Crash diets are bad for you and your body.
Cutting out any food groups is never sustainable and, whilst you might be motivated to lose weight and impatient enough to want to do it quickly, by day four of whatever bananas diet you’re on (hopefully not literally a diet of bananas), looking puffy sounds a lot more appealing than 24 more hours of chicken breast and spinach.
Preserve your muscle and your sanity by jump-starting your weight loss results with these nine easy strategies that will set you up for years of healthy living.
1. Aim to eat food groups once a day
If you have toast at breakfast, choose another wholegrain carb like brown rice or quinoa for lunch and dinner. If you love to eat peanut butter for a pre-workout snack, lay off the nuts the rest of the day.
By limiting yourself to one portion of any single food, you automatically add a sort of fail-safe to your eating plan.
Plus, even more importantly, this strategy adds a wider array of nutrients to each day—increasing your satiety and energy levels so you can crush your weight loss efforts.
2. Up your intake of legumes
In one European Journal of Nutrition study, people who followed a low calorie diet that included four weekly servings of legumes lost significantly more weight after just four weeks compared to those who ate the same number of calories—but no legumes.
The weight loss turbocharge may come from legumes’ fibre and antioxidant compounds, since the researchers found that legume lovers had lower levels of inflammatory markers that are linked to obesity.
3. Get 8.5 hours of sleep
Yeah, you know your sleep affects your weight. But you probably don’t realise just how quickly that happens: One Annals of Internal Medicine study suggests two weeks is all it takes for your sleep to show up—one way or the other—around your waistline.
In the study, men and women followed a calorie-controlled diet.
After 14 days of sleeping either 5.5 or 8.5 hours each night, both groups lost about 6.5 pounds—but those who got the most sleep lost twice as much fat as the short sleepers did.
4. Make sure you’re drinking enough water
While increasing your water intake is vital to preventing overeating, promoting healthy digestion and keeping your metabolism in tip-top shape, when it comes to dropping weight quickly, water is also your greatest de-bloating ally.
That’s because, when your cells are dehydrated, their first course of action is to cling to any fluid that’s in your system, contributing to all over bloat.
Try drinking a litre of water for every 50 pounds you weigh, per day. So if you weigh 175 pounds, it comes out to 3.5 litres of water. Sip consistently to prevent overloading your system all at once.
5. Cut back on processed foods and salt
Another way to ditch excess water weight is to get your sodium and potassium levels in check.
To do that, cut back on processed foods, which tend to be high in sodium, and nixing salt from whatever food is on your plate.
Pair this low-salt strategy with plenty of potassium-rich foods like salmon, halibut and spinach, and you’ll de-bloat over the course of the week.
6. Do 20 minutes of high-intensity interval training
To lose weight fast, high-intensity interval training is your exercise strategy of choice.
Minute-per-minute, it burns more calories than other workouts like steady-state cardio while also increasing the calories you burn 48 hours after your workout.
Plus, over the long term, interval training builds muscle, which is critical for keeping the weight off.
Your exercise prescription: Perform all-out effort of a given exercise (like burpees, squats, lunges, or pushups) for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds, and repeat until four minutes have passed.
Rest one minute, then repeat for a total of four rounds.
7. Reduce your intake of calorie empty refined food groups
We realise this isn’t groundbreaking advice, but one of the easiest ways to de-bloat is to reduce your intake of simple, refined carbohydrates, simply because nutritionally speaking, you’ll be hungrier sooner after eating them than wholegrain carbs, like oats, barley, cous cous and more.
Some sources to watch out for include white pasta, cookies, crisps and sweets.
While the refined sugar in these foods can’t single handedly prevent weight loss over the long term, they can lead to significant water retention in the short term.
You’ll be shocked how much weight you lose (even if it is water) within a week or two of monitoring your regular sugar fix.
8. Eat whole carbs, proteins and fats every few hours
Eating balanced meals and snacks, containing all three macronutrients your body needs, every few hours is key to energising your body for your workouts, preventing overeating (especially those simple carbs), and keeping your metabolism at peak speed.
Try toast, an egg and avocado for breakfast, an apple with string cheese for a snack and a spinach salad tossed with chicken and olive oil for lunch.
9. Eat a handful of nuts every day
In one Penn State study, people who ate roughly a handful of almonds each day lost significantly more abdominal fat over the course of six weeks compared to those who followed a nut-less diet with the same number of calories.
While this study only looked at almond intake, other tree nuts like walnuts and pistachios have also been linked to improved health and weights, thanks to their healthy fat and protein content.