If you’ve ever wanted to change your BMI and lower your body fat percentage, you’re not alone. Simply shedding pounds is comparatively easy. Trying to target losing body fat is a much more complex challenge. A healthy body fat range is 25-28% for women and 12-15% for men. Of course, a healthy number for you might fall slightly outside these ranges, but in general, that’s what you should be aiming for. To hit those ranges, you’ll need to change some things – primarily in how you eat and how you exercise. We’ve boiled it down to some simple changes you can make in each category.
What You Eat
You are what you eat still rings true. It’s important you begin to understand the role food plays in your health, not just your weight loss. Here are some ways to clean up your eating habits to lose body fat more efficiently:
• Calories matter. But not as much as you would assume. While in order to lose weight you will need to restrict your calorie intake, what’s more important is that you limit the types of unhealthy food you eat (alcohol, sugar, and junk food are the top three).
• Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated helps your body burn energy more efficiently. It might be an overall minor impact, but getting enough H20 will keep your systems running and working smoothly.
• Learn how to track your food. This goes way beyond counting calories. That’s a good place to start, but learn how to track your macronutrients as well to keep tabs on how many of your calories are coming from fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Many apps (MyFitnessPal is a great one) offer this function for free.
• Eat more protein. If you’re getting 30% of your calories from fat and 30% from carbs, simple deduction leaves you with getting 40% of your calories from protein. Odds are, that’s quite a bit more than your current diet. The benefit of eating more protein is the thermogenic effect: for every 100 calories of protein you eat, your body will use 25% of them digesting.
• Don’t eat low fat. This seems counterproductive, but it’s been proven in studies that low-fat dieters don’t lose weight as fast as people who eat more fat. This is partially because fat is what helps us feel full. Aim to get about 30% of your daily calories from fat.
• Limit your carbohydrates. While carbs are essential to helping our bodies work correctly and stay energized, eating too many carbs will prevent your body from burning stored fat.
• Stop drinking sugar. 37% of Americans’ daily calories come from sugar-sweetened drinks. Soda, energy drinks, even fruit juice are all sugar-laden and won’t ever truly satisfy you. Opt for water instead.
How You Exercise
You probably know you need to work out to lose body fat. And while any exercise is better than no exercise, there are a few tricks that can help your workouts be more effective: • Get on board with HIIT workouts. Studies have proven high intensity interval training is an incredible recipe for burning fat fast. It doesn’t matter whether you use an app, bodyweight exercises, or do intervals during your run/swim/cycle workout, you’ll definitely benefit from getting your heart rate up.
• Don’t neglect strength training. It’s pretty simple: the bigger your muscles, the more energy they need. The more energy they need, the more calories they burn. Adding just one pound of muscle means your body can burn 30-50 more calories a day.
• Do a full-body workout once a week. Focusing on one part of your body (legs or upper body) is great, but there are benefits to working all of your muscle groups in one session to get the most metabolic benefits. One final tip is to change how you measure progress. Don’t use a regular scale. While you’re eating right and exercising, you’ll be losing fat and building muscle. Since muscle is denser than fat, your overall body weight may not accurately reflect the changes you’ve made. The number on the scale may not budge much, but the truth is you’ve lost a ton of body fat and gained valuable muscle. Better alternatives are measuring yourself with a tape measure or using a body composition scale.