calories. It’s the silent culprit behind many a failed diet.

Liquid sugar is also not as filling or satisfying as the same amount of sugar from food.[3] Therefore, it causes increased calorie consumption. For example, drinking a glass of apple juice at 150 calories is not as filling as eating two small apples.

Bear in mind, fruit juice contains about the same amount of sugar as soft drinks. Instead, eat the whole fruit- you’ll take in fewer calories and feel more satisfied so you eat less later. Not to mention, whole fruits contain fiber. (More about that below.)

Substitute sugary drinks with:

  • water- so important, it has it’s own category below
  • coffee- with less sugar, and substitute milk for cream- it’s packed with protein and contains fewer calories
  • tea- again, be stingy with cream and sugar
  • coconut water- with no added sugar
  • mint/lemon water- again, no sugar
  • whole fruit smoothie- unstrained, no added sugar or juice

Drink Water (especially before meals)

Water aids weight loss in many ways. Drinking water before meals causes you to eat less.[4] It also helps reduce the number of calories absorbed by the body after a meal, [5] as well as boost metabolism, burning more calories without any extra effort.[6] Not to mention all the additional benefits of water, such as better skin.

Eat More Lean Protein (and fewer carbs)

Simply adding protein to your diet (without restricting anything else) causes weight loss. Dietary protein reduces appetite and makes you feel fuller longer causing you to eat less for the rest of day.[7]Plus, the body burns more calories digesting protein than it does digesting carbs. Also, eating protein after a workout helps retain muscle mass.[8]

Substitute empty carbs with lean proteins such as:

  • eggs- also a good source of iron
  • skinless chicken or turkey
  • fish- especially salmon
  • lean ground beef- a small portion
  • beans and lentils- also packed with fiber
  • Low/nonfat dairy products

Eat More Fiber (instead of refined carbs)

Dietary fiber has numerous health benefits (too many to list here).[9] Studies show that fiber increases satiety [10] and helps control weight in the long term.[11] Fiber expands in the stomach so you feel full eating less food. Fiber also takes longer to digest so it keeps you full for a longer period of time than refined carbs.

Eating refined carbs is strongly linked to obesity.[12] Refined carbs are grains that are stripped of their naturally occurring fiber (similar to fruit juice). The most common offenders are white bread, white rice and white pasta. Studies show that refined carbs rapidly spike blood sugar, leading to hunger cravings and increased food intake within the next few hours.

So, when eating carbs, make sure to eat the whole grain kind which has its natural fiber intact. Be sure to read labels. Just because it says, “whole grain” doesn’t make it so.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is highly underrated. It may be just as important for weight control as diet and exercise. Poor sleep is linked to weight gain and obesity.[13] Studies show less sleep increases appetite so sleep deprived individuals eat more.[14]

In order to lose weight, getting quality sleep is crucial.

Follow these simple, scientifically proven strategies to improve your overall health and fitness. They will take you a long way towards achieving your weight loss goals.

References

1. Nicole M. Avena,et al, Evidence for Sugar addiction: Behavioral and Neurochemical Effects of Intermittent, Excessive Sugar Intake, Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews Volume 32, Issue 1, 2008, Pages 20–39.
2. Matthias B. Schulze, DrPH, et al, Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, Weight Gain, and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in Young and Middle-Aged Women, JAMA. 2004;292(8):927-934. doi:10.1001/jama.292.8.927.
3. DiMeglio DP1, Mattes RD, Liquid Versus Solid Carbohydrate: Effects on Food Intake and Body Weight, PMID:10878689 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE], 2000 Jun;24(6):794-800.
4. Dennis EA, et al, Water Consumption Increases Weight Loss During a Hypocaloric Diet Intervention in Middle-Aged and Older Adults, Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Feb;18(2):300-7. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.235. Epub 2009 Aug 6.
5. Dennis EA, et al, Water Consumption Increases Weight Loss During a Hypocaloric Diet Intervention in Middle-Aged and Older Adults, Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Feb;18(2):300-7. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.235. Epub 2009 Aug 6.
6. Michael Boschmann, et al, Water Drinking Induces Thermogenesis Through Osmosensitive Mechanisms, JCEM, Volume 92, Issue 8
7. David S Weigle, et al, A High-Protein Diet Induces Sustained Reductions in Appetite, ad libitum Caloric Intake, and Body Weight Despite Compensatory Changes in Diurnal Plasma Leptin and Ghrelin Concentrations, Am J Clin Nutr July 2005 vol. 82 no. 1 41-48.
8. Douglas Paddon-Jones, et al, Protein, Weight Management, and Satiety, Am J Clin Nutr May 2008 vol. 87 no. 5 1558S-1561S
9. Anderson JW, et al, Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber, Nutr Rev. 2009 Apr;67(4):188-205. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x.
10. Howarth NC, et al, Dietary fiber and weight regulation, Nutr Rev. 2001 May;59(5):129-39.
11. Clark MJ1, Slavin JL, The Effect of Fiber on Satiety and Food Intake: a Systematic Review, J Am Coll Nutr. 2013;32(3):200-11. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2013.791194.
12. Susan B. Roberts Ph.D, High-glycemic Index Foods, Hunger, and Obesity: Is There a Connection?, Nutrition Reviews, Volume 58, Issue 6, pages 163–169, June 2000
13. Francesco, P, Meta-Analysis of Short Sleep Duration and Obesity in Children and Adults, Sleep. 2008 May 1; 31(5): 619–626.
14. Shahrad Taheri, Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index, PLoS Med. 2004 Dec; 1(3): e62.

Author's bio: Naghma Husain is a professional educator, a nutrition and fitness coach, and a mom of three. She specializes in creating fun and easy fitness plans leading to permanent weight loss and overall better health. She writes for our blog using her experiences through many years of implementing small lifestyle changes through exercise and nutrition.

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